May 12, 2022
by Ariel Adams
Debuted at Watches & Wonders 2022, the higher-end Pioneer Cylindrical Tourbillon Skeleton watch from Swiss H. Moser & Cie. ended up being of one of our favorite new timepieces of the show. The timepiece is an interesting composition that includes both classic and modern design elements, all packaged in a compelling formula that lends itself to daily wear, as well as being able to impress even the snobbiest of horological connoisseurs.
Let’s start by talking about the movement – which makes sense given that the majority of the visual presentation here is the movement, which takes up the entirety of the dial space. The movement, known as the H. Moser & Cie caliber HMC 811, has an eccentric subdial for the hours and minutes along with a 60-second flying tourbillon. The movement is also an automatic with a full gold automatic rotor (skeletonized) that allows for effective winding efficiency. What adds a special extra sauce to the intellectual interest of the HMC 811 movement is the use of a cylindrical (versus flat) balance spring.
This is not the first time a cylindrical balance spring is used inside of a wrist watch, but the practice is rare and only certain brands like Christophe Claret or Jaeger-LeCoultre have been able to come out with balance wheels not in the traditional flat shape for wristwatches. H. Moser & Cie is among the few watchmakers today that produces its own hair (balance) springs, so they have the unique ability to accomplish this goal as well. Why a cylindrical balance spring? On a superficial level, this makes viewing the operation of the movement more interesting, as the dial animation is more three-dimensional and thus interesting when viewed from different angles. Indeed, the primary philosophy behind the architecture of the movement appears to be for visual splendor with a focus on visual depth. More traditionally and for horological purposes, cylinder-style balance springs have fewer rate loss errors when amplitudes change, and that can offer better accuracy over time. The reason they are not used more in wristwatch movements is entirely practical, due to their larger size as compared to compact flat balance springs.
The HMC 811 automatic movement is made in-house and operates at 3Hz with 72 hours of power reserve. The movement bridges are attractive and in this particular watch, given a darker anthracite finishing that is both masculine and modern. Despite the smaller nature of the hour and minute indicator dial, it is very legible. This is thanks to a rather clever and on-brand design that makes use of applied hour markers that are produced from luminous material. That, combined with the luminant on the hands, offers excellent legibility in the dark or light (given the high contrast of these markers with the dial itself). The face of the dial for the time is done in H. Moser & Cie’s “funky blue,” which is a gradient technique where the color shifts from blue to black as you move outward on the dial.
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The movement is housed in one of H. Moser & Cie.’s Pioneer-style cases in steel. I happen to think that the Pioneer case is really at its best when rendered in steel given its shape, and it is decorated. Sized at 42.8mm-wide (with 120 meters of water resistance), the Pioneer case is bold, but as you can see, its overall classic shape allows for it to wear sensibly on the included matte-black alligator strap. Over the dial is a domed sapphire crystal, which actually has less glare than I’ve seen on many previous H. Moser & Cie. products. That leads me to believe that the company is finally stepping up its game in this area because one of the weak points of some H. Moser & Cie. watches, in my opinion, was having crystals with too much glare.
While the H. Moser & Cie. Pioneer Cylindrical Tourbillon Skeleton watch is classic in its construction and poise, the visual design is certainly more modern in its ethos. That’s a good thing because the market (and even Moser) has enough classic-looking tourbillon watches at this time. The world and watch tastes are slowly opening up to more contemporary designs after a long period of being all too preoccupied with traditional/vintage designs. This experimental watch from H. Moser & Cie. is a big hit, and I fully expect to see more versions of it with different colors and perhaps different case materials. For now, the debut reference 3811-1200 H. Moser & Cie. Pioneer Cylindrical Tourbillon Skeleton is a success on its own. Price is $86,900 USD. Learn more at the H. Moser & Cie. website here.