Mission Impossible Hunted:

The Official Watch of the Musée International d'Horlogerie, La Chaux-de-Fonds

by Magnus Bosse
September 2005

Part 3

6. The Sponsoring:
The MIH watch is not an end in itself. Part of the procedings goes into the restauration of a monumental clock, made by Daniel Vachey (Saint Louis) in 1932. The MIH acquired this clock in 2001. The 1.5m tall impressive clock features many astronomical functions, animations and sound mechanisms. The watch consists of more than 3200 (three thousand two hundred!) parts. The restauration is necessary and extremely costly. From the 5000 Swiss Franks the MIH watch costs, 700 go into the restauration of this clock!

Ms. Bossard, director of the MIH, together with Ludwig Oechslin, conservator of the MIH, explain the historical significance, the importance and the complexity of this exemplary clock:

7. The Presentation:
The MIH watch was presented on 9th September 2005 (what better a date would there be than the 9.9. to present a watch with 9 significant parts...?) at the Musée International d'Horlogerie, La Chaux-de-Fonds. The following pictures give an insight in this successful event. I was quite taken by the spirit, enthusiasm and excitement about this watch, that needed no luxurious dinners or breathtaking models... Just the watch alone and the people behind were sufficient! First, Ludwig Oechslin and Ms. Bosshard introduced the MIH and the concept behind the watch:

Beat Weinmann of Embassy Lucerne introduces the design and the motivation of Embassy to sponsor the development of this watch. It is his personal affection for indepentend watchmakers, the friendship with Ludwig Oechslin, Paul Gerber and Christian Gafner, but also the contribution to the preservation of watchmaking history, that drove him and his employer Embassy to sponsor this magnificient watch:

The video to the watch (so far only on www.mih-watch.ch) was specially created and was accompanied by an also custom composed music, based on only 12 tones, as a sign for the 12 hours on the dial of the watch - a very intellectual approximation to an equally intellectual watch:

Following the official part, a reception was given which provided, after all this impressive information, a most welcome end:

Christian Gafner and Paul Gerber (top left), Ludwig Oechslin (top right), Ruth Gerber and Isabelle Zingg (below) enjoying themselves:

The event was well frequented, and I spotted some well-known faces in the crowd: Beat Haldimann and Vincent Bérard. Beat was extremely taken by the MIH watch and left his H1 cand H2 at home. Vincent opted for his own creation:

The highlight, at least for the first persons who ordered this watch, was the delivery of the first watches: as a special touch, Ludwig Oechslin suggested a most unusual packaging: first, the warranty booklet is signed (left), then the watch attached with a Velcro tape (right)...

and then placed into the current copy of Switzerland's most famous newspaper: The Neue Zuercher Zeitung (NZZ; New Zurich Newspaper), according to Oechslin "since 255 years Switzerland's most famous quality export good" (left). What a coincidence: In today's copy there even is an article about Paul Gerber... (right)

... so that one truely might say: "Heute mit Mehr InHalt" (today with more content)

Below you can whitness the delivery of the very first watch, which immediately found her way onto the proud owner's wrist:

So, that's it! I hope you enjoyed this little report as much as I felt delighted to whitness the birth of this outstanding watch. Needless to say that the main persons involved were completely relaxed (top image from left to right: Beat Weinmann, Christian Gafner, the MIH watch in a show case, Paul Gerber and Ludwig Oechslin):

Please do not forget to visit the website of the MIH watch (with video and sound!):

8. The People behind:

Ludwig Oechslin:
since 2002 conservator at the MIH in La Chaux-de-Fonds. Has probably the most unusual background: He is an universal scholar in the truest (and rarest) sense and studied Achaeology, History of Art, Philosophy, History, Greek and Latin at teh University of Basel, Switzerland, and made his PhD in Philosophy and History of Natural Sciences in 1983. As a truely polymath person, he acquired the certificate as master watchmaker beneath his studies for the postdoctoral lecture qualification in Archaeology of Industrial Technology in 1993. Ever since then, he created many complications for the watch manufacturer Ulysse Nardin: The "Trilogy" astronomic collection, the Perpetual Ludwig and last but not least the groundbreaking "Freak" are widely-known testimonials of Dr. Oechslin's impressive portfolio. Despite being complicated, one common characteristic is typical for his creation: they are alll easy to use!

Paul Gerber:
well-known for his own collection of watches (see my article on his innovative Calibre 33 watch), for the world's most complicated wristwatch (the famous Piguet/Muller/Gerber Ultracomplication), but also for coutnless construction work for the big names in luxury watchmaking. The Ultracomplication earned him the second entry in the Guniness Book of Records, after the smallest wooden clock in the world (a records he still holds!).
In 2004, he sponsored the kinetic sculptures of Miki Eleta, illustrating different functions and historical developments in watchmaking technology, to the MIH.

Christian Gafner:
Industrial Designer. Previously earned his merits for example with the design of the official Swiss Army's sunglasses. These are modularly designed to facilitate changes of nose-pads, earpieces or protection filters, so that they are equally suitable for alpinists or pilots.
Gafner therefore was not burdened with common watch designs and startet from scratch. He proposed an easily readable watch with absolutely no inscription on the front, but only a small "MIH" at the 9 o'clock position: A subtle hint pointing to ingenious calender mechanism using only 9 parts.

Beat Weinmann:
of Embassy Lucerne. Beat is fascinated about watchmaking since ever. A strong supporter for independent watchmakers, he was all for the project and acted as 'product manager' if one ever can say that in such a project. He invested much energy, heart and soul in this watch. An irreplaceble motor!



I want to thank Ruth and Paul Gerber, Beat Weinmann and Christian Gafner for accepting me as guest, answering all my questions and introducing me to the fascinating world of the MIH watch. It was a great joy for me to whitness the creating of this watch! The whole project mainly lived from you!
Thanks also to Isabelle Zingg for proof-reading. All images are taken with a completely outdated Nikon D1H digital SLR with a 18-70mm Nikon Zoom and a 55mm Nikon Micro lens.

Part 1 - Introduction and design
Part 2 - The Annual Calender and the Chronograph Monopusher
Part 3 - The Presentation of the Watch at the MIH 09.09.2005
Part 4 - Three years MIH Watch! The Interview with Beat Weinmann

Magnus Bosse © September 2005 Last update 10 December 2006