In 1959 Mido released the Ocean Star line of watches with a completely novel monocoque case design, pressure fitted crystal, cork crown sealing system and an astonishing 300 meters of water resistance. The nineteen-forties and fifties were a time of incredible innovation for waterproof watches. And the release of the 1959 Ocean Star marked a fitting seal to the decade of watch case advancements.
The “Oceanstar” trademark first began use on movements and the occasional Multifort watch dial since 1944. With the starfish symbol appearing on Mido movements in 1941.
Then President of Mido Watch Company of America, a subsidiary and distributor of Mido watches in the United States, testified, “That his company received shipments of watches marked ‘OCEANSTAR’ beginning in 1944” and that, with the 1959 Ocean Star line, began receiving them in “vast quantities.” [source]
The pursuit of waterproof watches goes back to the 17th century.
By the 20th century there was a push to meet the needs of explorers, navies, and professional divers. As tales of exotic adventure spread, another wave was forming, and would soon make a big splash on popular culture. The emergence of the amateur sport adventurist.
Mido has a long, and fascinating, history in manufacturing waterproof watches.
Used by Navy service men, aviators, and swimmers, by the 1950’s they had developed a reputation for making reliable and durable water resistant pieces. Mido already made their watches with the, later named, Aquadura system which incorporated a chemically treated cork to seal the stem of the crown, and a screw down case back. Amazingly, it worked so well that with the crown pulled out it still provided 100 feet of water resistance [source].
In 1934, they released the Multifort, a watch that was self-winding, anti-magnetic, impact resistant (one of the first watch companies to use the now famous Incabloc system), and waterproof. You cannot overstate how much of milestone this was. It was a winning combination and set the standard that all automatic sport and tool watches would follow.
And it was incredibly waterproof. While some waterproof watches prior to this were resistant to being splashed and marketed themselves as waterproof. This was a watch you could swim with.
Dave Haynes, NAWCC vintage watch repairer and chronicler, said, “Mido watches were very high end expensive watches. They were always cased well and waterproof … Old watchmakers and jewelers I’ve talked to said that they were a direct competitor for Rolex in the high end rugged sport watch market.”
The 1959 monocoque case.
In 1959, with the introduction of a true mono-shell case (the design was only in two parts, crystal and a single one piece monocoque case), the Mido Ocean Star watch offered a degree of impermeability no watch company had achieved before. And it may have just introduced the worlds most water resistant watch with a depth rating of 300 meters.
But, in a very Mido way, they didn’t make a big splash about it.
To put this achievement in perspective. By the 1960s the Omega Seamaster offered 200 meters of water resistance; the Rolex Submariner 100 meters; and the Zodiac Sea Wolf 100 meters.
A dressy sports watch.
Yet Mido was not racing to the bottom of the sea. Rather, they were designing purpose-built watches for another sea-dweller. The recreational, laid-back surfing, skin-diving and water sport enthusiast kind – who valued refined Swiss engineering and beautiful craftsmanship. The Ocean Star was Mido’s move towards a dressy sports watch that improved on the great technology they had refined in the Multifort.
The Ocean Star kept the extremely reliable powerwind movement that had endeared the Multifort to its owners. While designing a new line of sports watches that ranged from ultra-dressy to the more tool-centric bezel diver watch that the Tribute is a reissue of.
As an adventure sports watch of the 1960s, the Ocean Star was as much for mountains as it was for the seas. In 1964/65 Edmund Hillary sponsored an Antarctic expedition to be the first to summit the 9000-foot volcanic peak ‘Big Ben’. It was the first private Australian expedition to the Antartic since Sir Douglas Mawson’s in 1929. And the Mido Ocean Star was selected as the watch of choice for the expedition.
The launch of the 75th Anniversary Mido Ocean Star Tribute.
That was a lot of history. I feel it helps explain the impact of Mido during the 20th century and why the Ocean Star “waterproof” line was so significant to the brand.
To commemorate the mark, Mido released both a black and a blue dial version with aluminum bezels. The Ocean Star has classic masculine lines and a pleasant 40.5mm size for a vintage diver.
The Mido Ocean Star Tribute is a reissue of a watch that was birthed from this golden age of discovery, exploration and adventure.
It stays true to the original aesthetic. Harkening back to a 1970’s Mido diving watch. Carrying over the design elements of the bezel, the orange lollypop second hand (which happens to be the official color of Mido), the rectangular minute and hour hands, the crown guards, and the date/day complication. Here was a watch that would take you anywhere – and would never miss a beat.
Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series
In 2019, Mido chose to launch the Ocean Star Tribute at none other than the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series.
The 75th Anniversary Special Edition Mido Ocean Star Tribute is something to behold. Somehow it pays respect to both their mid-century professional dive watches and their dressier sports watch they were known for. It has a classic 60s dial and diver bezel with a luxurious bracelet. The bracelet is refined, polished, and incredibly well executed. With a beautiful clasp and divers extension.
Watch experts such as Teddy Baldassarre remarked that the bracelet was of a quality that one could not find in the $1150 price range. Saying, “One of the best bracelets I’ve found in a dive watch … As you go out you get to handle hundreds, if not thousands, of watches. You get more of an appreciation for certain things. You get to really hone in on what works and what doesn’t. The Mido Ocean Star just simply works.”
As of the last published COSC certifications, Mido is actually fourth in line for producing the most chronometer certified watches, among the top of Rolex, Omega and Breitling. Which does tell the story of what Mido really cares about when it comes to producing their watches: Swiss precision and quality.
The movement is the Mido Calibre 80. Which is based on the highly regarded Swiss made ETA 2824-2 movement. But modified for an accurate 80 hour power reserve. It’s known as a precise, reliable, and robust mechanical movement. The refined 80 hour power reserve movement is made exclusively for certain Swiss companies. The Mido Calibre 80 improves upon the design with their pallet fork, balance spring, escape wheel, materials and finishes. As Mido CEO Franz Linder says about the movement, “We have certain standards of our own, where we try to go even further.”
The bezel is steel, unidirectional, and 60-click. It has a bit of lateral play – but does slot into place and lines up precisely.
It has a matte black dial with lumed indices that change color from a pale green to a light cream depending on the the light. Of note is the crown guard, true to the original. Not a common feature of 1960 and 1970 dive watches.
In short, the classic styling, the domed crystal, the embodiment of an era, the dual nature of tool and class – all appeals to me.
There’s something beautiful about quality workmanship that can withstand a life of use and still be serviced to carry with it the stories of a one generation to another.
The Mido Ocean Star has the aesthetic je ne sais quoi. Embodying style, functionality, quality, a bit of 60’s flare, and Swiss pride. Finding this watch was unexpected, like hiking a trail, looking down and spotting a jewel. I purchased it the same day I discovered it from a Canadian watch house. And haven’t looked back.
Mido Ocean Star Tribute Features
The retro look of the indexes is perfectly offset by the black dial, orange second hand and bezel.
40.5mm case diameter
13.43mm case height
Boxed saphire crystal
Aluminum insert bezel
Super-LumiNova Applied Indexes
Automatic Mido Calibre 80 Movement (ETA C07.621 base)
80 hour power reserve
20 bar (200 m / 660 ft) water resistance
Hour, minute, second, day and date functions
Made in Switzerland
The black dial Ocean Star Tribute is an honest and timeless design.
I’d been on the hunt for a do-it-all watch that would wear a lifetime. A waterproof, all-weather, timepiece that would suit an active life of cycling, hiking, swimming, backcountry skiing, business casual, travel and motorcycling.
The Mido Ocean Star Tribute fits the bill. It’s practical, designed to withstand the pressures of the deep and as such is built to tighter tolerances. It has the built in bezel timer. And I plan on keeping the it for a lifetime. The Mido Ocean Star Tribute was exactly what I was looking for.
Discovering the Mido sparked a curiosity to uncover more about this elegant watch maker. And I’ve found the journey of researching the history behind the watch as fascinating and rewarding as the use of the watch itself.
If you have any information, please comment below as it all helps the community.
In 1927 Miss Mercedes Gleitze successfully swam across the English Channel. It was her eighth attempt. However, a rumour began that another woman had swam it first. So she attempted it a ninth time, but failed due to the cold. Rolex had asked her if she would carry their new Oyster watch. Which she agreed to do. And after the occasion Rolex advertised that their watch survived the swim across the English Channel. Rolex always did have a flair for marketing.
And so began a race for the world’s most waterproof watch.
A brief timeline of early waterproof watches 1850-1960
1851 Pettit & Co. A pocket watch was displayed in a glass globe filled with water.
1891 François Borgel patented a water resistant wrist watch case. Later tested by David Boettcher and found to be waterproof for the time.
1915 Tavannes released the Submarine (sold by Brooke & Son). A watch that was dust and waterproof.
1926 Rolex released the Oyster. A watch with a hermetically sealed case.
1932 Omega released the Marine. Which had a second case surrounding the watch to seal out water.
1934 Mido released the Multifort. Which had a sealed waterproof crown and was shockproof, anti-magnetic, waterproof and automatic. Notable that it was an improvement to the Borgel case design released in 1891.
