Review: the H. Moser Pioneer “Mega Cool”

Think about the watch brands that pop up in your Instagram feed or are frequently discussed on our site and others like it, and you begin to see that brands take on highly distinct personalities that are, more than anything else, a reflection of the way we interact with them. Brands, of course, aren’t human beings. They can’t have “personalities.” But we imbue our thoughts and feelings onto them, and their watches. Marketing, and the brand’s mere presence in the space, trigger all kinds of reactions not just to a brand’s products, but their image. Maybe Rolex represents stoic sophistication, and Grand Seiko a type of alternative ornateness, for example. What a brand represents to you, positive or negative, has a deep impact on how we interact and live with their watches. 

Moser and Cie. seem to know this. I can’t think of any other brand that’s worked harder over the last five years to cultivate a specific image in the eye of the watch buying public. The work is hard in the truest sense, because it seems that what H. Moser wants to convey about themselves is so far removed from the status quo of the luxury watch world that they almost appear to be making it up as they go along. They aren’t working from a recognizable template. 


That image, the personality of the brand, has become something akin to the kid in class who has completely exasperated the teacher. Or maybe it’s more complex than that. It could be the rebellious teenager that started a noise rock band and is really into modern art. I guess it might also be a cryptocurrency infused younger person who has just gotten into watches and doesn’t know exactly what they want, but they know it has to be different, full of color, and not on the wrists of any of their peers. In reality, it’s probably a combination of these archetypes, if they’re even identifiable as substantively different. The point here is that Moser has cast themselves as the enfant terrible of the watch world, whether that holds up to real scrutiny or not. 

Before we get into the watch at hand, the Moser Pioneer Mega Cool, it’s worth examining some of the specific things Moser has done in recent years to burnish this reputation. Some are purely stunts. Their most famous, a watch made out of cheese to, I guess, prove a point about the “Swiss Made” label, seemed to infuriate as many as it fascinated. They’ve also made an entire series of watches, the Swiss Alp line, as a sort-of response to the Apple Watch. It shares a similar case design as the ubiquitous smart watch, but it runs on a beautifully finished mechanical caliber and has been a canvas for many interesting and sometimes intentionally provoking designs. A minute repeater with no hands? Sure, why not? 

But regardless of what you think about Moser’s posture by way of their most talked about conversation pieces, there’s no denying that there’s a genuine spark of creativity to the way they do business and present themselves in the watch community when observed from a high level. A recent example: CEO Edouard Meylan posted a video to his Instagram account of a client purchasing a unique minute repeater for over 6 Bitcoins (a transaction that at the time would have been just shy of $400,000). This feels like a fairly big deal in an industry that, at large, is still trying to figure out the internet. At the very least it’s a curiosity, and an appeal to a type of watch consumer that might not be interested in the more conservative Swiss houses with which Moser competes.

And then there’s the matter of the balance springs. Moser, unlike just about every watch brand on the planet, has the ability to make their own balance springs in-house. This is exceedingly difficult and precise manufacturing, and allows Moser the opportunity to generate an additional revenue stream adjacent to their watch sales. So, it’s good business and represents real skill, and is a genuine and impressive flex. It’s as if that kid who started the rock band is actually fronting the Velvet Underground, and his teachers are hip enough to understand he’s actually for real. 

So, the stunt watches, the marketing, the technical skill, and the attempts at providing commentary on the watch industry through a design language all come together to form an image of a brand that is nothing if not divisive. People have strong opinions about Moser, frequently, I suspect, without ever having seen one in the metal (their tagline, “Very Rare,” refers to their limited production of about 1,500 watches per year, so you’re not likely to see them out in the wild). Commentary on forums and Instagram tends to be more about an individual’s reaction to Moser’s attempts at humor (or whatever) than the watch itself, and it always struck me as strange that some critics seem to think that in the larger watch landscape there isn’t room for a reliable troll. I guess it ultimately all depends on how seriously you take Moser, and how willing you are as an enthusiast to accept that a watch brand might have a discernible point of view on the industry itself that is manifested in their house design language. 

This all an incredibly long windup to a discussion about a watch that is actually fairly simple on its face, but quite a bit more complex when you examine each individual element. I came away from my experience with the Mega Cool having a deeper appreciation for Moser as a brand, even as I felt there are some obvious shortcomings with the watch itself. 


