Read more - Mondaine

Read more - Mondaine
The earliest Mondaine
Swiss Railway Watch was not
produced for the Swiss
railways. The idea was
originated by Mondaine and
the watch’s launch was in
1986. The seconds hand on
this first model flowed
smoothly around the dial, but
later versions enshrined the
railway clock’s famous halt
just before 12 o’clock, with
which those who have stood
on Swiss railway platforms
will be familiar.
Mondaine
Swiss Railway Watch
16
Since 1946 the distinctive
clock designed by railway
engineer Hans Hilfiker has
been a standard feature on
Swiss platforms, as well as in
station halls (second from
top), where it provides a
traditional meeting point.
Swiss railways are renowned around the
world for keeping most strictly to their
timetables. In most railway stations in
Switzerland travellers can clearly see,
from a distance, the time of day in hours
and minutes, in the full knowledge that
their trains will be arriving and leaving
with absolute punctuality. The design of
these uniform clocks was the work of the
railway engineer Hans Hilfiker (1901–
1993) in 1946; the early models had no
seconds hand. Forty years later Mondaine
had the idea of bringing this beautifully
clear design to the dial of a wristwatch,
and the Swiss Railway Watch was
launched in 1986.
First-time travellers on Swiss railways
today should look out for a unique characteristic of the platform clock: the steps of
the sweeps seconds hand are very slightly
shorter than a full second. But when the
hand arrives at precisely 58.5 seconds it
halts for one and a half seconds, in order
to check itself against a signal from a
remote caesium clock, and then jumps
forward to the correct position.
However, Mondaine’s standard quartz
movement wristwatches do not have this
halt. Customers complained to Mondaine,
and the company then introduced a
modified (and more expensive) quartz
version enshrining the familiar halt.
Mondaine has now produced many
variants of the Swiss Railway Watch,
including a desk clock and a pocket watch
that is also an alarm clock.
The clock has become an
object of such national pride
that it has appeared on
Swiss postage stamps.
The large range of variants
of Mondaine’s Swiss
Railway Watch includes
a fridge magnet.
Opposite
Back and front views of
an early version of the
Swiss Railway Watch;
the watch has only ever
had a quartz movement.
98
cult watches
The watches feature a white enamel
face with black hour and stick minute
hands and seconds markers, while the
seconds hand is a bright red pendulum
shape. There are two dial sizes, 33 mm
(15/16 in.) for men and 26 mm (1 in.) for
ladies. These watches undoubtedly have a
cult following, and the trail now leads all
the way to the Design Museum in London,
the Museum of Modern Art in both New
York and San Francisco, and the Guggenheim in Bilbao, where they proudly have
their place among outstanding twentiethcentury designs.
The French word mondaine means
‘fashionable’ or ‘worldly’, and was the
name chosen by Erwin Bernheim (born
1925) when he was looking for a trademark for his small watch company in
Brazil in 1951. He was not satisfied with
the quality of his imports, so he took
over two small watch manufacturers in
Switzerland and began producing lowpriced wristwatches. In the 1970s the firm
developed some of the world’s first digital
LCD watches, programmable versions
with microprocessors and, the company
claims, the first solar quartz watch with
both analogue and digital displays.
The 1980s saw the arrival of Mondaine’s
M-Watch. The ‘M’ stood not for Mondaine,
but for Migros, the supermarket chain
and much else (and Switzerland’s largest
employer), who had placed a large order
for the watch. It is on record that Erwin
Bernheim’s son Ronnie developed the
POTENTIAL CUSTOMERS
BY THE MILLION
Switzerland’s first railway line
was opened in 1847 and ran the
23.3 km (21 miles) between Zurich
and Baden to the north-west. The
Swiss federal state was created
the following year, and the necessary
unification of train times was
implemented. Within three years
the fledgling Swiss network had
carried over a million passengers,
and by the turn of the century
the figure had risen to
100,000,000. One of
the most splendid main
railway stations in the
country, completed in
1871, is to be found
in Zurich, at the head
of Bahnhofstrasse.
The Schweizerische
Bundes Bahn (SBB) is
the successor to Swiss
Federal Railways, which
was created on 1 January
1902 with the nationalization
of the eight largest private
railway companies. Today the
SBB is run over about 3000 km
(1864 miles) of rail track. The
system is the densest in the
world, as it consists of 122 km
for every 1000 sq. km (about
75 miles per 1196 sq. yards). Each
day some 9000 trains travel over
the network, handling a total of
over 250,000,000 passengers
each year.
mondaine
99
A desk clock version of the
Swiss Railway Watch.
Top row
A Mondaine M-Watch from
1983, the year the watch was
launched. There have been
more than 2000 variations in
the M-Watch’s case and
mountings treatments.
M-Watch in a remarkable twenty-eight days.
It was launched in 1983, powered by
a conventional ETA quartz movement. It
has gone through more than 2000 variations
in its case and mounting treatments, and
more than 6,000,000 have so far been sold.
And now there is an M-Budget model,
which is proving just as successful. Today
Mondaine is still a family company, based in
Zurich and run by Erwin’s sons, André
and Ronnie.
The pocket watch version
of the Swiss Railway Watch
can act as a bedside clock,
and incorporates an
alarm function.
A recent M-Budget model.
Like the earlier M-Watch, the
‘M’ stood not for Mondaine
but for the supermarket
chain Migros, which had
ordered a large number.
Bottom row
Mondaine’s first solar quartz
watch (1970s) featured both
analogue and digital displays.
The Digi-Quartz, a Mondaine
model of the 1970s.
100
cult watches
mondaine
101
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