From Andy Warhol to Keith Haring, artists have been designing wristwatches with scant regard to horological memes. In every case, the watch has merely been a canvas, as with Warhol’s Manhattan photographs or Haring’s graffiti. For Bryan Ferry, art college-trained in painting and sculpture but known best as a musician, his collaboration with H. Moser & Cie was far more fundamental.

What Ferry created – with no experience in the design of watches nor an obsessive interest in watch history, but using his own sense of aesthetic correctness – was a perfect dial for a pocket watch circa 1905, adorned with his own choice of hands, colour details and font, as well as the strap. Its debut at SIHH was a triumph, and Revolution was privileged to meet with Ferry and Edouard Meylan, CEO of H. Moser & Cie, at the Salon.

Meylan was already familiar with Ferry’s work, both as a member of Roxy Music and through his 15 solo albums. “When we met,” Meylan says, “I was touched by his passionate character, by his enthusiasm and interest in everything. Watchmaking obviously fascinates him.”

Ferry explains that: “We had a mutual friend in Michael Moszynski of London Advertising Ltd. Moser is one of his clients.” Meylan adds: “Michael was the man behind a very unusual visual concept for us. He thought we would get on and so he introduced us to Bryan.”

Meylan immediately wanted to do a collaboration. “We always say we want to bring emotion into the brand, so that people appreciate that we are classic, elegant and sexy at the same time. For me, it was a question of whether Bryan understood what we do, appreciated the craftsmanship, the elegance and our product. So we had dinner a couple of times, chit-chat and a look at the manufacture. We wanted to know how he felt, so we would know what we were doing and where we wanted to go. We did not want to impose anything. We said: ‘What do you like? We will do it with you.’ And it worked well. It was a really smooth project.”

For Meylan, the most important thing “was to find someone who understands what we do. Knowing Bryan, what he stands for, the look – it is what we needed for H. Moser to make it more concrete. We stand for classicism and beautiful products, and Bryan represents that.”

What Moser had in mind was a true partnership. Meylan says: “We thought, let’s do something simple, try to talk him into a fumé dial without indices, easy, so we prepared one. Then we thought we’d let him see a little bit more, so we opened the books and showed him dials and hands and things from the archive. And from that point onward, everything was really his decision.”

Time On My Hands

Moser’s Endeavour Small Seconds would be the watch that would experience the Ferry makeover. He wanted the smallest Moser model, Ferry telling Revolution that he has “small, delicate wrists”. Meylan added: “We couldn’t do a special case, but the 38mm fits his wrist perfectly.”

For Ferry, who had designed his and Roxy Music’s album covers, it was a new experience. As for working on albums covers, Ferry says, “I find that fascinating. It’s one of the only opportunities I have to express myself visually.” This would be a complete departure from an LP sleeve or CD booklet.

“I like watches, but I’m not a watch collector,” he says. “Although, over this long life, I’ve acquired a few. The first stipulation was the size. I wanted something smaller.” His preferred look was “something from the past, but not a particular period. I took from here and there.” The idea was, “to have a sort of ‘vintage-ish’ theme to it. So we looked at the Moser history and the things they had done in the past.

“It was quite eclectic – ‘let’s try this or that’ – and it seemed to work. I enjoy the details and it’s very detailed work.” Ferry attended to all of the fine points, working closely with Meylan. With a background free of a watch enthusiast’s habits or biases, Ferry says: “It’s nice to have an outsider like me dealing with experts. We met two or three times but sent a lot of things back and forth by email.”

Ferry and Meylan both recall discussions about whether or not to use Super-LumiNova, which hands looked best, what font suited the dial’s numerals, what sort of chapter ring. Ferry says: “We tried many different iterations until it felt balanced. I wasn’t sure how it would work. It was relatively pain-free, a pleasant experience. It reached a point where it suddenly felt right.”

Of this interplay with Moser, Ferry says: “It was like working with a Savile Row tailor. Men’s clothes are all about detail too.”

THE ONLY FACE

Ferry and H. Moser can be proud of the watch that bears the singer’s name. It is so deserving of the adjective “classic” that it seems brazen to adjudge it so, given the newness. But standing the test of time will not be a problem: Ferry attended to every detail with the eye of both a watch connoisseur and a man of supreme taste in general. It is as handsome as one of his tailored suits.

Choosing the Endeavour Small Seconds afforded Ferry a constraint that ensured a “period” look, thanks to its layout. Small seconds all but disappeared with the advent of the easier to-read sweep seconds hand, but never quite died away because a subdial provides an alternative aesthetic to three hands from the centre.

Even without the effect of a small seconds dial, the watch oozes “vintage”, but not in the manner of “obsolete” nor even “retro”: “timeless” best defines it, in the manner of a fine pair of brogues or horn-rimmed specs. This is further ensured by the watchmaking reference to historic models from the H. Moser & Cie archive, including dial details from specific pocket watches in the company’s past. After producing a number of prototypes, Ferry and Moser settled on a design that is almost impossible to fault.

For the Bryan Ferry Limited Edition, the dial is lacquered in white with a matte finish, and for the Arabic numerals, Ferry chose a clear font that denies modernism. The numbers could have adorned any pocket watch or clock made between the 1850s and 1920s. Ferry did draw the line at too much antiquity: Roman numerals would have been a bit too much “silent movie piano player spats”.

Ferry also opted for a simple chapter ring for the minutes, eschewing railway track indication. For both the large dial and the small seconds dial, he added a touch of colour, with a red 12 for the hours and a red 60 for the small seconds against the black used for all other numerals. Pointing to the hours and minutes are ultra-slim, achingly elegant Breguet-style hands in blued steel, with small seconds marked by a traditional hand with counterbalance, also in blued steel. Other decoration is restricted to a crown adorned with an “M” and engraving on the case back that reads “LIMITED 100 PCS”.

SIGN OF THE TIMES

As sobriety is the overall effect, a light touch lets the wearer know that the watch is part of a limited edition. In small red print, the name of Bryan Ferry appears at 6 o’clock, in the place of the standard “Swiss Made” declaration. Measuring an ideal 38.8mm in diameter with a cuff-friendly height of 9.3mm, the Endeavour Small Seconds Bryan Ferry ref. 1321-0116 employs a three-part, rose-gold case with sculpted details and alternating polished and brushed surfaces. It is fitted with a hand-buffed, brown calfskin strap, secured by a rose-gold pin buckle engraved with the Moser logo. Says Ferry: “It has the look of a Berluti shoe.”

A view through the case-back’s sapphire crystal reveals the beautifully finished, hand-wound, in-house, 27-jewel HMC 321 calibre of 32mm (or 14¼ lignes) diameter and a height of 4.8mm. It runs at a sedate 18,000vph and delivers a weekend-conquering power reserve of three-day minimum; the power-reserve indicator resides on the movement side, reading a delightful period worthy “Up” and “Down”.

Another nice touch is hacking seconds for precise time-setting, while the movement features Moser teeth for all wheels and pinions, an Original Straumann hairspring with a stabilised Breguet overcoil and the interchangeable Moser escapement for easy serving. Thus, despite its seeming simplicity, the Endeavour Small Seconds Bryan Ferry is peppered with many small yet fascinating details.

Due to its limited production run of 100 pieces and a price below £20,000, it is safe to assume that the watch will sell out quickly. As for the possibility of future models bearing his name, Ferry laughs: “Wait and see – only time will tell.”