THE MOSER WATCHMAKING DYNASTY IN SCHAFFHAUSEN
Schaffhausen’s reputation as an important watchmaking town can be traced back to the middle of the 16th century. Joachim Habrecht, who received the Town Charter of Schaffhausen in 1539, went on to build the astronomical clock for the Schaffhausen Fronwagturm tower, which is still in operation. His two sons, Isaac (1544–1620) and Josias (1552–1575) Habrecht, built the second astronomical clock in Strasbourg Cathedral and were among the most famous watchmakers of their age. A table clock by Isaac Habrecht exhibited at the Museum of Applied Arts and Design in the city of Winterthur bears witness to the artistic skills and refined craftsmanship of the watchmakers of that period.
In the master enameller and engraver Georg Michael Moser (1706–1783), the town once again produced a horological craftsman whose fame would spread beyond its boundaries. His elaborately executed gold cases adorn many a collection of important watches. Georg Michael Moser, a distant relative of Heinrich Moser, also became a founding member of the British Royal Academy of Arts in later years.
More than 30 other watchmakers are listed in the town records in the 17th century. Yet not until Johannes Moser (1730–1820), the grandfather of Heinrich Moser, would the town again see a watchmaker whose works have stood the test of time. As town watchmaker and magistrate in the local court, Johannes Moser was a respected figure.
He established the Moser watchmaking dynasty with the trade mark of the highest quality and superb craftsmanship. His son Erhard Moser (1760–1829) succeeded him in the trade of town watchmaker. Like his father before him, Erhard Moser was also well known beyond his occupation as a watchmaker as a member of the Grand Council and Town Commissioner. He introduced his son Heinrich Moser, born in 1805 in the «Haus zum Blauen Himmel » in Schaffhausen, to the watchmaker’s craft.
The artistic skill of Heinrich Moser’s creations very soon gained him international respect and recognition. He became the leading Schaffhausen exponent of this craft with businesses in St. Petersburg and Le Locle, among other locations. He opened a workshop for the manufacture of watch cases in Schaffhausen in 1853, and he established a school for watchmakers in 1856. He supported F. A. Jones in the foundation of the International Watch Company (IWC) in 1868 by providing him with premises and low-cost electricity supplied via a power transmission system.
IWC kept the watchmaking tradition of Schaffhausen alive for a great many years and with a very chequered history. Not until 2002 would far-sighted, entrepreneurial courage once again provide the stimulus for a new, «old» H. Moser & Cie watch factory.
The records tell us that the establishment of his watch business in Schaffhausen was indeed Heinrich Moser’s lifelong dream. Now, more than 200 years after the birth of Heinrich Moser in Schaffhausen, the story of an enterprise which first set up in business in St. Petersburg in 1826 has come full circle with the relaunch of the H. Moser & Cie brand.