Review: the H. Moser Pioneer “Mega Cool”

Stainless steel
HMC 200
Blue Lagoon fume
Yes, hands and hour markers
Fabric with leather back
Water Resistance
43 x 51mm
Lug Width
Screw down

The Dial

In addition to the good natured trolling Moser takes part in, the thing they’ve really become known for more than anything over the past several years are their frequently colorful fumé dials. Literally meaning “smoked,” a fumé dial’s chief attribute is a shift from bright tones at the dial’s center to darker hues at the perimeter. The Mega Cool’s dial is a shimmering blue/turquoise (the brand calls it “Blue Lagoon”) that gradually becomes deep green that is nearly black at the outskirts. 

“Dynamic” is a word that’s often used to describe a dial. The word implies change, and is overused in my opinion. Let me tell you, though, that the Mega Cool dial is dynamic in a way that few dials I’ve laid eyes on can claim to be. When I opened the Mega Cool’s packaging in my dimly lit apartment, I was impressed with the saturation and unique tone of the dial. Soon after strapping it to my wrist, I had to go outside on a sunny afternoon to run a quick errand, and seeing it in the bright natural light changed the character of the dial dramatically. Suddenly it felt and looked like it was alive on my wrist – there’s an organic quality to it thanks to the color that is really impressive. The dial has a texture that I wasn’t expecting, giving it a surprising wabi sabi that isn’t usually something discussed with this brand. 

Moser uses several different dial styles across their collections, and the aesthetic of each leans toward minimalism. Their Concept dial is a completely blank slate with no markers of any kind, and their much admired perpetual calendar displays the month, day, and date in a surprisingly spare and ingenious way. The dial layout used in the Pioneer collection isn’t quite as dramatically empty as the Concept dial arrangement, or as creative as the perpetual, but it’s still incredibly simple with applied hour markers and no additional minute track. 

Time telling, even without a minute track, is quite straightforward thanks to the expansive size of the dial itself – there’s no squinting required here. Precision is tough to glean at a glance, but this isn’t something that is particularly bothersome to me personally. The hands are lumed and easy to pick up against the bright tones underneath. 

While there’s plenty of inherent drama in the bold use of color on the Mega Cool, the dial furniture is plain by comparison. Hour markers are polished and faceted (with a double marker at 12:00) and effectively pick up light, but I found them somewhat insubstantial. I think the goal here was likely to let the dial take priority, and not be upstaged by markers that draw attention away from the fumé effect. Same with the hour and minute hands, which appear to be long strips of lume mounted to similarly polished batons. They’re functional and well executed, but ultimately unremarkable. 

The dial’s big Easter egg is the nearly sterile nature of it. The H. Moser wordmark, in its elaborate cursive script, is there, but you have to look for it. Rather than being printed, painted, or applied to the dial, the lettering has been engraved in such a way that it’s nearly invisible. When the dial catches the light at just the right angle, or you observe the dial under magnification, the intricacy of the engraving is apparent. It’s a subtle detail on an otherwise very in-your-face watch, and I think that’s the reason this design choice held an appeal for me. 

There’s a long history of brands and watchmakers using “hidden signatures” on watch dials to signify authenticity. Cartier comes to mind, as does Breguet. Rolex and Omega laser etch their iconic logos into watch crystals in a way that’s difficult for a counterfeiter to precisely reproduce. Here, the use of a nearly hidden signature is more about letting the dial speak for itself than it is about guarding against a replica, but it’s a small way that Moser has tied itself to a watchmaking tradition that is hundreds of years old. 

To be honest, I was a little skeptical of this dial at first. Fumé dials have become trendy in recent years, and I’ve seen a bunch of them from small brands who have them produced for affordable and generally pretty accessible watches. No shade intended to those smaller makers, but the Moser dial is on another level entirely. The transition from light to dark has a three dimensional quality to it that’s hard to explain, and also difficult to capture in photographs, as I quickly found out when I attempted to snap some iPhone pics whenever I ventured outdoors with the Moser on my wrist. What I saw with my eyes was always orders of magnitude more impressive than what was rendered on my phone’s screen. I’ve heard some denigrate Moser’s dials as pedestrian or boring, reminiscent of perhaps the most ubiquitous mall watch of them all. This is a charge that I simply don’t understand after spending some time with the Mega Cool, which I found to be disarmingly complex in person. 

