The abbreviation MIH probably doesn’t mean much to most of our readers, except to our hardcore watch enthusiasts (or WIS, which stands for Watch Idiot Savant – another horological abbreviation) who will immediately recognize the acronym. MIH stands for Musee International d’Horlogerie and during the time that Mr Ludwig Oechslin was the curator of the museum, he introduced the MIH Watch. A portion of the proceeds goes to the museum to fund special restoration projects. And now there’s a new MIH Watch called the MIH Gaïa Watch.
The first MIH Watch has been appreciated by watch collectors and enthusiasts from all over the planet. It was sort of a love child of Ludwig Oechslin, Paul Gerber and Christian Gafner. The latter designed the watch, while Oechslin created the annual calendar on top of a Valjoux 7750 chronograph and independent watchmaker Gerber rearranged the chronograph’s actuators and levers for it to become a monopusher chronograph. While that first MIH Watch looks pretty simple, it packs an annual calendar and a monopusher chronograph.
Oechslin, who studied Archeology, Philosophy, Theoretical Physics and Astronomy, really got into watches (and clocks) after he restored the astronomical clock in the Vatican Library, known as the Farnese Clock. There he learned that many ‘solutions’ used for centuries in watchmaking might not always be the best solutions. Take for instance the annual calendar. Usually, such a calendar comprises dozens of individual parts, not so in the MIH Watch. The annual calendar in this watch comprised only nine moving parts! A few years later Oechslin created an annual calendar with only five additional parts atop a standard ETA 2824-2. While not your average watchmaker, Oechslin is also responsible for the Ulysse Nardin Freak, the Astrolabium Galileo Galilei wristwatch and many more.
Out with the old, in with the new
Last week, on the occasion of the 25th Gaïa Prize, the MIH Gaïa Watch was unveiled in the Musée International d’Horlogerie in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland.
The watch has been developed by ‘in-house’ experts and the production will be undertaken by local producers and artisans: the new watch was designed by Atelier XJC; Sellita did the movement; Timeforge made the technical plans; Singer produced the dial; Stila built the case; Brasport fitted a leather strap; Cornu & Cie made the buckle; and Laboratoire Dubois performed a series of reliability tests on the watch. All companies are from the town of La Chaux-de-Fonds, or in the vicinity.
Once again, the aim is to preserve horological heritage, meaning that part of the proceeds goes to the museum. What’s different this time is that the MIH Gaïa Watch will be available through a subscription. The ‘old’ MIH Watch was produced with an annual limitation of 200 pieces and production has been terminated; according to the museum, only a few pieces of the old MIH Watch are still available!
The MIH Gaïa Watch
The round case might not be unusual, but the lugs and time display are far from standard. The design apparently took inspiration from the architecture of the museum, which is an impressive concrete creation that somehow merges into the surrounding landscape.
Time is indicated by two discs: the large aperture on the upper section of the dial is the hour disc and features the numerals 1-12 against a white background while the minutes are indicated by a central disc with a white marker that points to the minutes printed around the disc. The time indication is a so-called wandering hour, meaning that the hour disc will rotate once per twelve hours and the minute disc rotates once per hour.
The case measures 39mm in diameter and is less than 10mm thick (9.74mm, to be precise) and that looks like a very pleasant size. Although the distinct lugs are visually quite present, it looks like they do not protrude too much and the MIH Gaïa Watch probably won’t wear too large.
The funding will primarily go towards restoring the Grand Magicien, an iconic automaton timepiece in the collection which was made by Jean-David Maillardet of Neuchâtel and his son Julien-Auguste in 1830 and the François Ducommun’s Tellurium (early-19th century).
In homage to the Grand Magicien, the reverse of the watch has a hidden secret: the caseback allows a glimpse of the winding oscillating weight, which is engraved “Musée International d’Horlogerie”.
Ordering the MIH Gaïa Watch
Limited to only 200 pieces, the new MIH Gaïa Watch is available on a subscription basis. Ordering can be done from today until 19 January 2020 via the website www.montremih.ch. Unfortunately, this website is only in French, but with the help of Google translate I’m sure you can order your MIH Gaïa Watch.
The price is CHF 2,900 and the first ‘few subscribers’ will get a CHF 500 discount (without any mention of how many exactly). When ordering, an initial payment of CHF 1,000 will be taken and the balance will have to be paid upon delivery in summer 2020. The MIH Gaïa Watch will also be available in the MIH shop. If subscriptions do not reach the levels expected, those investments will be refunded in full.
More info and ordering: www.montremih.ch