1938 Panerai released the Radiomir. Which used radium based paint which gave off a blue glow in the dark making the dial legible for divers.
1950 Panerai released the Luminor. Which used a large crown guard, plexiglass, and tritium for the loom.
1953 Blancpain released the Fifty-Fathoms. Which used a rotating bezel and had water resistance to 300ft (50 Fathoms).
1953 Zodiac released the Sea Wolf. Which used a steel rotating bezel and had a 150m water resistance (82 fathoms).
1954 Rolex released the Submariner. Which used the rotating bezel and the screw-down crown. Rolex held the patent for the screw-down crown.
1957 Omega released the Seamaster 300. Rated to 200 meters.
1959 Mido released the Ocean Star. Which used an innovative solid case back design, the cork-sealed crown, a pressure fitted crystal and had a water resistance of 300 meters. They issued various dial varieties of this model. The most famous and significant is the one with the colourful decompression scale.
The innovation of waterproof watches continued well into the 1970s. The period of time from 1850-1960 marked two world wars and a significant advance of technology. Watches went from being utterly defenceless to water to being useful tools at depth. It was an age of deep sea marvel. And set the stage for the emerging watersport and skin-diver enthusiasts of the 1960s and beyond.
I’ve been on the search for a watch and made the decision to go for the Mido Ocean Star Tribute timepiece.
4 years ago my wife and I set out to renovate our home. It’s been an enjoyable journey. This year we finished the exterior deck (the last of the jobs) and my wife suggested that I buy a watch to commemorate the completion.
Having stumbled upon a video by a talented watch repairman resurrecting a Swiss made Rolex Explorer from salt water damage. I was taken by the intricacies of the automatic components and listened attentively as the skilled master explained that a lady inherited this watch from her father – who had lived an active life, competing in triathlons, and this watch had been his faithful companion – and now she would wear it as it carried with it the stories of her dad.
This is the testament to Switzerland’s excellency of watchmaking.
Switzerland has a deep tradition of specialization. There is a heritage of Swiss craftsmanship that has grown up within tightly knit villages – each concentrating on different parts of watchmaking. This is one of the reasons Swiss watches are so good and their quality world-renowned. And this is exactly how this 1960s Rolex was made.
Thus, a seed was sown and, slowly at first, I began a search for my own durable Swiss timepiece. After comparing numerous pieces from various brands I came upon the 60’s styled Mido Ocean Star Tribute.
I knew almost as soon as I saw it that it was the one for me. It fit every criteria I’d laid out – and more so. The quality of finish was beyond anything I’d seen.
This kindled a curiosity to uncover more about the company behind this elegant watch.
Mido, a story unfolds
Mido is understated – to say the least. Yet, it has historical significance with car-enthusiasts, art, exploration, and sports. And fits as comfortably while driving a vintage sports bike to the beach as it does leisurely relaxing at a cocktail party.
Mido made the first watch ever to offer the exact combination of qualities that were on my list almost a century later, a fact I didn’t know at the time of purchase.In 1934 they released the world’s first antimagnetic, watertight, self-winding, and impact-resistant watch. They had created a durable and handsome do-it-all watch and it became a market success. [souce][source][source]
“In 1934, after a relatively short gestation, Mido introduced the Multifort [with the above mentioned qualities], and thereby sealed its reputation as a serious watch company.” [source]
In 2016, the last published year of the COSC certification, Mido was the 4th most certified Chronometer watch maker in all of Switzerland. Precision and accuracy are synonymous with Mido. In fact, even their non-chronometer movements are adjusted to a minimum of 3 positions for high precision and use the high-quality Nivaflex mainspring for long-term accuracy.
With more than a century of history, Mido was quietly writing an important story in watch making.
Horology, the study and measure of time, is poetically found within the name of Mido, which means “measure”.
Founded in 1918 by watchmaker Georges Schaeren and Hugo Jubert on 11 November; the very same day of the Armistice [source]. Simultaneously the Allies and the German Empire signed a truce bringing peace to the conflict of World War I.
Mido G. Schaeren & Co. AG watch factory was setup in Solothurn Switzerland. [source] In 1946 they opened the state of the art production center in Biel Switzerland.
It his believed that Georges Schaeren’s younger brother Henri Schaeren drafted the name Mido.