The Case

We have to begin the discussion of the Pioneer’s case with the tale of the tape. This is, to vastly oversimplify it, a big watch. The case is a healthy 43mm in diameter and about 51mm from lug to lug. The case height, thanks to a giant domed sapphire crystal, is around 14mm, but tough to get a precise reading on thanks to the curvature of the glass (Moser’s specs put it at 11.3mm tall, but I couldn’t determine where they’re measuring exactly to get to this number when I took my calipers to the case). Crucially, the lug width is 22mm, which has an outsize impact on how the watch actually wears. As you’d expect with numbers like these, it has a broad footprint that takes up a lot of wrist real estate. 


The Pioneer is Moser’s entry into the luxury sports watch market, pre-dating the integrated bracelet equipped Streamliner. I think the idea here was to create something big, brash, and colorful that could stand up to everyday wear and tear. The caselines vaguely resemble those in Moser’s dressier collections, with molded case flanks and gentle curves, but the size is inherently casual and seems designed to garner attention. The crown screws down and the case is water resistant to 120 meters. Those specs plus the largely brushed finish would seem to imply that daily wear is the goal here. 

The most distinctive features of the case are the molded cutouts on the caseband, which have an intricate ridged pattern within them. From a distance, these provide the appearance of texture (as well as actual texture). They also provide an unfortunate contrast with the rest of the case in terms of finishing. Under a loupe, each individual ridge appears to be mirror polished, as does the molded area itself. It stands up nicely under magnification and makes for an impressive effect under direct sunlight. The brushing on the rest of the case, however, leaves something to be desired. The transitions at the edges lack a certain crispness, and the case has an almost bulbous quality to it. It’s not bad from a technical standpoint, but it also doesn’t feel representative of a watch that retails for over $15,000, which is disappointing because the dial emphatically does. 

Like the dial, the case is aggressive and seems designed to generate reactions from people who bear witness to it, but here the case is ultimately overshadowed by the dial. That’s not a negative thing on its face – very few watches have a case and dial that are both shockingly impressive. But the delta between the overall impression of those two elements on the Pioneer is significant. If you’re a collector focused on dials (with a large wrist) this might not be a major concern, but I found myself wishing the case made a better showing while I sampled the Mega Cool. 

The Movement

If there’s another area to point to on the Mega Cool where you could say that value at such a high price point is apparent, it’s the movement. The HMC 200 caliber is made in-house by Moser and has a three day power reserve. It’s visible through the exhibition caseback, and is very nicely finished and features a skeletonized rotor (in gold) that allows you see most of the movement without an obstruction. While not as ornate or with as much handwork as a Lange or Patek, there’s a visual power to the caliber thanks to its size, contrast of finishing techniques, and the large balance that oscillates at an old-school, majestic rate of 21,600 vph. At 5.5mm it’s a relatively thin caliber as well, which unfortunately doesn’t translate into a more slender case. 


The HMC 200 is essentially Moser’s workhorse caliber, introduced in 2017 and making its debut in the Endeavour Centre Seconds and the original iteration of this very Pioneer, in a blue fumé dial. At the time, the HMC 200 equipped Pioneer was the only stainless steel watch in Moser’s collection, and while most of the watches in their catalog are still made from precious metals, the Pioneer line has expanded and we’ve also seen the introduction of the previously mentioned Streamliner collection, the brand’s most overtly sport focused line to date. A high quality automatic movement is the essential bedrock of a sports collection, and that seems to be the role the HMC 200 is currently playing. 

Wearability, and the Real World Experience

When I get a watch in for review, I try to actually wear it in real world situations. Now that the world is opening up again, there are thankfully more of those real world situations to find oneself in. I had a short turnaround time with the Mega Cool, so committed myself to wearing it constantly while I had it in my possession. 

The first thing I’ll say is that my initial impression of how the case actually wears was not positive. I attribute this to wearing a considerably smaller watch for an extended period of time right before taking delivery of the Moser, and the oversized case sending a shock through my system, which has been calibrated to watches in the 38-40mm range, for the most part. It felt bulky, heavy, and awkward from the jump. 

