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The story of the Mido brand – Mechanical gems inspired by architecture

Tags: About the brand | Mido | Classic | Traditional

25.1.2022 | 10 MIN | 1x comment

Mido. On paper, it is a perfect Swiss brand focusing on quality mechanical watches.  In reality, however, it has a less resounding name than it deserves. But why is that? What makes the Mido brand unique? And what is the story behind it?

At the begining of this article, I think it is necessary to state the fact which for many is pretty substantial, if not even essential: Mido is not an independent Swiss brand or a smaller family company... So if you are looking for a watch with this parameter, I'll refer you elsewhere. Maybe to an Edox brand.

Nowadays, Mido is a part of the Swatch Group concern, the world leader of watchmaking, where it belongs to the middle class (similarly to Tissot, Certina, or Hamilton). Nevertheless, like the brands I just mentioned, it retains the absolute individuality that makes it definitely worth paying attention to.

From the beggining – history of the Mido brand

The year was 1918, November 11th. World War I just came to an end when an experienced (and allegedly genius) watchmaker George G. Schaeren founded his brand MIDO G. Schaeren & Co. in a Swiss town called Biel. The founder borrowed the name from a Spanish phrase "Yo Mido", meaning "I measure", and he also determined its goal, which was to become a technological innovator producing quality watches with timeless designs. And it is safe to say that Mido still adheres to this tradition.

Zakladatel George G. Schaeren.

Founder George G. Schaeren.

Looking at the current Mido collection, you can see mostly men's elegant and sporty-elegant watches... and a few women's watches. But in the past, this distribution was quite different. Mido used to be focused on women a lot more.

Women's watches in art deco style.

Women's watches in art deco style.

In the 1920s, the company produced women's wristwatches in the period art deco style with colorful enamel cases and, at that time, wonderfully modern leather straps. Even current women's watches from Mido deserve attention, although there are not many of them, there are several high-quality (and beautiful) mechanical devices on offer.

However, this doesn't mean that gentlemen are not thought of. The Mido company has always been on the path to innovation, so it's no surprise it has plunged into the, at the time, thriving automobile market. That helped with the really interesting men's watches in the shape of a radiator grille made by several car brands, such as Buick, Bugatti, Fiat, Ford, Excelsior, Hispano-Suiza, and others. Mido then patented this design.

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Interestingly, between 1926 and 1932, Ettore Bugatti ordered four exclusive series of "car radiator watches" in gold and silver from Mido. The case, of course, had the shape of the Bugatti radiator. The founder of this vehicle manufacturer dedicated them to friends, family, and the most deserving drivers and mechanics. This special order of less than a hundred pieces also included a gold watch owned by Ettore Bugatti himself. The watch was sold in April 2021 for more than 250,000 euros.

The designs were so successful that Mido subsequently produced wrist watches, table clocks, and wall clocks for many other automakers, including Alfa Romeo, Buick, Chevrolet, Chrysler, and Rolls-Royce. The cases and dials were inspired by the various radiator grille designs used on these vehicles and became known as the "Montres de l'Automobiliste" (Motorist's Watches).

But Mido didn't just want to be innovative in terms of designing but also technology. So as early as in the '30s, Mido came up with a sealing system, also known since 1959 as Aquadura. They simply figured out that if you put a specially treated cork (yes cork as in wine cork) between the case and the crown (critical spot when it comes to water resistance), the watch is somewhat water resistant.

And since the cork made a perfect connection with the winding shaft, Mido was able to guarantee water resistance even after the crown was pulled out. For example, if you pulled out the crown of a watch with a water resistance of 100 M, it still had water resistance of at least 50 M, which is quite unique.

A second breakthrough of the '30s, of the year 1934 to be concrete, were the Multifort watches. Those were one of the first anti-magnetic watches with an automatic winding, also resistant to water and shock. Multifort watches were Mido's best-sellers from the '30s to the '50s.

