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Review: Square peg in a round hole? H. Moser Swiss Alp Minute Repeater Tourbillon

by Peter Chong on July 5, 2018

H. Moser is maison offering a unique perspective to watchmaking. Their CEO, Edouard Meylan is well known for his tongue in cheek but thought provoking commercials and publicity stunts. And their products reflect that. The Swiss Alp watch was initially designed to look like the Apple Watch, but offering a pure mechanical movement. This latest development to the Swiss Alp comes in the form of a Minute Repeater Tourbillon. A rectangular case, with a form shaped rectangular movement. Here we present our detailed analysis of the H. Moser Swiss Alp Minute Repeater Tourbillon. Very Rare Indeed.

 

Review: H. Moser Swiss Alp Minute Repeater Tourbillon

Other than the distinctive shape of the case, the first thing which strikes the keen observer is the very interesting textured and patterned dial which opens up as an aperture at 6 o’clock to reveal a flying tourbillon. A slide on the left side of the case is the tell tale sign of the presence of striking works, and the first of many “incredibles”.

The Swiss Alp Watch Minute Repeater Tourbillon will be produced in several references, all of which are unique pieces.

 

 

The sound

The raison d’être of a minute repeater is how it sounds. So we begin this analytical review with the sound of the H. Moser Swiss Alp Minute Repeater Tourbillon.

Repeater and striking watches are not typically housed in a rectangular movement. Historical examples, most famously the Audemars Piguet Edward Piguet Minute Repeater and the Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso Minute Repeater, are not known for their excellent sonic abilities. Both these rectangular repeaters have ceased production, but they do make compelling arguments in terms of physical beauty and a relatively less expensive entry price.

However, for great striking sonics, one have to turn to minute repeaters in round cases. The best we have encountered are the Vacheron Constantin Patrimony Ultra Thin Minute Repeater, the Patek Philippe World Timer Minute Repeater , and the Bulgari Octo Repetition Minute. Given the rectangular case of the Moser, how does it sound?

Perhaps not quite good enough to beat the best in class, but nonetheless, the Moser performed brilliantly. Listen to the clip below.

 

 

The strikes are clean, clear. With each blow distinct, and nicely separated from the next. The attack of the tone is sharp, with a nice decay. The sound does seem to resonate within a bit, though perhaps lacking in the heart tugging overtones present in the best of the competition (see Competitive Landscape below). The strikes volume is high, but this is perhaps helped by the guitar case like contraption the repeater is clipped to when we recorded it. Overall, very satisfying sound.

 

The case, dial and hands

As mentioned the case is the Swiss Alp case, which was initially designed to mimick the case shape of the Apple Watch. Rectangular with rounded edges. The case finish is quite well done, with the curved bezel nicely polished. The 3 part case features a loop for the straps to be attached to instead of the usual lugs.

 

 

The dial is somewhat the mysterious variety with no hour or minute markings. But we find reading the time is rather easy as it is intuitive by observing the angle of the hour and minute hands. An aperture at 6 reveals a beautifully finished flying tourbillon.

 

 

What is unique about the dial is the textured, patterned surface. Each dial is unique. The dial we saw and photographed in Baselworld 2018 is blue with a mosaic like pattern with each piece of the mosaic with its own linear pattern within. Each piece with is in a subtly different shade than its neighbour. The result is an amazingly beautiful, complex dial, which is absolutely mesmerising to gaze at and can be the subject of hours of pleasure studying the details.

 

 

The movement Moser C901

The movement, designated C901 is the 13th movement in the Moser manufacture’s stable, and is developed with Pierre Favre of MHC Manufactures Hautes Complications SA. The complexity of the movement does not only demand the combination of the repeater works with the tourbillon, but further constrained by the need for a form movement in the rectangular case.

 

The two rectangular gongs are visible circumnavigating the periphery of the movement.

 

Of particular note is the gongs are also rectangular, and require extreme dexterity to shape and join them. The constraints are not only in relation to the angles of the gongs, but also the space within the case. The solution was to widen the case middle, in order to get more space to create a large soundbox. This provides amplification to the sound from the gongs when they are struck by the hammers.