I found as I wore the watch, though, that it gradually got more comfortable on my wrist. This was helped by loosening the strap a bit, which is a stiff leather backed nylon material that was perhaps not quite fully broken in. A flexible strap seems like a necessity for a watch of this size, and if I found a Pioneer in my own personal watch box for keeps, it would almost certainly live on some kind of rubber. In any case, over time I found myself getting used to the big footprint of the Pioneer, although it’s hard for me to imagine someone with a smaller wrist enjoying the wearing experience. On my wrist I didn’t experience significant lug overhang when the watch was centered, but found that it would “drift” over time and begin to wrap itself around the outside of my wrist. Normally this would bother me, but because of the way the case is shaped (and, I guess, the way my wrist is shaped) the bottom set of lugs still contours nicely. 

So, comfort became a non-issue after a relatively short period of time, about a day. But the visual impression on my own wrist was something I had a harder time moving past. There were times the watch made me feel like a little kid, wearing his dad’s oversized suit. The colorful dial and domed crystal definitely make it feel larger, even if in reality it’s not dramatically bigger than something like the Big Pilot 43, which I came to really enjoy when I had that on loan earlier in the year.

My taste definitely veers toward the more discreet side of the spectrum these days, so it’s fair to say the Mega Cool sits somewhere well outside my comfort zone. It was interesting, then, to have it on in public, as I experienced something that is exceedingly rare in the watch collecting world: people (strangers, even!) actually commented on it. 


Example #1: The dentist’s office. My hygienist knows what I do for a living, and always asks me about my job, but has never before commented on the watch I happen to be wearing when I come in for a cleaning. She spotted the Mega Cool, and said “Woah! That’s a cool watch!” Then, naturally, we had a laugh about the name. Thinking about this short interaction was barely enough to distract me from the extreme discomfort of that industrial strength WaterPik thing that’s used for cleanings these days, so I guess wearing the Mega Cool to the dentist was a good decision. No cavities to report, by the way, and gum health is tip-top. 

Example #2: Waiting for my bagel at the local coffee shop. This was a quick one. A gentleman in a mask walking out of the store as I was posted up waiting for someone to call my name gave me a “Nice watch!” as he was leaving. No time to meaningfully respond (I squeaked out a “Thanks!” as I lifted my gaze from my phone) or even to see what he was wearing, if anything. Had to be another Moser, though, right? 

And that’s a full account of the general public’s commentary on the Mega Cool. The fact that this occurred over a short two day period still feels remarkable to me, and represents a 100% increase in comments compared to my beloved Grand Seiko, all my cool vintage pieces, and the trusty and relatively well known Speedmaster. I’ve got to think the combination of this watch’s size and color make it noticeable to a larger slice of the public, which may or may not be a real consideration in your decision to wear or purchase one. I’ve personally gotten used to the act of wearing a watch being an insular experience, but when you wear something that is very easily noticed, it becomes something else. 

The other notable real world experience I had wearing this watch wasn’t a public act of watch spotting, but took place during an activity that I do literally all the time: seeing a movie in a theater. This time around, it was Eternals, the newest Marvel movie which has been roundly rejected by critics and audiences, and might not even be in your local cinema any longer once this review goes live. For the record, I liked the movie in spite of some obvious faults, and appreciated its ambition in launching nearly a dozen new characters in a millennium spanning saga, and it was a lot of fun on a giant IMAX screen. 


Anyway, it’s a long movie, and while I was enjoying myself, I still felt the need to check the time, as one does at these things. Even without the hands and small lume plots on the dial being charged, I found that I was always able to clearly see the time in the dark theater thanks to the reflective nature of the dial elements and the sheer size of the crisp white lume strips on the hands. The movie itself also crystallized this watch’s aesthetic for me. Eternals is straight up acid trip science fiction, with characters that are seemingly immortal who report to God-like figures the size of actual planets. Our heroes, when thrust into action, are clad in colorful suits, and the Mega Cool would have absolutely looked appropriate on any one of them. The movie somehow made me think of this watch in a psychedelic, science-fiction context that I hadn’t previously considered, and while it’s not my personal style, it was somehow the first time the watch really made sense to me. A watch fit to properly complement Jack Kirby’s art gets a point in my book.


