Monochrome Watches
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A Business-Oriented Conversation with Edouard Meylan, CEO of H. Moser & Cie

A closer look inside MELB, a discreet group within which a brand is steadily growing.

| By Pascal Brandt | 6 min read |

MELB, does that mean anything to you? The acronym hides a discreet family group, active in various high-added-value fields including, of course, watchmaking. However, one of its components is well-known, through its collections: Endeavour, Streamliner, and Pioneer to name just three. We are talking about H. Moser & Cie and MeylanEdouardLeonoreBertrand (MELB), founded by the former CEO of Audemars Piguet (until 2008), Georges-Henri Meylan, alongside his three children. The patriarch is the Chairman of the holding company, which has several strings to its bow. We’re meeting with Edouard Meylan, CEO of H. Moser & Cie, on the sidelines of the presentation of the Geneva Watch Days in Zurich a couple of weeks ago.

Pascal Brandt, MONOCHROME – What does MELB Holding represent, which is rarely talked about?

Edouard Meylan – The origins of MELB Holding date back to its foundation in 2006. My father is its Chairman. Our activities are based on three pillars, starting with luxury, with our two watch brands H. Moser & Cie and Hautlence. We are also active in real estate and tech. In the latter area, we actually invest in companies and start-ups with strong technological potential.

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At the time when my father was CEO of Audemars Piguet, the company had created a subsidiary entirely dedicated to med-tech. This subsidiary produced pacemakers in particular. It allowed him to create many contacts, which he maintained and which we activated in this particular field.

The Meylan family portrait – from left to right: Bertrand Meylan, Georges-Henri Meylan, Edouard Meylan, Pascaline Meylan and Léonore Meylan

Coming back to your luxury branch, the public is mainly familiar with H. Moser & Cie, a brand that currently holds the upper hand in the landscape of watchmaking outsiders…

Yes, that’s true. The brand is doing well. We are growing by 25% in the first quarter of 2024, and we have progressed by 50% in 2023. I took over the brand management in 2012, at the same time that MELB Holding bought Hautlence (an anagram of Neuchâtel, where it was historically based). Created in 2004, this brand was in difficulties and we took it over in 2012.

Edouard Meylan, CEO of H. Moser & Cie.

Two watch brands, but other industrial activities in parallel?

Yes, we have gradually developed our “luxury” activities to have an integrated production tool. We have taken a stake in Agenhor in Geneva (which Meylan said to be “less than 50%” of the total shares) which specializes in movement design. In 2012, we also integrated Precision Engineering in Schaffhausen, a very innovative company in the field of escapements including hairsprings.

Why this gradual expansion?

We are an independent family structure, with independent brands. It is therefore important to ensure this. All the more so since H. Moser & Cie has developed more than twenty movements since 2005, and the brand is growing rapidly. We have integrated everything over the years, except for the exterior (cases, bracelets, etc…) We produce the plates, balance springs, springs, anchors and escape wheels in-house. H. Moser & Cie now employs around a hundred people.

Hautlence Linear Series 1 retrograde jumping hour tourbillon
The Linear Series 1, the Hautlence model that marked the comeback of the brand under the MELB holding control

What about synergies with Hautlence?

As mentioned previously, we took over the brand in 2012 following its difficulties. Guillaume Tetu, who was managing it, joined Ralph Lauren in 2018. At that time, we chose to reposition it, as the brand was starting to stagnate. That’s when the COVID crisis started, which put a sudden brake on the industry as a whole. At that time, we had to make choices, and decided to stimulate H. Moser & Cie, which was starting to accelerate strongly. At the same time, Hautlence was put on hold. In recent years, H. Moser & Cie has grown very strongly.

As for Hautlence, given the evolution of the situation, we integrated it into the premises of H. Moser & Cie in Schaffhausen, where a unit is entirely dedicated to it. H. Moser & Cie represents 95% of our business, and Hautlence takes the remaining 5%. This brand is starting to move, we have reached break-even. Its profile is very bold, while Moser’s is based on history and watchmaking complications, such as the Perpetual Calendar.

An H. Moser & Cie Streamliner model, part of the Alpine-themed collection

About your markets and your customers?

The distribution is good. 30% for the USA, 35% for Asia, 25% for Europe, and 10% for MEA. We are obviously talking about Moser. In more detail, in parallel with retail, we do not neglect e-commerce and, above all, direct sales. This totals 10% of our production expressed in terms of sales. To this end, we have also set up a H. Moser & Cie House concept in Hong Kong and New York. My brother Bertrand takes care of sales and manages 75% of the markets.

Our customers generally have an entrepreneurial profile, they are independent personalities who do not seek recognition. What they want is the product before anything else, before the brand. It is also through this channel that we engaged with Renault. Luca De Meo, the boss of the car brand, is a fan of H. Moser & Cie. He contacted us and the partnership with Alpine took shape. This partnership gave us a huge boost, via F1 and the Alpine Renault community. I would say that our client is somewhere between the two: competition and the world of sports road cars. And it was all the better because my father is a vintage Alpine Renault enthusiast, he owns two! The partnership with Renault has obviously impacted the perception of the brand, and it allows us to offer an exceptional customer experience. And from a collection point of view, it leads us to think about more edgy, less classic developments.

H. Moser & Cie headquarters in Neuhausen am Rheinfall

The market is very polarized today, and the era of mergers and acquisitions has dried up, often lacking brands with sufficient critical mass to generate interest. However, is there any interest in developing in this area and moving towards a third brand? And would you sell the entities of the MELB watchmaking pool?

It’s all a question of opportunity, it depends. If we were to go in this direction, we would rather look for a brand on a human scale. It would all depend on these criteria. But we remain attentive, there are brands on the market.

As for selling ourselves, it’s all a question of price! To come back to your question about a third brand… We own the C-H. Meylan brand – Charles-Henri Meylan, a watchmaker born in Sentier in the Vallée de Joux in 1842 and who made a career in the United States. He is remembered for his complicated watches: chronographs, and minute repeaters. Nothing is done, but it would be a dream for my father!

In the immediate future, we are focusing on our two brands, and H. Moser & Cie in particular. We are aiming for a turnover of 200 million Swiss francs within 3-4 years. We are going to develop our own retail. The question of major investments will arise in 2028, perhaps…

Editor’s note: according to Morgan Stanley’s estimates, H. Moser & Cie. would have approximate sales of CHF 93 million, for about 3,500 units. It is ranked 38 out of the 50 largest Swiss watch brands in Morgan Stanley’s 2024 report.

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3 responses

  1. Do I understand correctly that he would sell the Moser brand depending on the price?

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