Henri Schaeren seemed to have a flare for business and in 1924 after serving for 5 years as head of sales at Omega joined Mido as a partner to focus on the commercial operations [source]. This would have freed Georges Schaeren, “an experienced and ingenious Swiss watchmaker,” [source] to concentrate on watchmaking as the company grew.
A little known fact is that Mido played a vital role in the early years of Citizen Watch Co.
The newly formed, now famous, Citizen watch company was struggling financially. Founded in 1930 they began assembling pocket watches but had little market success. “Finally the shift to the production of wristwatches saved the company and enabled its growth.” [source]
The first models marketed by Citizen were all in fact Mido models. Funded by bank credits until 1933, Citizen acquired a Swiss trading company importing Mido watches in 1932 and ultimately purchased Swiss machine tools in 1933. In the book Industrial Development, Technology Transfer, and Global Competition: A History of the Japanese Watch Industry Since 1850 author Pierre-Yves Donze writes, “Hence, Mido watches were the models of the three new watches marketed by Citizen until the end of WWII (1931, 1935, and 1941): all were imitations of Mido watches.” [source]
Mido’s early years (1918-1930)
Originally Mido made pocket watches and attractively decorated timepieces. Mr. Georges Schaeren was initially inspired by the art deco movement. [source] By the late 1920’s his pieces were heavily influenced by automobiles. [source] Even patenting the grill style watch case design that won them favour with car club enthusiasts in a flourishing automobile market. [source]
Scharen’s “radiator” watches were produced for various car brands (Buick, Bugatti, Fiat, Ford, Excelsior, Hispano-Suiza, etc), including Lancia, as club membership identification. [source]
*(“Kathleen Pritchard in her work on “Swiss Timepiece Makers, 1775-1975,” gives the year, 1886, for the start of Mido, and her reference is supported by the existence of an important pocket watch marked around the bezel with the name, Henry Schaeren, and signed on the dial, “Melik Mido 1886-1936.” [source] However, of possible coincidence, it’s worth noting Henri, George Schaeren’s brother, was born in the year 1886. [source])
Mido, on the forefront of Swiss self-winding, automatic movements.
Mido has many technical and horological achievements to its name. While I have not gone through the list in exhaustion, here are a few that caught my eye.
1934 – High water resistance, using the later named “Aquadura” cork crown seal system. It combines an innovative case system that houses specially treated cork seals around the crown stem (a traditional weak point in the case) and meant that water was kept out. A first of its kind, with the case cork housing made by Taubert, and the cork seal made and installed by Mido. It’s still used in some Mido models to this day. Mido had this undergo arduous testing by the New York Electrical Testing Laboratories.
1934– Shock resistance, “Mido was one of the first watch companies to feature the Incabloc system, and the earliest Multifort watches used the prototype Incabloc system without the familiar lyre-shaped spring, [later] introduced in 1938.” [source]
1934 – Unbreakable mainspring, “the very first time that any watch manufacturer utilized this type of spring within the marketplace.” [source]
1934 – Anti-magnetism, Tissot was the first to introduce non-magnetic watches in 1930. Mido among the vanguards [source].
1934 – Automatic wind, Mido made their first automatic movement in 1934 and it began to appear in ads in 1935 [source]. The first automatic wristwatch was released in 1928 by John Harwood under Harwood watches, who first patented the invention in 1923. Mido was on the leading-edge [source].
1934 – MultiFort, first watch to be completely “waterproof”, as well as being anti-magnetic, shockproof and self-winding [source].
1937 – Multi-Centerchrono, the first manufacturer to introduce a central-read chronograph whereby all the functions of the chronograph on are arranged from the centre post of the dial. Dates from sources vary between 1937-1941. With Mido historian Bruce Shawkey placing it at 1937. [source][source][source]
1939 – Radiotime One-click Synchronizer, “it is the first watch rendering possible the simultaneous registrations of the exact time, minute, and second by simply pressing a pusher set in the crown.” However, it is exceptionally rare and is considered the holy grail for this watch collector. [source]
1939 – Datometer, allowed the date to be displayed using an additional central hand. [source]
1941 – Multi-Centerchrono, the first manufacturer to introduce a central-read chronograph whereby all the hands are arranged from the centre of the dial. [source][source]
1954 – Powerwind, simplifying the design of the automatic power system down from 16 to 7 parts and providing a longer power reserve for the watch; it also reduced faults and led to easier servicing. [source] It was considered, “The world’s most efficient winding mechanism.” [source]
1959 – Front-loading waterproof backless watch case, like the Aquadura this was the result of a collaboration with Taubert. A watertight watch was patented in Switzerland by Bernard Taubert (their case manufacturer) the following year in 1958 and the patent published in 1960. [source]
These years established Mido as a Swiss watch company of reputable workmanship, an uncanny grasp of the future, with a flare for design.
