In 1944, Hans Hilfiker, a Swiss Engineer and Designer and employee of the Federal Swiss Railways, created a clock which has become known as the “Official Swiss Railways Clock”. For design buffs and railway enthusiasts alike, this clock remains a simple and ever-present pleasure of every Swiss rail journey.
In 1986 the Montaigne Watch Company, with official license from the Federal Swiss Railways, turned it into a watch collection. It has become a true Swiss icon. The simple design, the unmistakable easy-to-read face, distinctive hands and the famous red seconds hand have made the Mondaine collection successful the world over. Ingenuity and simplicity are the elements which often distinguish an attractive piece of design from a truly iconic design classic. With strong black markings instead of numerals, each five minute increment given further emphasis and a sweeping second hand in red it is so visually simple that a train guard can read it easily from the far end of a train.
If you look closely you see that the solid red circle at the end of the second hand not only resembles a pendulum but is also a replica of the signalling paddle once used by station guards.
I knew nothing of this history until walking the streets of Zurich where, as we looked at the display in a jewellery shop window, Erika told me the story of the watch design. It was not the time to make a purchase but it certainly gave me food for thought.
I am now enjoying wearing a Mondaine watch and am delighted with its clarity. The background story and the memories from my visit to Switzerland are renewed each day.