For Mido to prove the proclaimed resistance, they let Multifort to be tested in the New York lab "Electrical Testing Laboratories Inc.". The watches were submerged in fresh and saltwater for a period of sometimes even more than thousands of hours. They also had to withstand ten 15 minutes long cycles, in which the watches were warmed to 50 °C and cooled to -40 °C. The crown winding then had to go through a test in which the watch has been used for 34 years.

In 1939, Mido used a robot with a built-in watch as its ambassador to symbolize the progress and robustness of the Mido watch. The robot "Robi" became so popular, there was allegedly a comix about his adventures. Unfortunately, this can not be traced nowadays (if you somehow can, tell us in the comments :)).

Chronographs generally ruled the 1940s. Mido was the first to introduce a central chronograph (a watch with all its hands arranged in the middle) – that was in 1945. The goal of the legendary " Multi-centerchrono" watch was to make optimal readability of the measured time by moving it to the center of the wearer's field of vision.

And in 1954, the company introduced the most powerful winding mechanism in the world: the "Powermind" system. Compared to the previous version, it has been simplified from 16 to 7 components, the power reserve has been extended, and it has also been extremely fault-tolerant.

I would also like to mention another world's first Mido made in 1967, the smallest women's automatic watch. The "Mini Mido" was resistant to water, magnetism, and shocks.

Nejsou kouzelné? :)

Isn't it magical? :)

Even with so many firsts, Mido certainly did not rest, which was proved by the Ocean Star series, which Mido has kept to the present day.

The roots can be traced back to the year 1959 when Mido used this name for making watches with a single-piece case, which eliminated any issues with water resistance looming from the back of the case. The combination of the element with the mentioned crown sealing Aquadura system made the Ocean Star durable in the toughest conditions.

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Mido Ocean Star Powerwind "Rainbow" Diver from 1961.

It is also interesting that it is not only the Ocean Star that comes out from this series, but it is also the current Commander line inspired by architecture.

In 1972 Mido went under the wings of ASUAG, later SMH, and in 1985 Swatch Group, where it is to this day. The residence moved to the town of Le Locle in the Jura mountains, which makes for an interesting fact that they basically share yards with another Swiss giant belonging to the Swatch Group – Tissot.

Before Mido seemed to begin being a bit in the shadow of other Swatch Group brands, it came out with two technological uniqueness in the '90s.

The first one was a women's watch with a peculiar name Bodyguard as it had a built-in alarm. And no, it was not an alarm in a sense of alarm clock as we know it now. It was a literal alarm, which the lady could turn on if somebody was to attack her. That even this didn't have to necessarily discourage the attacker? Well, the 100-decibel volume of the alarm made the chance of driving the scamp away pretty solid (to give you an idea, 100 decibels is something between a very loud drill and a rock concert)... The manufacturers did not really care for the eardrums of the lady so I am not surprised these are no longer on the market.

A more successful deed of the '90s was the WORLDTIMER watch, allegedly the first analog watch with a local time zone indicator in the world.

What makes Mido unique? The connection of music with architecture

When you look around the current production of watches in general, you can find watches inspired by sport, nature, or personal tradition. But Mido does not subject to trends, and as history proved it, they always did things somewhat on their own.

I would describe the design of Mido watches with two words: nobility, and timelessness. These values are embodied by the frequent connection with music and architectural motifs – robust mechanic watches with classical (yet not dull) designs, which overcome the abyss of time in the same way iconic majestic buildings do, or stringed instruments, whose longevity holds centuries.

Watches from the Baroncelli series, which can be found even now in the collection, originated in 2006, and their classical look evokes graceful curves (or tones) of stringed instruments.

Greater emphasis is then placed on architectural inspiration. And it has its reasons. Thanks to the successful pieces, whose looks come from iconic buildings, Mido received attention from the UIA organization – International Union of Architects.

Hodinky inspirované Velkou čínskou zdí.

A watch inspired by the Great Wall of China from 2012.

UIA (Union internationale des Architectes) is a worldwide organization of architects founded in Switzerland in 1948. It unites non-governmental organizations of architects from 124 countries. At the same time, it is recognized by UNESCO as the only architectural union operating at the international level. The Czech Republic (and its Society of Architects) was one of the founding countries.

