Hands-On Review – Moser Streamliner Flyback Chronograph Automatic Funky Blue

The Skinny

Dial: Funky Blue Fumé
Diameter: 42.3 mm
Thickness: 14.2 mm
Movement: HMC 902 (automatic column wheel lateral clutch chronograph with concealed rotor and center second and minute chronograph hands)
Water resistance: Dynamic to 12 ATM (about 400 feet/120M). Can be used underwater
Price: $43,900

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Who was H. Moser?

Heinrich Moser was a watchmaker from Schaffhausen who left his hometown in 1826 to find fame and fortune. Perhaps attracted by childhood tales of Tsar Alexander I who was proclaimed the “Savior of Europe” after defeating Napoleon, he went to Russia and started H. Moser and Co. two years later at the age of 23. He created a successful enough business that he returned to Schaffhausen and invested heavily in industrializing the region. He built the Moser dam to generate hydroelectric power and supported the American Florentine Ariosto Jones in founding IWC. Unfortunately the company fell victim to Russian communism and lost their operations in Russia in 1917.

The Swiss operations continued in some form with wristwatch production starting in 1953. The company ceased operations in 1979 following the quartz crisis but was revived by Moser family members in Neuhausen and produced some watches in 2005. Under financial pressure, Moser approached the Meylan family, Georges-Henri Meylan having been the CEO of Audemars Piguet and a grandson of Octave Meylan who was the last director in pre-Soviet Russia. The Meylan family ended up buying a controlling stake in Moser and Georges-Henri’s son Edouard Meylan became the current CEO. Edouard is known for his dynamic approach, bringing attention to the brand first with fumé dials, then for experimenting with new materials like Vantablack.

He is also known for madcap and provocative experimentation, such as making a watch out of hardened cheese, making the beautiful and expensive Swiss Alp watches in the shape of the Apple watch, the “Make Swiss-Made Great Again” campaign to demand higher standards for the Swiss made label, and infuriating his fellow watch CEOs with the Swiss Icons watch, a mashup of various iconic watch designs. Perhaps it is appropriate that a brand founded by a young rebel from Schaffhausen is today run by the most dynamic young CEO in the watch business.

What’s a Streamliner?

Moser’s collections tend towards the formal and are mostly divided by the type of case. The Pioneer line has a more robust case, the Endeavour is more dressy, the Heritage has more of a vintage style crown and thinner lugs, and the Specials have a more elegant case. Within each collection there is a variety of mostly fumé dials in different colors and an assortment of complications. The Streamliner line stands out for its distinctive design language incorporating a cushion shaped case and integrated steel bracelet. The watches are sleek and modern compared to the more traditional and formal watches of their other lines. The name Streamliner refers to the aerodynamic trains and cars of the 1920’s and the bold design language conveys that sense of speeding off in a new direction.

@scienceofsophia

Make It Funky

This Moser is a flyback chronograph with the dial in “Funky Blue.” The watch has a big wrist presence with an assertive cushion shape, integrated bracelet, and a striking fumé blue dial. The surprising thing is that it suits a variety of wrist sizes. The cushion case has no lugs so the watch does not overhang my relatively skinny wrist and sits fairly comfortably and securely. However, the cushion shape also takes a relatively larger surface area than a round watch. The integrated bracelet also gives the watch more presence. I applaud Moser for reviving the cushion case in a thoughtfully considered manner.

The “Funky Blue” of the dial is simply beautiful. The center almost seems to glow and the watch comes alive as the angles reflect the light. It is hard not to stare at it. There is an unusual layout with a large applied 60 at 12 o’clock. There are no hour markers. The dial is marked off in ⅙ second intervals with a saw tooth pattern. Every five seconds is marked with a red tipped line and indicated with the number which takes the place of hour markers. There is an outer tachymeter scale in units per hour along the rehaut. H. Moser & Cie is written in script at 12 o’clock. By omitting hour markers the dial draws attention to the center placement of the chronograph’s second and minute counter hands. A curved sapphire crystal creates some distortion at the edges, providing a vintage touch.

The hour and minute hands are in steel with a central luminous section that extends out beyond the steel portion of the hand. The impression is a bit like a chalk holder and it emphasizes the pointing aspect of the hands. The seconds counter hand is in red with a central white strip extension and the minute counter is in steel with a similar white strip. The chronograph hands thus match the timekeeping hands in style although they have no lume.

The case is brushed with a sunburst finish on the front and vertical brushing on the sides. The chamfer is highly polished with the abrupt transition expected of a high quality piece. The bracelet is a work of art. I stared at it for quite a while but it remains somewhat mysterious. I find it baffling that a piece of steel could be so supple. The bracelet moves and flexes and feels smooth yet strong like the touch of a snake. The surface of the links are brushed and the inner portions that are exposed as it flexes are polished so that the bracelet shimmers as it moves. The closest antecedent I can think of is the 1970’s Omega Speedsonic with a lobster bracelet in the organic feeling but this is better by orders of magnitude.

Omega Speedsonic Lobster @le_corb

The screw down crown is at 4 o’clock and large enough to comfortably wind the watch despite the offset location. A pusher at 2 o’clock stops and starts the chronograph with a crisp feel and a pusher at 10 resets the chronograph. This is a flyback so the chronograph hands can be reset without stopping the chronograph function. In addition to being fun, this is a feature that is difficult to produce since it adds complexity and a need for hand adjustment to the movement. There is a sapphire caseback which shows off the HMC 902 movement.

The movement is a Moser exclusive that was developed in conjunction with Agenhor. Atelier genevois d’horologie is a small Geneva based company founded by watchmaker Jean-Marc Wiederrecht which specializes in producing high end complicated calibers. The HMC 902 has a number of notable features. Remarkably, the automatic rotor is hidden behind the rest of the movement so that the operation of the lateral clutch chronograph can be admired from the sapphire caseback without any distraction. This is achieved in part by having the chronograph hands coaxially through the center of the movement which is another distinctive feature. While some prior movements exist with central chronograph hands such as the early handwound Mido Multicenter Chronograph, the rare Longines 13ZN-12, and the less esoteric automatic Lemania 1340 and 5100 calibers, the HMC 902 is the first automatic chronograph movement with central minute and seconds counter hands with a hidden rotor. The full complexity of the 34.4 mm movement is thus able to be admired through the large sapphire caseback. The decoration is nothing short of glorious with extensive hand finishing and an engraved logo.

Some earlier multicenter chronographs. shucktheoyster.com, @mattsworldwatch, @nd_graphy

My overall impression is that this is a marvelous achievement in watchmaking. There is a rare integration between the dial, movement, and case in that the dial focuses on the chronograph function rather than timekeeping, the pusher at 10 on the case emphasizes the flyback function, and the movement itself displays the chronograph function while hiding the automatic rotor. The chronograph is front and center in this carefully designed and well integrated watch. The look of the watch is reminiscent of 1970’s design cues with the cushion case and integrated bracelet but the design language is distinct and not a carbon copy of any specific design. The Funky Blue complements the bold nature of the design perhaps better than the original gray. This is one of the more radical yet beautiful designs in watchmaking today and if I had the money I would love to add it to my collection.