All good things must come to an end, and with the new Swiss Alp Final Upgrade from H Moser & Cie, we bid farewell to a memorable watch series from the brand.
Facing a potential enemy
Back in the days in 2015 when the prevailing conversation was how the smartwatch was the possible harbinger of the next existential threat (à la the quartz crisis) to the watch industry, I remember attending panel conferences at Baselworld where experts were mapping out the possible Swiss response.
This was a time when fitness trackers were becoming sophisticated enough to be useful and when even some Swiss brands were breaking from tradition by adding Android powered smartwatches to their offering, with some less courageous ones offering the option of some kind of smart module on a strap that would be worn with a mechanical watch.
The biggest perceived threat to the wrist space of potential watch buyers then, as it still might be now, was of course the Apple Watch.
While it’s hard to know what the long term future will look like, the heightened state of concern of that time has settled down, and most watch collectors, having experienced smartwatches for themselves, have come to realise that a luxury mechanical watch and a smartwatch are totally different things, each having its own purpose, with the former having to do with tradition and craftsmanship, and the latter being about cutting edge functionality and planned obsolescence.
This realization though, came early for H Moser & Cie though, who went on to create what is arguably the most memorable product family in recent times with the original Swiss Alp watch in 2016. Surrounding a traditionally made and designed Calibre HMC 324, was a case that was made to look exactly the same as the Apple Watch, the brand’s message was clear – smartwatches were no threat because they could not replace the emotional appeal of fine watchmaking.
Helping along the concept behind the Swiss Alp watch was a self aware marketing campaign that made sure to play up what the watch was about, done in a provocative enough way without stepping over the line. It was cool, but what might have been even cooler was the underlying motivation that caused the Swiss Alp watch to be conceived in the first place.
How do you make use of a stockpile of 500 tourneau shaped movements, made for the “Henry* watch before the brand was acquired by current owner, MELB Holding, in a world where the round case is king? Well the Swiss Alp watch was the solution from that perspective, and a genius level one at that, showing the appeal of a watch can come from a good story, especially one that mixes in a topical concern with a strong position from the brand.
Since that time, Swiss Alp series has spawned several notable iterations, such as the Alp Watch Zzzz, the Concept Black Minute Repeater Tourbillon with no hands and others, all embodying the brand’s no holds barred irreverence, rooted in the passion for tradition.
The Final Edition watch
With the context of how the Swiss Alp Watch was conceived, we come, after a successful run, to the Swiss Alp Final Upgrade, the last of the series.
The specs are familiar, it is the same calibre HMC 324 as the first Swiss Alp watch, a 4 day power reserve manual winding movement with time and small seconds. The case is in stainless steel but coated in black DLC and the dial is covered with Vantablack (the blackest black) that gives the impression of the unlit standby screen of an Apple watch. Aside from the hour and minute hands that serve to tell the time, the running small seconds is probably the biggest aesthetic highlight.
While the brand states in its press release that it is “a shaded disc made up of openings… Evoking the constant passing of time,” we all know what it really is. If you’re a Mac user, you’ll know that it’s the grey spinning wheel that appears when your computer is engaging in a task that will take some time.
In this watch, it is repurposed to indicate the running seconds, making the watch look like it is booting up or upgrading its firmware, which might explain its name.
It’s quirky and fun as we’d expect, and the text on the caseback with the words “Last Edition” engraved does definitively convey the fact that this watch will represent the end of the line.
Collectors will appreciate that, and with this collection ceasing production after this limited edition of 50 pieces is sold, it’s no surprise that quite a few have already been spoken for in my local market of Singapore.