Artisanship + innovation
Hindsight may be 20/20 but from the perspective of the time (“most people still had keep-fit hand-crankers” [source]) one may wonder how Mido, then known for artisanal workmanship, were able to introduce so many new technological advances.
Their approach to innovation was not unlike Edison’s invention of the lightbulb. Edison had a deep understanding of the component parts available at hand, foresaw how they could work together, and therefore understood the building blocks of the lightbulb. If one understood that a filament would glow when electrified, that placing the filament inside an inert gas like nitrogen would increase the time it would glow before burning out, and that one could enclose those within a glass bulb – they would have invented the electric lightbulb.
Mido’s path was similar in that it both discovered and brought together emerging technologies where the whole was greater than the sum of the parts. As was shown in the Multifort.
“The extraordinary thing about the Mido Multifort is not that a single firm could manufacture such a “complete” technically advanced and durable wristwatch within a few years – indeed the fact is that Mido did not make this celebrated timepiece itself – but that Mido perspicaciously and cleverly put together no less than three, and then four, new horological and technical advances in watchmaking, invented and manufactured by other companies, and incorporate them into a single model.” [source]
Along with past technical advances, a rich and storied history unfolds.
The founder of the iconic Bugatti, Ettore Bugatti, owned a Mido. Italian born French automobile designer and manufacturer, he had an eye for design. Recently his watch auctioned off in 2021 for $350,000 USD or “no less than 300,000 Swiss francs.” [source]
By the 1930s Mido founder Schaeren was determined to make beautiful watches that could also endure the “rigours of daily use.” [source] Current Mido CEO, Franz Linder, shared in an interview that in 1934, “It was all about being innovative. There was an emphasis upon not only quality, but also robustness and timeless design.” [source]
By the in 1960s their presence stretched from Brazil to Antarctica. In 1959 they were even sponsoring Miss Brazil [source].
The Mido Ocean Star was selected as the official watch in an “Antarctic expedition led by Warwick Deacock and sponsored by Edmund Hillary,” in 1965 [source]. They would require a reliable, durable and waterproof piece that could endure the hardships of the wet and cold journey. “By 1964 [Antartica] had been the object of a number of expeditions, but none reaching the summit of its 9000-foot volcanic peak ‘Big Ben’. In that year Warwick Deacock resolved to rectify this omission, and assembled a party of nine with impressive credentials embracing mountaineering, exploration, science and medicine, plus his own organization and leadership skills as a former Major in the British Army.” [source] Eventually summiting the mountain and returning to tell the tale.
Establishing a reputation for waterproofness and quality.
A notable fact of vintage Mido watches is that many have withstood the test of time. While researching this article I came across the watches as being known for their waterproof qualities. “In not too distant history Mido were known as being the best manufacturer of waterproof watches.” [source] And I came upon anecdotal remarks by watch-repairers that when opened, Mido movements and dials are generally less corroded or pitted than expected for their age. Made even more astonishing given the fact a large number of vintage Mido’s were purchased for use in tropical climates.
The reason for this was because of the combination of the innovative cork sealing advancement (1930) that prevented water from entering the case through the crown stem and the absence of the case back introduced in 1959. “In fact the watch was so waterproof you could pull the crown out while underwater.” [source]
With the aquadura system, “If you pull out the crown you still had 50 meters of water resistance.” [source]
Mido watches were resilient to not only submersion but humidity. The combination of aesthetic and durability gained Mido a strong reputation for quality and prestige. Mido “now had a firm footing in the market – still with a reputation for stylish watches but now also catering for a growing market for reliable, functional and durable wristwatches.” [source]
Mido and service personnel
In his memoire Friends and Exiles, Des Alwi Abubakar, Indonesian Diplomat, and son of Vice President of Indonesia recalled being gifted, “a Swiss-made, ‘Mido’ brand watch, which was the most expensive and most-wanted watch by Japanese military and civilian personnel. It fetched a price of three hundred to five hundred rupiah, on which one could live for 6 months.”
The Mido Multifort was apparently issued to pilots of the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II.
In a humorous 1947 account of a United States Navy Procurement Hearing, the businessmen given the right to provide the Navy with watches, were upset that Navy personnel were buying Mido watches and that the Navy Procurement office had “tried to procure these watches without our benefit.”
When asked the names of the watches they replied.
