To anyone who’s been remotely following the world of Swiss watches, you’ll be somewhat aware of recent predicaments surrounding the industry. To cut things short, the largest topic of interest (at least viewed by some) follows recent changes to Swiss law that make it so that any product labeled “Swiss Made” should have at least 60% of its component origins sourced from Switzerland to qualify for legitimately using the label.
Now, many of the major horology commentators have made a remark in terms of why this causes an impact to the Swiss watch industry. I made an attempt in covering this through my Code41 watches article. Following said news and sudden awareness of the semantics of “Swiss Made”, many watch labels have gone about to defend their position surrounding the matter. As it stands, there is a bubble forming where brand identity and marketing is in jeopardy.
Despite all this, one brand has taken this ordeal as an opportunity to set themselves apart and burst the bubble of identity crisis.
The brand in question as some of you will already be aware, is Moser & Cie.
In a dense competitive industry where a lot of criticisms surrounding lack of innovation and gimmicky ploys are rife; Moser is one of the very few determined to stand out by making provocative statements through outlandish stunts.
Last year, the brand threw a few humorous jabs at the industry by releasing their Swiss Alp watch. This was in retaliation to growing fears that smartwatches will somehow threaten the traditional watch industry. The humour came from the watch case bearing similarity to a “certain popular smartwatch”, yet contained a custom crafted in-house movement, along with Moser’s signature fume dial. The move was received with a combination of criticism, praise and outrage. Many failed to see the satire in that the Alp watch was supposed to be the antithesis of the general perception of a “Smartwatch”. Moser used the piece as a flagship figurehead to make a statement about the brand’s values and identity.
Continuing their plight of being provocative, Moser later announced that it would be completely removing any designation of “Swiss Made” on all of their timepieces. This was an act of protest claiming that despite the steepness of regulations increasing, the laws are still too lax to hold any meaningful value. They did however; announce that they’ll be unveiling what they claim to be the “most Swiss watch ever created” which was headed with their #makeswissmadegreatagain campaign.
With initial teasers popping up on social media from early December, I was among many others who kept a close watch on developments in anticipation of what Moser would bring to the table. Following a month of snippets in the form Instagram teasers, Moser finally unveiled what they had to bring to the table:
A $1million watch made of Swiss cheese.
To be more specific: The piece, titled “Swiss Mad” has a composite case consisting Vacherin Mont d’Or cheese (Which I understand is sourced from the Village Moser’s CEO, Edouard Meylan comes from) and some high tech fancy resins. It’s paired with their in-house calibre HMC 327, along with Moser’s signature fume dial: this time in deep red with white indexes at the quarter hour markers, which is intentioned to resemble the Swiss flag. The watch also drives the dairy theme up a notch, with a cowhide strap. I’ll take a moment of remembrance to honour the sacrifice of Marguerite the cow: your legacy will continue for generations to come.
With all of this in mind and bearing the title of this article, what do I think of all this?
I think it’s bloody brilliant. Never have I been so impressed and amused with any such campaign in my short time as a horologist. Moser in this case has ticked all the boxes for me, with little for me to think about in terms of areas to improve. Before I get criticised for kissing up to Moser a little too much, let me explain what I mean:
Breaking down the concept (At least how I see it):
The topic of marketing is one of my biggest gripes in the world of horology, especially in the realm of luxury watches. I know that many will agree with me in saying the current genre of marketing in the luxury watch industry has become repetitive and unoriginal. I’ll cover the details of this in an upcoming article, but for now you’ll have to bear with me in filling gaps. The word “unoriginal” is key here, as it correlates strongly with the conservative nature of the luxury watch industry. What Moser has done; is marketing done right. They’ve dismissed traditional conventions of conservative marketing by using a combination of satire, humour and sarcasm. This is perhaps one of the biggest feats Moser could ever do, in terms of establishing itself as a brand ready to take on the 21st century.
The tagline #makeswissmadegreatagain is a very clever play on political pop culture. Some will argue that the choice of tagline is an unimpressive and lazy manoeuvre by the brand. I think otherwise. Thanks to the recent endeavours of a certain tanned skin President elect, almost every person not living under a rock can identify with the origins of the term. Moser has taken the main plight of their campaign and synced it with one of the most identifiable slogans in modern history. I see this action as a bit of a ‘tongue in cheek’ ploy to satirise how some people are hung up over how certain things are labelled. Moser also released an ad, which managed to effectively wield humour as a means of attracting attention. In the ad, Moser poked fun around the whole idea of how ridiculously inflated the term “Swiss Made” is. An opening remark of Switzerland being an island “surrounded by Europe” is an example of this. Whilst the ad may be distasteful to some, you have to credit Moser for not taking themselves too seriously.
I’ll move on to the flagship of the campaign: The “Swiss Mad” watch. The name is an amusing play on words and anticipates the reaction of an onlooker and further drives home the idea of being ‘tongue in cheek’. The material of choice can perhaps be simply seen as homage to a Swiss national icon, but also a nod to how “cheesy” it has become to rely on Swiss labelling as a sign of quality. I pointed this out in my Code41 article, how the term “Swiss Made” has been exploited and doesn’t really hold much water. The pricing of the watch has been subject to a lot of criticism, as it is seems to cast a shadow on all the other things Moser has done. The actual sum, which totals to 1,081,291 CHF is a reference to the founding date of Switzerland. Moser has announced that the proceeds of the watch will help finance a foundation to assists independent watchmakers. The pricing can also be seen as a way of how stupidly (Note my choice of words) inflated some “Swiss Made” watches can be. I’m going to go out on a limb say that the one-off piece solely exists to make a statement, and the concerns of selling it aren’t primary. If they do make a sale, it’ll probably be by someone who strongly supports the cause of independent watchmaking. In case cheese isn’t to your liking, Moser has released a more toned down version of the watch, called the “Venturer Swiss Mad” and will be priced at $21,500, which is in line with their other timepieces.
Overall, I’m very impressed with what Moser has done. Some will outright dismiss the above interpretations, and that’s fine. I don’t think Moser needs to worry too much about how they tread forward with this. Moser takes pride in their small volume production, and their client base sympathises with the ethos of the label, putting a lot of trust in what they do. Sure, Moser can’t be labelled as an outright Samaritan as they have a lot to gain from this, but that’s beyond the point. They’ve put their reputation on the line via a complex campaign strategy, the outcome of which has been executed wonderfully. A much needed change of pace has been introduced, freshening things up tremendously. Any brand willing to shake the roots of an industry through innovation gets my support. And with that, I say kudos to Moser.