 

The mirror finished hammers on the C.901 is nestled in one corner of the case, the shape case leading out from the corner forms a flare of a horn, amplifying the ring tones.

 

Movement finishing is first grade, equal to the haute horlogerie aspirations. The characteristic Moser double Côtes Genève are magnificently executed. Anglage is nicely done, with beautiful polished edges gleaming as it catches the light. The movement also features gold chatons secured by blued screws within polished countersinks. A beautiful set of perlage adorns the base plate, and is visible through openings through the bridges.

 

From the dial side, a round aperture reveals the flying tourbillon.

The minute flying tourbillon is displayed through an opening in the dial.

 

The Competitive Landscape

The Moser Swiss Alp Minute Repeater Tourbillon has a retail price of CHF 292,000 before taxes. This stands it in rather good stead. As minute repeaters go, this pricing level is a rather reasonable asking price. Indeed it is a lot of money, but it is also a lot of watch. The double complication, the provocative case shape, and the beautiful piece unique dial offer great reasons for the price. As we survey the landscape, we find two others which offer the similar twin complication of the minute repeater and tourbillon. One considerably more expensive, and the other perhaps in the same ball park.

Vacheron Constantin Minute Repeater Tourbillon. At S$ 837,100 and S$ 751,700 (both inclusive GST) for the platinum and pink gold, the VC is rather considerably more expensive. The VC offers the same complications, but in a more traditional round case. The dial is a magnificent guilloché, and is equally as compelling.

Jaeger LeCoultre Hybris Mechanica 11 is another occupant in the landscape. Priced at € 294,000 (CHF 361,500 / USD 401,600) estimated price, excluding VAT, it too offers the same tourbillon plus minute repeater complications, But JLC adds to the tally, an automatic winding system, and an ultra thin movement to perhaps persuade one to justify a price higher than the Moser.

 

Concluding Thoughts

The H. Moser Swiss Alp Minute Repeater Tourbillon is the most complicated Moser creation to date. It is also its most ambitious. The Schaffhausen company is considered small, but seems to be punching above its weight class. The company boasts of being a near complete manufacutre, with Precision Engineering, their sister company housed in the same premises producing hairsprings and balance systems not only for the group, but also in the open market. Interestingly, their iconic dials, especially the fumé, are sourced from an outside supplier.

 

 

To us, the Swiss Alp Minute Repeater Tourbillon represents the a huge feather in the cap. At CHF 292,000, its not a cheap watch. But such is the nature of striking watches, that it is nowhere near the most expensive of its genre. The excellent sonics justify its reason for being. The unique aesthetics, defined both by the case shape and the magnificent dial, provides ample reasons to buy the watch.  Its a winner in our books. And a nice watch, if you can get it. (Apologies to the Gershwins for paraphrasing “Nice work if you can get it”)

 

H. Moser Swiss Alp Minute Repeater Tourbillon – Technical Specifications

Reference 5901-0200, white gold model, shaded blue mosaic-effect dial, black crocodile leather strap,
unique pieces
Case
Solid 18-carat white gold
Dimensions: 45.8 x 39.8 mm/height: 11.0 mm
Sapphire crystal
Sliding Teflon bolt
See-through sapphire crystal case back
Crown adorned with an “M”
Dial
Laser machined plate to obtain the shaded blue mosaic effect
Leaf-shaped hour and minute hands
Movement
C 901 hand-wound calibre
Dimensions: 30.0 mm x 35.0 mm/height: 6.25 mm
Frequency: 21,600 Vib/h
29 jewels
Power reserve: minimum 90 hours
Flat hairspring
Double Moser stripes on the plate and bridges
Movement and components hand-finished and decorated
Moser minute flying tourbillon at 6 o’clock with skeletonised bridge
Minute repeater
Functions
Hours and minutes
Minute repeater with hour, quarter and minute chimes
Strap
Hand-stitched black crocodile leather
18-carat solid white gold pin buckle engraved with the Moser logo

Price

CHF 292,000 before taxes

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