Watchmaker protests 'Swiss made' label, makes timepiece out of cheese

Luxury watchmaker H. Moser & Cie. has created a million-dollar watch made from genuine Swiss cheese. The company produced the one-of-a-kind item to protest rules governing the "Swiss made" label, which it says is being abused.
Swiss watchmakers H. Moser & Cie. have created a one-of-a-kind watch made from Swiss cheese. (H. Moser & Cie.)

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It doesn't smell, it won't melt and you can't eat it. But, for a price, you can own a timepiece being billed as "the most Swiss watch ever."

That's thanks to its most distinctive ingredient: Swiss cheese.

It's not just a luxury novelty item. It's an act of protest against new rules in Switzerland governing the use of the "Swiss made" label. According to the rules, Swiss-made components must account for 60 per cent of the value of the watch, but watchmaker H. Moser & Cie. says those rules are open to abuse. 

"We decided to use the most precious material that we have here in Switzerland," Edouard Meylan, CEO of H. Moser & Cie., told As It Happens guest host Helen Mann in an interview.

"So we used cheese to create the case of the watch and we have a leather band using cow skin."

The result, Meylan said, is a watch that is 100 per cent Swiss.

Swiss watchmaker Edouard Meylan (Courtesy of H. Moser & Cie. )
The cheese in question is Vacherin Mont d'Or médaille d'or, made in the village where Meylan grew up. The cheese was blended with a polymer compound to keep it from spoiling and is also pasteurized.

"Obviously, we don't want it to stink," Meylan said.

Meylan, who is the fifth generation in a family of watchmakers, says the new labelling rules mean many manufacturers actually assemble their watches in Asia, using only a few Swiss parts — meaning the watches aren't really "Swiss made" at all.

"We feel this is not good enough, considering the tradition we have here in Switzerland, the craftsmanship, the people that work on those products," he said.

(H. Moser & Cie.)
 Meylan added that, while the "Swiss made" label may carry cachet abroad, "actually there's nobody to control it here in Switzerland, so people are abusing it."

That's why the watch is made from cheese and not chocolate: because despite the reputation of Swiss chocolate, cocoa beans, as Meylan pointed out, aren't grown in Switzerland.

Proceeds from the sale of the watch will go to support independent Swiss watch suppliers "who suffer nowadays from many brands producing abroad," Meylan said. The auction closes on Friday.

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