Interesting collaborations then emerged from the merger. For example, in 2015, there was a contest in watch design. Mido chose three professional watch designers to design and develop a limited edition inspired by Big Ben in London. The winning designer, Sébastien Perret, was selected by a panel with 2 people, Esa Mohamed, the president of International Union of Architects, Franze Linder, president of Mido, and the general public (online voting).

As a result for the affection to architecture, Mido changed its slogan to "Inspired by Architecture" in 2017. Consequently, the company commenced an interactive campaign #BeInspiredByArchitecture, and a 12-day tour around the world campaign to discover 12 cities and visit  60 iconic monuments to choose one that would inspire the design of their new watch. In the end, they picked the New York Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum as a source of inspiration for a watch that was then introduced in October 2017 at an exclusive New York event.

For comparison, the Guggenheim Museum:

The three pillars holding the Mido brand

Mido's philosophy is based on three values: innovation, aesthetics, and functionality.

"The Mido brand shares these core values ​​with some of the iconic architectural gems from which it draws inspiration for its collections." – states the Swatch Group.

The innovations were discussed above, as well as the aesthetics of the watch, which impresses with its classic, decent look and interesting concepts. Now let's take a brief moment to look at the functionality. The movements, the materials, and the overall durability of Mido watches.

Interestingly, Mido offers almost exclusively only mechanical watches. And that is not so usual in the current watchmaking in this category. Sure, in the past, you might have seen a few Mido watches with quartz movement, however, the present-day collection only offers the beauty of the complex mechanical watch.

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The movements are decorated by Genevan stripes, blue screws, and guilloche or granular bridge.

At present, following the example of other Swatch Group brands, takes ETA machines and often modifies them. Their flagship is the Caliber 80 with an 80-hour power reserve, and chronometer watches (with precision-certified movement) and automatic chronographs (Caliber 60) often appear on the menu. Each chronograph watch is identified by an engraved number on the movement.

Mido also uses premium materials. Women's watches are often inlaid with real mother-of-pearl or diamonds. We will also find gold or titanium, though, most of the collection is made of stainless steel. The glass is, of course, sapphire, and is reinforced to be more sock resistant. Mido often provides them with a double-sided anti-reflective layer.

The more sporty watches are equipped with Super-LumiNova luminescence, which has excellent lighting properties.

The straps are always hand-sewn and made of natural leather.

Mido now – and some thoughts

Why is it that such a promising brand is more or less in the shadow of other Swiss companions? Of course, there is a comparison with the Tissot brand (located on the same level in the Swatch Group pyramid), which is currently flirting with a lot of popularity.

The most noticeable difference is in the area of ​​partnership and cooperation with the sports world. While Tissot has a partenrship with Tour de France, Moto GP, NBA, and more., Mido, not dealing with extra-accurate quartz chronographs in racing style, has little to offer. Perhaps except for the iconic Ocean Star, which earned them a partnership with the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series in 2019, but that's about it.

But this is not a bad thing, and many will certainly appreciate the inclination towards more noble cultural areas, such as the aforementioned collaboration with architects. However, this area will never reach such popularity as sports

Another lag behind is probably the fact that there are no affordable (albeit high-quality and Swiss) quartz watches on Mido's offer. Mido stubbornly stands for mechanical watches and is quite adamant in its actions. Which, in my opinion, is quite respectable, even though (or precisely because) it has closed the way for a much wider range of customers.

But Mido is not supposed to be for everyone. It is not an unmissable brand that the masses will long for. It will take you a longer search and deliberation to get to Mido, and perhaps at first glance (and even more so) you will be impressed by the precision and taste of these Swiss mechanical gems.

Mido Commander Gradient review – A watch that challenges your imagination
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Mido Commander Gradient review – A watch that challenges your imagination

Comments

William Veraago 523 days, respond
Mi único reloj un Mido Baroncelli que lleva más de 20 años conmigo.Es un símbolo de mi padre