“These particular watches in question were the Mido watch – which is an automatic service-type watch – Empire, Hallmark, and Roma. They are all Swiss watches, imported, and they found particularly good favour among the personnel.”
[See the Subcommittee Hearings on Army and Navy Systems of Procurement for Post Exchanges and Ship’s Service Stores]
Mido watches were therefore prized and used by US Navy service personnel during World War Two. However, blocked by private business interests from being officially procured by the US Navy.
It is also noteworthy that Mido was, “Praised by pilots that used the Multifort during the Second World War.” [source] And that Walter Schaeren, son of the Mido founder and later to be company president, was in the Swiss air force in this period. As a result Mido also made pilot watches when Schaeren was president.
A “Be Bold” marketing campaign.
Mido was convinced of the quality of their watches and marketed them with confidence in the 50s and 60s. Boldly recommending their customers take their watches wherever they choose to go. “Be Bold!” was a phrase they used often. Or, “Expect to see a Mido where you wouldn’t expect to see a watch!” Even stating, “Mido is guaranteed 100% waterproof at depths down to 1000 feet. It’s self-winding, shock-resistant, and has unbreakable mainspring.” And reassuring, “They all have one thing in common: they’re rugged. Don’t worry about accidental knocks and bumps. Don’t worry about getting it wet (you can actually swim or go skin diving with a Mido because it’s fully waterproof.”
The Swiss watch manufacturer Mido had the watch undergo the official test of the United States Government in the early 1930s. [source][source] You read that correctly.
“To prove that the MULTIFORT functioned under extreme conditions, Mido had it tested by the New York Electrical Testing Laboratories Inc. Tests were conducted in freshwater and saltwater for over a thousand hours. The watches were then subjected to ten cycles of 15 minutes at 50°C followed by 15 minutes at -40°C. The winding crown was subjected to a test representing 34 years of use. Simulated tests of immersion to 13atm (120 m) and ascending to altitudes of 6,600, 13,300 and 16,600 metres were performed. One of the 6 watches tested ceased operating at 13,300 metres, but apart from that the watches seem to have passed the tests with flying colours.” [source][source]
Arguably the greatest test of durability comes from real-world use.
Mido seemed to understand this and shared letters they had received from happy customers who had used it for expeditions to Alaska, military service in tropical heat and heavy snows, and everyday use by professionals.
A Houston, Texas, man writes about his Mido Superautomatic watch: “I lost my Mido in the dirty salt water of a ship’s channel. Two years later while walking along the beach I found my Mito watch half-buried in the muddy bank, still running in perfect condition. The tidal action kept the watch wound.”
Needless to say Mido was confident in the quality of their timepieces.
In 1944 Mido trademarked the Ocean Star name.
“Its roots are traced back to 1942 when the brand marked its famous starfish trademark at its crest as a symbol of its advances in waterproof technology. Two years later, he registered another trademark, the name OCEANSTAR, and thus officially started the foundations for one of Mido’s most iconic collections.” [source]
Then with the ground-breaking front-loading case they incorporated in 1957 it wasn’t long before the Ocean Star became the “star” of their line. The solid case back further added to the water resistant quality of their watches. The Ocean Star line moved Mido towards an elegant and water-friendly lifestyle. Surf, sail, dive, and boating – all were encouraged with the Ocean Star. Even being used in the Antarctic expedition.
For such a stylish piece, the Ocean Star also embodied a playful side.
“Don’t worry about getting it wet you can actually swim or go skin diving with a Mido because it’s fully waterproof.”
“Diner clothes or diving gear… it makes no difference to Mido “Ocean Star.” It takes to water like a marlin, adds its own note of elegance to the most elegant surroundings.”
It was the golden age of water sports and exploration. And Mido were inviting you to participate in style.
In the 2000’s Mido released a series of aesthetically attractive watches inspired by the enduring quality of timeless architecture. First the All-Dial collection inspired by the Colosseum of Rome in 2002. The Belluna collection which draws on the geometric shapes of Art Deco architecture. And then the Great Wall collection inspired by, of course, the Great Wall of China.
Mido continues to carry on their tradition of playful and beautifully crafted watches in their Ocean Star series – while paying honour to their history of elegance – and making it look easy.
Today their watches surpass expectation.
The quality, history and legacy is beyond what one hopes. Perhaps being founded on armistice foreshadowed the brand, as no word better conjures up the feeling one gets from holding a Mido watch as well-preserved hope. What I love about Mido is that they have their own brand identity that can be seen in the their Multifort, Commander, and Ocean Star collections – and have stayed true to it.
