In the world of theatre, the understudy is an essential member of the cast; someone whose role it is to step in when one of the principal actors cannot perform, because of course the show must go on, and at SIHH 2018, that's kind of what happened when the H. Moser & Cie. star attraction failed to show up, due to unforeseen circumstances.
If the boys and girls at H. Moser do like to make their really beautiful watches; always elegant, sophisticated, minimalist and trés cool, they do also like to kick up a bit of a racket too with the occasional poke at the state of current affairs in the world of watchmaking. We've seen them protest against how the sacred "Swiss Made" legend, which today requires only 60% Swiss 'value' to qualify, had become so meaningless to them that, beginning with their Swiss Mad watch, which was made out of cheese, naturally, those two previously precious words would no longer appear on their dials. We've also seen them have a little fun at the expense of the smartwatch with their somehow familiar Alp Watch - the ultimate upgrade.
At SIHH we were expecting to see their latest conversation piece in the metal, but it had been a step too far for some, and within hours of the images and video of the bizzarre Swiss Icons watch being released, showing a watch which was a fairly grotesque minestrone of signatures, made famous by the great and the good of watchmaking, they were being hastily taken down from across the brand's digital platforms, followed up by a statement confirming that the watch would never see the light of day, and how their intentions, which were to question the perceived value of highly rewarded ambassadors and faux influencers to the industry's most well known marques, had been misinterpreted by some of them. The watch that never was, if you like, and so no show at SIHH.
To call the Endeavour Flying Hours an understudy is a bit harsh, but as an analogy it gets the point across, and in any case the Swiss Icons, being a piéce unique, and destined to be auctioned for the good of domestic watchmaking, was more of a lure, and never truly meant to fully hog the limelight. The supporting cast would be the real stars.
Just one of the wonderful things about watchmaking is when something which at first appears to be quite bamboozling reveals itself to be in fact relatively intuitive and easy to come to terms with. At first glance the Endeavour Flying Hours, with its unusual array of three discs and elevated central ring has just that effect; like an unfamiliar dialect, it's making sense, but it just takes a moment to understand what it's saying, yet once you do, it's plain sailing.
Instead of hands, the time is shown using a sapphire minutes ring which revolves every eighty minutes, interacting with a trio of sunken hour discs on the dial floor, each with four numbers stencilled through, and rotating above a black disc with a white strip, which highlights the active hour as it passes over on a four-hourly cycle.
Because they align with each new hour, which moves on from disc to disc, the minutes are printed onto 240° of the sapphire disc, so the 00 start point is directly in line with the highlighted arrow and number, ready to commence the following hour as the old one approaches its sixtieth minute. That means that the disc rotates at one third of the tempo of a normal minutes indicator, and explains that unusual eighty minute rotation.
Once familiarised with the display, the eye begins to take in the qualities of the piece as a whole. The dial is finished in H. Moser's Funky Blue, with circular metallic brushing on the discs offering up a subtle contrast. The static black centrepiece against which the minutes stand out also provides anchorage for the disc's axes and adds complexity and depth to the watch face. The 42mm white gold case is as smooth as a pebble to the touch, with flowing contours which rise slightly above where the lugs protrude, and on its pre-worn-in light brown kudu leather strap the combination is very striking and unmistakably Moser.
Inside, the Endeavour Flying Hours is powered by the modified in-house C806 movement, which is based on the company's HMC 200 self winding calibre, and which is the result of a collaboration with sister brand Hautlence, whose own distinct talents helped out with the planetary gearing and star wheel module innovation behind the discs. Beating at a relatively leisurely 26'000vph the large balance features the proprietary double hairspring while the cutaway oscillating weight is made in red gold, and fully wound it's good for seventy-two hours.
It's been produced in a small limited series of sixty pieces.