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A deep dive into Hy. Moser & Cie - Featuring a special piece by Moser

Henry Moser & Cie are a legendary ‘Russian Swiss’ company, founded by Johann Heinrich Moser, In St. Petersburg, in 1828.


H. Moser & Cie modern text logo with late 1800s logo above


Moser, was born in Schaffhausen, to the family of a watch maker. He and his father moved to Le Locle, where he perfected his watchmaking skill. He then moved to Russia in the 1820s, and by 1826 had set up a watch workshop, anglicising his name to Henry Moser. Stemming from his trade office in St. Petersburg, he set up another in Moscow in 1831. He also gained a residence permit for Nizhny Novgorod. At this fair, Mosers watches broke through Russias walls, to India and China. During this time, parts were manufactured and ordered from Le Locle factory and assembled in St. Petersburg.



Johann Heinrich Moser


His range included high end horology and complicated pieces, including minute repeaters and lunar calendars. One such client of the era was Carl Faberge, who ordered the highest grade pieces for his jewellery works.

 

In 1848, Moser returned to his hometown of Schaffhausen and established a company there to supply his business. Moser was to become one of the most important industrial pioneers in Schaffhausen, beyond the watch industry. With Friedrich Peyer im Hof and Johann Conrad Neher, he founded SIG, and built the first hydro power station on the High Rhine. He also built the Rhine Falls Railway to aid the area in trade and manufacturing.

In 1868 Moser, together with the American Florentine-Ariosto Jones, created a new watch company, called the ‘Interntaional Watch Company’, IWC. Alongside Omega and Longines, this was one of the first firms to prioneer industrial production of watches in Switzerland. The power from the hydropower station helped to power the factory machines.

 

The pieces manufactured by Moser gained such notoriety that they were subject to copies. In 1906, Moser included on the Trade Price List of their factory, “In order to eliminate cases of abuse of the name of our company by some merchants, we consider it necessary to recommend that those who wish to purchase a watch from our factory pay special attention to whether the offered watch has upon it the brand and inscription in French, and to ensure that the letters 'Hy' are place before the surname”.

 

After Moser died in 1874, the company was split up between its managing directors. One of the Swiss parts in Le Locle went to the family of Paul Girard.

 

The business in Russia continued to boom as they were given the patronage of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, and in 1913 Moser became the official supplier of the imperial Court. However the love story with the Russian market was not to last. The company was expropriated in 1918 due to the October Revolution.

 

Early clients of H. Moser & Cie included Princes and members of the Russian Imperial Court. Vladimir Lenin also owner a Moser watch.

 

Moser ceased trading in the 1980s, as many mechanical watch brands suffered the consequences of the Quartz crisis.


In 2002, Moser Schaffhausen AG was founded by Dr. Jurgen lande, with Heinrich Moser’s great grandson Roger Nicholas Balsiger. In 2005 the company established new manufacture in Schaffhausen, and H. Moser & Cie was formally re-launched as a trademark of the company. Since 2012, H Moser & Cie has been owned by the MELB Holding Group of the Meylan family in Switzerland. As of 2023, H. Moser & Cie produces around 3,000 watches a year and employs more than 100 staff members. The company focuses on creating pieces of high end horology.


A Special Moser


We have an outstanding, rare and early example of a piece of horological art. This is a circa 1915 Hy Moser & Cie 18ct gold tonneau watch. It pre-dates Art Deco design, but begins to show the adventurous nature of modern design that spilled into this period.



Circa 1915 Hy. Moser & Cie 18ct gold Tonneau watch


 It was a Swiss manufactured watch, intended directly for the Russian Imperial market, having the 72 Zolotniks purity mark, as well as the head of Helvetia.

Many Moser Tonneau watches are later and tend to have cases of poorer quality, molested, or altered as Russian Artel cases.

 

The case design and overall approach bare significant similarities to the Vacheron Constantin reference 10144, which has pride of place in the Vacheron museum and collection. It is a reference which has featured in the “Classic with a Twist” collection, around the globe.




The Vacheron Constantin reference ref 10144, displayed in the “Classic with a Twist” collection, around the globe.


Inside, it has the LeCoultre calibre 10 HPVM movement is of the highest quality within the period. It has also been used in some impressive pieces within this same period.

It featured in a one-off example of the first calendar watch, by Audemars Piguet, which was produced in 1921. The watch sold for 204,000 CHF in 2014.


Sothebys lot 332, a circa 1924 Audemars Piguet calendar for Gubelin with LeCoultre 10 HPVM


The movement also features in a Cartier Tonneau wristwatch dating to 1908. The watch was sold to Countess Von Hohenfelsen, the morganatic wife of Grand Duke Paul of Russia, who was one of Cartier’s most important clients.



Circa 1908 Cartier Tonneau with LeCoultre calibre 10 HPVM

 

The case measures 24mm x 35mm which is very well proportioned for the era. It has a lug-to-lug measurement of 40.25mm, which allows it to hug the wrist, with its subtly curved design. This, combined with its 6.5mm depth, makes it a very comfortable wear. The coffin shape of the case necessitates the slim strap at 8mm. This may be unusual by modern standards, but once on the wrist, the strap width doesn’t enter your mind. The case itself is too mesmerising. The strap is held in place, with gold screws, which also act to secure the two pieces of the case together. To the right-hand side is the original, gold onion style crown with the original crown tube.



The silver satin base tone of the dial is good and bright. It has been gently cleaned to peel back the years and allow the silver to shine through. It is eye-catching with its level of interactivity with the light causing it to shimmer. The dial follows the flow of the case. The railroad track minute markers are a tonneau shape, with the stylised Arabic numerals stringing along following the line. The Hy Moser signing to the centre is a dark blue tone in the correct stylised font of the era. The dial has a complex curvature, curved top to bottom and side to side. The spade and whip hour and minute hand are thermally blued and are original to the watch.



Once opened, the inside of the case has beautiful perlage finishing. A completely un-necessary aspect, only ever seen by those who work on the watch. Included purely for the artistry, this beautiful finishing is a real treat. The Hy Moser & Cie name is signed, with the Hy Moser logo stamped. It has Swiss hallmarking with the head of Helvetia, and Russian 72 Zolotnik marking. The serial number is well formed and clearly stamped.

The movement and dial are held in place via a gold surround, with elongated ends, which screw into place against the case. The rear of one tab has the matching serial number to the inside of the case back.



The movement is securely held in place and suspended within this inner design to protect it from damage. The LeCoultre calibre 10 HPVM is a manually wound movement, with a high jewel count for the era, of 18. Everything about it indicates Haute Horologerie. Its Cote De Geneve finishing is excellent, with polished and bevelled edges to the bridges. The finger bridge design is aesthetically pleasing, whilst other high-quality features exist, such as the underslung ratchet wheel. It also has an end cap for the escape wheel.

Despite its 110 years of age, the movement has a daily gain of 15 seconds a day. A truly remarkable testament to the quality of the calibre.



It is impossible to run out of superlatives to describe this watch. I feel very lucky to be able to offer such a work of art. To think who may have owned this watch, a watch reserved for the rich and respected. Every aspect of this watches design and DNA are of the highest quality. It is completely comparable to Cartier, Vacheron, Audemars and Patek.


You can view and purchase our excellent example by following the link below:






 








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