Mido’s history is rich, interesting and surprising. While the research for this article revealed a deep and long relationship with horology, The brand is appreciated by their enthusiasts for their understatedness and settled confidence. Franz Linder, CEO since the early 2000’s, has lead Mido well and helped continue it as a self-assured brand with a storied past and a positive future.
What can you learn about building a brand from watch manufacturers and enthusiasts?
I’m on a journey to buy a watch. An automatic mechanical watch to be exact. I’ve been fascinated by the beauty of self-powered mechanical machines for as long as I can remember. I bought my first wind-up clock on a family trip to the UK as an 8 or 9 year old.
I have a short-list of items that I’m looking for. A watch with an automatic mechanical movement, that I can wear day-to-day, that tracks time (for training), that is water-proof, that looks timeless, and that is durable.
At first I saw a Seiko mechanical watch that fit the bill. However, due to the fact that I already have a Seiko, I thought this is as good a time as any to try something new.
And then the watch buying journey of twists and turns began.
Despite being a landlocked country, my first port of call was Switzerland. It is has a well established brand of making high quality watches.
My methodology was simple. Start with finding a watch that fit the criteria and then, because I’m not able to see these watches in person, research the reviews to see if it would be a good buy. This is where I began to face the labyrinth of brand.
I was first introduced to Hamilton watches and then Tudor, Delma, Tissot, Marathon, and Glycine. In that order. All Swiss watch manufacturers. Other than Tissot, all brands that were new to me.
I’m not generally particular about a brand. I look at quality and function, begin to love a product after use, and only then I become curious about the company, story and brand itself. However, without first-hand experience, each review I read would turn me down a different path. Brand mattered to them.
One reviewer would speak of heritage and say that another brand was preferable. So I would start my search again with their recommended model. Or one name was more known than another which could impact servicing, so again I was introduced to a new brand. Another reviewer would say that another movement in a different watch is better or had been used for longer, which may impact durability.
As I am looking for a waterproof watch that could be used as a timer, I began to narrow my search around dive watches. It turns out, some watch manufacturers had a history of being deeply involved with diving, while others were not, this was important to the reviewer. Even when everything seemed comparable – history, technology, movement – suddenly the watches’ parent company would come into question.
I just wanted a durable, quality, mechanical, waterproof and timeless watch.
In these reviews I learned about exhibition cases, servicing concerns, “hacking”, power reserve, manual winding, tolerances, origin, and that all movements were different. Some, with much to be desired.
Finally, after going around in circles, I thought I would look outside of Swiss watches and came across Yema, a French watch manufacturer. They made dive watches. They have heritage and technology. But when reading reviews the customer service of the company was being called into question – a new one to me.
It’s enough to pull ones hair out.
While out on a hike in the mountains and reflecting on all this new information, it struck me, there’s so much to learn about building a brand from watches.
In fact it was easy to categorize all the decision points into building blocks of brand.
A brand is the marriage between how a company presents itself and how the consumer perceives them. It is not one or the other. It is the intersection. And brand matters. It adds confidence to a purchase decision or introduces doubts.
We think of goodwill in business as the relationship, hopefully a positive one, between the business and the customer.
For example, a reviewer may make bold claims that a product is great or the service is terrible. But that statement alone does not make the brand. Lets say someone claims Rolex has terrible customer service. Do you think the Rolex brand will be tarnished? Of course not. Because there’s more to brand. But, another company, a lesser known one, may find it will take time to regain trust with their market after a statement like that is made.
So what is it that composes the brand?
When it comes to watches people care about honesty.
This came up again and again in reviews. Collectors didn’t mind if the mechanical movement was proprietary or if it was a 3rd-party movement. They didn’t mind if it was made in Switzerland or simply assembled there. What they did mind was if a company was misleading – claiming a component was made somewhere it wasn’t. If one part of the marketing story was found to be untrue, all was called into question. Integrity was lost.
Watch reviewers are very thorough. They’ll even go to a watch maker to have them dismantle the watch and inspect the parts to offer their opinion.
The opposite was the case as well, no pun intended. If a marketing story was found to be true, the brand would increase in appeal. The richer the story, the greater the value.
Brands that can boast having been in outer space, in battle, in the Navy, on explorations, or having innovated technology – all garner the admiration of the wearer.
In part, I believe because that’s the draw to a mechanical watch. The watch represents something. Both stylistically and idealistically. You’re respecting a moment, a demeanour, an accomplishment. But the story must remain intact.
Mechanical movements are becoming works of art, along with the dial, bezel and case. Watch enthusiasts care very much about aesthetics. But not in isolation. A well designed watch is one where the aesthetic matches the utility of the watch.
