I’ve been meaning to pen this review for some time now, yet in hindsight, taking additional time to digest the Moser Pioneer Perpetual Calendar MD is a good thing for several reasons. Most importantly, it’s a matter of not letting the sparkle and sheen of its visual characteristics distract from a thoughtful evaluation. Moser watches have that effect on people—the vivid color of their fumé dials is a hallmark of the brand—and 9 times out of 10 a conversation about Moser is either about their dials, or about their cheeky marketing strategy. We’re always taught not to judge a book by its cover, and while a watch purchase can (and often is) driven primarily by aesthetics, it’s best for all involved to dig just a little deeper.
This is not the brand’s first perpetual calendar, however from a design and function standpoint I would argue it’s their best effort to date. Previous perpetual models have included the Endeavour —a perpetual calendar only showing the date (not the month) as well as a tiny hand for its leap year indication. There has also been a prior version of Pioneer Perpetual, though not one with this boxed dual disc display. This new Pioneer cleans things up quite a bit with its two step-boxed openings for the date and month, and a power reserve indication on the opposite side at 9 o’clock, balancing out the dial layout. The dial configurations on perpetual calendars can be an oddly contentious topic, as I’ve learned over the years, but at a personal level I far prefer this clear legibility over the smaller pointer subdials seen in more classical offerings.
With a modified dial layout comes a new caliber—the HMC 808 hand-wound movement, which Moser produces themselves in their facilities in Schaffhausen. Of its key developments, its power reserve of 7 days (via a twin mainspring barrel setup), and the function of its perpetual calendar are most noteworthy. Unlike many perpetual calendar calibers on the market, the HMC 808 in the Moser Pioneer Perpetual can be advanced or retarded without risk of damage. This ‘Flash Calendar’ function, as Moser calls it, allows the date to be set in either direction at any time of day without risk of damaging its movement. Its worth noting that Moser relies on machine finishing, rather than hand finishing, but as you can see in the images above and below, it’s quite a handsome movement regardless of this fact.
On the wrist, the Pioneer in any form is an interesting one. When I first tried on the 3-hand Pioneer some years ago, my first impression was that it was a touch bigger on the wrist than I would like it. Bearing all the hallmarks of a more dressy watch from H. Moser & Cie, wrapping my head around it as a more casual piece—even though it was fitted on a rubber strap at the time—took a bit of convincing. It’s not that it’s a ‘big watch’ in the grand scheme of things. The watch measures 42.8mm across and 11.3mm thick, which is reasonable for something that isn’t meant to be a dress watch in the first place. These case dimensions are identical between the 3-hand automatic and the manual-winding perpetual calendar, as it seems the deletion of the rotor cleared enough room for the added complexity.
Where I think the Pioneer Perpetual Calendar starts tipping the scales in its favor is in its adaptation of a classic complication. You see, with the 3-hand Pioneer it’s near impossible to shake that dressy watch vibe, but with the perpetual, Moser has adapted and modernized it visually; it just feels more casual than a Patek 5327G, or JLC Master Ultra Thin Perpetual, for example. This is very much a consideration of feel, taste, and preference rather than a tangible ‘this is right and this is wrong because’ situation, which is often the case when Moser comes up in discussion. They aren’t a volume brand, and not everyone is going to appreciate them or ‘get it’, so to speak; this is exactly how the brand likes to operate, and it has led them to develop a devout following and enthusiastic base in the collecting community.
At the end of the day, do I like it? Yes, I do. Is there anything I would change? I’d love to see better AR on its crystal, as photographing this thing was a real treat for my somewhat amateur level. Would I buy it? At $39,900 in steel, it’s not an inexpensive buy, but I’d at least put it on my shortlist. I lean towards indie brands to begin with, and when the time comes for a perpetual calendar I would have my heart set on something casual that I could wear regularly, which would put me between this and maybe the Journe Octa Perpetual, however the latter is more expensive and unavailable in steel. Some will argue that there should be some hand finishing to this caliber at this price point, but this is a trade-off that comes with the fact that the brand is actually producing so much of their movements, as well as the level of detail found in their cases and dials. At apples-to-apples build cost, would I rather have a much more plain looking watch from outsourced parts if I got a hand-finished movement out of the deal? Probably not.
Update: Since I started putting this review together, H. Moser & Cie. launched an in-house e-commerce platform that can be seen here. At time of writing, the Pioneer Perpetual is not in the e-shop.
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