Does Mido deliver the best value COSC-certified Swiss in-house chronometers available in 2021?Thor Svaboe
Is this headline a valid question, a bold claim, or simply the stone-cold truth? My knowledge of the Mido brand has recently been re-ignited. The Swiss brand has been in the game for more than 100 years, but my awareness previously centred on their vintage reissues. I see Mido’s DNA represented in the delightful ’60s panache of vintage models like the Commander, and the flash-bang style of the Ocean Star Decompression Timer 1961, a re-issue of the famous Rainbow Diver. Those preconceptions changed with my review of the new Ocean Star, and got me wondering: does Mido deliver the best value COSC-certified movements in 2021?
After examining the contemporary and tough Mido Ocean Star – which I concluded to be the best value Swiss GMT, period – I’m increasingly fascinated by the brand. On the back of this review, and our video of the Ocean Star Chronograph, many readers and viewers were also intrigued and started to ask similar questions. How does Mido deliver so much bang for your buck? I decided to go to the top and ask brand CEO Franz Linder.
“Before I go straight to your question on value, let me explain our strategy to you, in view of movements and innovation,” Linder said. “Our ambition was and is always to offer the best possible movements in our price category. Mido has always been well known exactly because we offered a large choice of COSC-certified movements, at very attractive prices.”
This brings us to the point of COSC accuracy within the Mido range, coupled with the now well known and substantial power reserve of the latest calibres. Looking through the Mido catalogue, the Multifort, Commander and Ocean Star ranges are all available with COSC-Chronometer specification calibres. This, Linder explains, is the result of a longstanding relationship with ETA.
“We were able to develop a power reserve of up to 80 hours with the support of ETA, which of course is a huge step,” he says. “The next step was that Mido was the first brand to offer a silicon balance spring for a COSC chronometer, with almost no increase of the price”.
From there, Linder continues, Mido developed the Caliber 80 with ETA. This is the movement within the Ocean Star GMT, a strong modern interpretation of a GMT tool watch and perhaps the best value GMT hailing from Switzerland in 2021.
“Here, we have an innovation nobody offers. A full GMT function with an 80 hour power reserve. This version of the Calibre 80, is a logical consequence of the development process, to offer calibrated movements with small complications. The GMT, of course, is one of them”.
“As we were adding the GMT complication to our Caliber 80, we were able to do it with a very, very small price increase. Today, I believe that we are amongst the best value for money as a GMT, not only with the benefits of the Caliber 80, but as a GMT automatic per se. This GMT was simply a result of a continuous development to offer more for the same price.”
This begs the question how did Mido manage to keep the movement so slim, even with the GMT module complication?
“The design and assembly departments were challenged here, to hide as much as possible of the additional thickness, because obviously the slimmer the watch, the more comfortable it is to wear. I think our constructors made an excellent job because, as you said, it’s a slim piece. For us it’s a very balanced watch, with an additional function that normally takes more space.”
If we look at the Caliber 80 that’s used in some Mido chronometers with its impressive 80 hour power reserve, not much comes close to matching that level of functionality at the price point. So how is Mido able to make COSC-certified chronometers so cheaply?
“I’m sure I don’t need to tell you how COSC works. Any watch producer can submit movements for certification, and the processes are identical. Our advantage is the silicon parts, providing better accuracy by nature. Because of the silicon, our movement cost price increased quite a bit, but the advantage is that the calibre is simply more precise”.
“When we test our movements already at the factory level, in production, we get very precise movements with very low failure rates. We can recover a part of the cost of the silicon spring by having a higher quantity, or basically 100% of silicon-equipped movements being certified. That’s where we win back a part of Mido’s investment.”
Increasingly, the Ocean Star seems to be one of the most important parts of the 2021 Mido range, as their price segment is peak steel sports watch territory. “We have two major focus points this year depending on the country we are working in,” Linder admits. “Yes, there is a strong focus on the Ocean Star collection, from diver’s chronograph to GMT, from diver’s ceramic to heritage models. It’s now a complete range and doing great work for the brand. In some markets, we are concentrating more on the Commander, and Commander Gradient models with its skeletonised air through the smoked glass dial being much appreciated by our customers and dealers alike”.
As usual I did try to dig deeper about new and upcoming product launches, but as a seasoned CEO with more than 25 years at Mido’s helm, Linder is artfully evasive. “We will surprise you in the near future, but it will not be today,” he smiles. “You are however welcome to visit us at Le Locle anytime”.
After the interview, I went to get a coffee and, on the way to the cafe, spotted four Apple Watches, two Garmins and countless empty wrists. This sad state of affairs reminded me of an earlier quote I’d heard from Franz Linder: “The main challenge of our industry is to attract young people, not wealthy collectors”.
It’s a line that should perhaps inform our growing appreciation of Mido, a brand that’s committed to producing highly functional Swiss watches at remarkably accessible prices. Such affordability can’t hurt when trying to attract a younger generation of consumers. When it comes to swelling the ranks of mechanical watch wearers, Mido is clearly up for the challenge.