How this effects brand is when a watch company produces designs that are true to the function of the piece and their expertise. In other words, true to the heritage and roots of the company. Over time this design becomes iconic to that watch. Think of a Rolex Explorer.
A company that produces designs outside of their tradition, and without purpose, other than to reach a broader market – takes the company away from the brand they were establishing.
Whereas if a watch company works with the Navy, for example, to supply a new dive watch, this expands the brand as there is a strong sense of purpose behind the new design.
Even advertising matters.
Most marketers, especially digital ones, may think of awareness as brand building. Working to reach new audiences and make a logo known and trusted. But they advertise to get a purchase, rather than tell a story. That type of advertising is more in line with sales, and does not build brand equity.
Just like the watches themselves, every advertisement, every artwork, and every article produced becomes the brand’s artifacts over time. An advertisement may showcase a movement or a diver. The visual design of the advertisement must mirror both the character of the watch and the copy be true to the integrity of the story.
From what I can gather, one example where advertising backfired was when Tudor watches sponsored Lady Gaga as their spokesperson. The reason for this is that the person who purchased Tudor watches couldn’t relate to her, despite her success within the music industry and her gritty determination. It was off-brand. And the forums were not quiet about it.
The next thing that stands out is quality & engineering. And also quality control.
The piece must meet or exceed all expectations. One expects a Swiss watch, for example, to set the standard for craftsmanship. If play is found in the bezel or the band, a part misaligned, or a movement appears poorly assembled or unrefined, it is remarkable to the reviewer. Mido was a brand that consistently outperformed on quality.
Quality and quality control are not the same thing, I learned. Watch reviewers seemed surprisingly accommodating of poor quality control issues, as long as the watch manufacturer was quick to remedy the situation by replacing the watch with a quality of engineering one would expect. Essentially, to stand behind their own brand.
Which brings us to customer care & service.
When buying a watch one does not expect an issue. It is assumed that in this day and age your watch will arrive beautifully made and performing within specification. There is a wide array of variance to specifications, depending on the watch, the movement, and the meticulousness of the manufacturer, which the buyer is responsible for knowing when choosing their watch. However, if an issue does arise, one does expect a courteous resolution. This was made clear by the comment threads. And it doesn’t take many negative comments to turn-off would be buyers new to a brand.
Because I’m new to automatic watches I hadn’t considered the future need of servicing one. So when looking to buy a watch, customer service wasn’t high on my list of considerations. So I was surprised to see reviewers mention it. But it is clear, that if left unresolved, poor customer service does tarnish an otherwise faultless brand. Ever more so in service-oriented businesses, whose brands are built on service.
Brand is not simply the perception of the marketplace. It is a product of the company – engineering, service, quality control & marketing – working together to create value and establish the company name firmly within the world. It’s simple; the product must live up to the hype. And demand will follow.
This constant forging of perception, with how a company presents its products and the public’s opinion of the end-result, either increases the brand’s value and draw or leaves it in the chasm of commonplace.
Which means a business that intentionally masters the key components of a brand, will eventually with determined effort, establish itself as the brand they aspire to be.
The key components are Integrity, Story, Design, Advertising, Quality, Service, Credibility, Innovation & History.
Great watch brands are amazing at presentation and imagery in story telling. Their websites and marketing reinforce the look, feel and narrative they are communicating. They leverage partnerships, such as sporting events, to establish credibility. When new to a subject or product one trusts the opinions of experts. If they are respected by the professionals and icons we respect, we feel they in turn can be endeared by us. They push the boundaries of engineering. Pioneering new innovations of power reserves, deep sea depths, and time keeping. There is an integrity to the way they build watches and market themselves. Under scrutiny there is a consistent and uncompromising adherence to honesty and quality. They are what they say they are. Their service is of the same quality as their products. Treating their customers with care and respect. Their advertising tells their story. With charm, gusto and beauty. And over time this creates a rich history of tradition, accomplishments and heritage.
Then when a consumer finds a product with design and engineering that appeals to them, they will purchase it with confidence. This is the power of brand, confidence.
Every company will have a brand that is unique to them. Just as every person is different, so is every business. And the individual values, positioning, and journey of each company will contribute accordingly and attract customers who resonate with it.
It is the responsibility of the company to produce great products. To tell their story. To communicate their values. To create partnerships that strengthen their credibility. And to market themselves in a way that aligns with their core message.
To this I say to brands.
“It doesn’t matter where you are, you are nowhere compared to where you can go.”