A Swiss Museum Made Its Own Watch, and It’s Striking

September 27, 2019 Watches By
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This is a watch with a story to tell, and it’s not your typical product made by a watch company. Rather, it’s the fruit of a project organized by a Swiss horology museum making use of the specialties of craftsmen in the local La Chaux-de-Fonds industry. The result is a remarkably clean and original watch called the MIH Gaïa, with elements that each proudly represents a different specialist. Coolest of all, it isn’t crazily priced like some unobtainable, high-end collector’s piece.

In fact, much of the watch industry works by bringing together various sourced parts and even design in this way. However, the Musée International d’Horlogerie (MIH, or International Museum of Horology in English) emphasizes keeping it all local as a way to highlight their mission of supporting the regional industry and preserving horological traditions. As a horology museum based in the Swiss watchmaking center of La Chaux-de-Fonds, they have access to many of the best such resources in the world. The movement maker Sellita, for example, is the choice of big brands and crowd-funded startups alike, but it happens to be local to the Museum and provided the movement in the Gaïa.

The watch itself? Its design is clean and striking, with the hours carried on a disc and displayed in an aperture, and the minutes indicated by a hand painted on a rotating disc at the dial center. In steel and water-resistant to 30m, it measures 39mm wide, a thin 9.74mm thick, and is powered by the automatic Sellita 400-1 with around 38 hours of power reserve. A total of eight local partners are named, including designer Atelier XJC, case maker Stila, and a dial maker you may have heard of, Jean Singer & Cie, who made Rolex and Patek Philippe dials in the past.

The project is named after the Museum’s annual Gaïa Prize for excellence in different categories of watchmaking, and proceeds from the watch sales will go toward “projects to restore, document and showcase the museum’s collection, and to promote the expertise of regional watchmakers.” The last time the museum made something like this was 14 years ago, and it was with a totally different design that was significantly more expensive. For 2019, there will be an initial production limited to 200 pieces in the museum’s official hue of blue, but future variations are possible, the MIH website says.

Early project backers can get it for the USD equivalent of about $2,400 with final pricing going up to around $2,900.

Gear Patrol also recommends:
Hamilton Valiant Auto Watch ($595)
Tissot Ballade Powermatic 80 Chronometer Watch ($925)
Frederique Constant Runabout Automatic ($1,595)
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Zen Love

Zen Love is Gear Patrol’s watch writer. He avoids the snooty side of the watch world, and seeks out food in NYC that resembles what he loved while living in Asia for over a decade.

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