The Mega Cool, like all watches to a certain extent, is a study in contrasts. There are parts that work really well (the dial is genuinely impressive) and parts that left me scratching my head (the case, clearly, and the use case outside of a Marvel movie). This isn’t a watch that I’d choose for myself, but I can see the appeal if your taste runs toward the more dramatic. Whether you want it to or not, the Mega Cool makes a statement. That statement will be different depending on whether the watch is seen by your dental hygienist, the kid selling you popcorn at the cineplex, or a seasoned collector at your local meetup, but it’s a tough watch to ignore. 

The retail price of the Mega Cool is $15,300. Obviously, that’s a very expensive watch, but it sits near the entry point for Moser as a brand. H. Moser is frequently discussed as a gateway to the world of haute horlogerie and independent watchmaking, although it feels a little strange to think of a watch this expensive as an entry point to anything, but that’s the nature of high end luxury watchmaking. Moser, it should be pointed out, is fully engaged in making watches that, even if you don’t like them, represent the absolute vanguard of artistic, complicated, watchmaking, as can be seen in their tourbillons, for example, and their use of vantablack dials. They’ve also proven to be an able collaborator, working with MB&F on a recent pair of limited editions. If you follow the independent watchmaking scene at all, you’ll hear people (fans of the Moser brand, mostly) talk about the brand’s increasingly high profile status. It’s not uncommon to hear people claim they sit where a brand like F.P. Journe did not so long ago.

In any case, at $15,000, you have a lot of options if you’re determined to spend that much on a watch, and like any other watch at any other price point, you can point to examples that make the Pioneer seem like it’s either a screaming value, or insanely overpriced. If they’re the next Journe, well, that’s a pretty obvious value proposition. But if all you really care about is having a big, colorful watch on your wrist, there are a myriad of options, even G-Shock might have you covered. At the end of the day, however, dipping your toe into this style of watchmaking with a great in-house movement and a brand with a certain pedigree at $15,000 doesn’t seem like the craziest idea in the world if you have an interest in this stuff and the disposable cash. I’ve said it a thousand times, but check the prices on grey market Daytonas compared to this, and tell me where you’d rather have your money. Better yet, look at the Aquanaut, which is a watch made in a similar ultra-casual-but-luxe-and-sporty style. One is literally unobtainable, and seems destined to hit six figures, and the other currently sells for less than retail on the secondary market.

That brings us back to some of the noise around Moser as a brand. I’m quite confident they’ll continue to do exactly what they’ve been doing for the last few years and release watches that push people’s buttons. This watch, as a watch, either works or doesn’t work according to your own taste profile, what you like and what you don’t. The brand, however, is asking a question that’s interesting and in my opinion worth considering, and that’s to what extent a watch or a watchmaker should exist as commentary on the larger watch community. I’m certain there are some in our community that bristle at the idea of a watch that makes a statement about the industry, or other watches, but if you’ve ever been inclined to equate watches with art (and there are brands at all price that might cause us to do this, from MB&F to anOrdain, and countless others) I think it follows naturally that some of that art is going to be created for the purpose of commenting on the state of the world the art was made in. The watch industry, at this particular moment, is certainly fertile ground for commentary. We accept this in film, music, fine art, literature, and every other medium you can name, and I don’t think watches should be excluded. 

But enjoying (or not enjoying) a watch made by H. Moser doesn’t require this type of deep analysis. It’s still an aesthetic object, and at the end of the day, that’s probably how most people will interact with it. But making a conscious effort to dig a little deeper can also be rewarding, particularly if you find yourself identifying and sympathizing with the way Moser has cast itself as a chaos agent in a world that can get pretty stuffy. While this particular watch ultimately doesn’t work on my wrist or in my life, spending some time with it in the real world certainly helped me appreciate H. Moser in a new context. H. Moser

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Zach is a native of New Hampshire, and he has been interested in watches since the age of 13, when he walked into Macy’s and bought a gaudy, quartz, two-tone Citizen chronograph with his hard earned Bar Mitzvah money. It was lost in a move years ago, but he continues to hunt for a similar piece on eBay. Zach loves a wide variety of watches, but leans toward classic designs and proportions that have stood the test of time. He is currently obsessed with Grand Seiko.