Mondaine made a name for itself as a manufacturer of watches inspired by clocks in train stations. In 1986, the company expanded by producing timepieces inspired by Swiss Railways. This brand has created a truly iconic look, and a mechanism that is widely regarded to this day, making Mondaine watches a true collector’s must-have.
Want to know more before purchasing your very first Mondaine watch? Let us take a deep dive into the brand’s history and prominent collections, as well as everything else you need to know as a buyer.
History of Mondaine Watches
The company’s beginnings date back to 1951, when former tailor Erwin Bernheim founded the company in Switzerland. At the time, Mondaine became quite popular for the wristwatches it produced. Not only did they produce high-quality watches, but these timepieces were also pretty easy and cost-efficient to repair.
With Mondaine’s success in the watch industry, Bernheim took the company’s creations to the next level. Bernheim was not just someone who funded a company. Rather, he himself was a creative genius who came up with some of the company’s most innovative models. One of Mondaine’s most popular timepieces ever is an LCD watch. Bernheim designed and invented Mondaine’s first LCD watch. At the time, this was one of the first few timekeepers in the industry that had a digital layout. He created this timepiece in collaboration with American business magnate and engineer, Howard Hughes.
This LCD timepiece ultimately became another milestone for the brand. Mondaine was met with much fanfare with the release of this watch, but they put it to rest 15 years later, allowing the company to concentrate on other innovations. Although Mondaine first made a name for itself with this LCD watch, its subsequent designs are what really left a mark.
Swiss Railway Clocks
Today, Mondaine watches are synonymous with Swiss Railway Clocks. To understand this, we have to go back to 1944, when Swiss engineer and designer Hans Hilfiker created a clock for the Swiss railways. At the time, Hilfiker was also an employee of the Federal Swiss Railways. He designed the Official Swiss Railways Clock. This timepiece utilized a synchronized beat for departures and arrivals in the main Swiss Railway station.
The Official Swiss Railway Clock has an electric motor that controls the clock’s rounds. Instead of a full 60 seconds, this clock completes a minute rotation in just 58.5 seconds. It also has a distinctive ball-tipped red hand that pauses for 1.5 seconds and thens jump on ahead to catch up with the minute hand. This mechanism syncs up all Official Swiss Railway Clocks with a master clock situated in a signal box.
Erwin Bernheim’s sons, Andre and Ronnie, took this Swiss Railway clock as an inspiration and applied it to Mondaine watches. The Swiss watchmaking industry is saturated with brands that all want to stand out. With this in mind, the brand took the Official Swiss Railway Clock design, using it to bring Mondaine watches to the next level. This became the first-ever collection of railway clock-inspired wristwatches.
So, in 1986, Mondaine launched its first watch collection, carefully licensed by the Federal Swiss Railways.
As part of its iconic design, you will notice the signature ball-tipped red hand in all Mondaine watches. This design is taken from the train conductors at Swiss Railway stations, who held up red signs that indicated if a train was leaving or arriving at a station. We will discuss Mondaine watches and their designs in even greater detail in a moment.
Mondaine Watch Collections
Mondaine watches are perfect for the everyday professional. It has all the best features necessary for a day’s worth of work and more. You can even take them to more formal events or, even better, to a weekend trip. Even with such versatility, Mondaine watches embrace the idea of utilitarian design. These watches are easy on the eyes and, as much as possible, simple and uncomplicated.
Let us take a look at the watch collections Mondaine has in its catalog today.
Mondaine’s Classic Collection is a true work of art. Its design is what really put Mondaine on the map as a top watch manufacturer. The timepieces in this collection all carry the classic Official Swiss Railways look that we all know and love, in sizes that range from 30mm to 40mm. The straps used in this watch also range widely, from a simple black leather band to other colorful iterations that were later made available for people to choose from.
As a result, this watch has quite a bit of range when it comes to price points. In retail, Mondaine watches from this collection can cost anywhere between $195 USD to $850 USD. These are the very watches officially licensed by the Federal Swiss Railways, making them true collector’s gems.
Related to this collection is Mondaine’s Evo series. As its name suggests, it is an evolution of the Classics collection.
Mondaine has a solid sustainability track. In fact, in 2020, the company declared itself 100% carbon neutral. Some of the efforts that led to this include switching production to solar power. Moreover, the company also launched the Essence collection in support of green initiatives. The Essence collection consists of unique and eco-friendly Mondaine watches that take sustainability to the next level.
This collection boasts natural materials used in its cases. 70% of the Essence watches’ cases are consist of natural materials such as Rizinus, castor oil, and glass powder. Moreover, the straps of these watches are made from wondertree oil. If you prefer, you can also purchase these watches with bands made out of recycled PET bottles with a cork lining. To take things even further, the packaging of the Essence watches is also made from recycled PET bottles.
Watches in the Essence range come in two sizes — 32mm and 41mm. If you prefer this collection, it would cost you between $195 USD to $220 USD for a watch. Sets are also available in retail for just $235 USD.
Simply Elegant Collection
This collection is exactly as it sounds. The Simply Elegant line boasts understated elegance in the flesh. Inspired by the brand’s Classic collection, it bears the iconic Mondaine design with the ball-tipped red seconds hand. You can get a watch from this collection in either a 36mm or 41mm stainless steel case, with various options for bracelets. The Mondaine watches from the Simply Elegant range are priced between $325 USD and $390 USD, depending on the size and materials used. This is the perfect timepiece for a daily watch.
Everybody has heard of or at least come across the Helvetica® font. This Mondaine collection takes Max Miedinger’s Helvetica font design and places it right onto a timepiece. The Swiss designer’s creation is popular for how it embraces the simplicity and harmonious balance in lines. Inspired by the font itself, Mondaine took it into its hands to create a watch that is as simple as it is powerfully elegant.
The Mondaine Helvetica collection comes in a wide range of sizes that fit everyone — 26mm, 33mm, 38mm, 40mm, and 43mm. You can find the words “Mondaine Helvetica Swiss Made” engraved on the stainless steel cases of this collection’s watches. Mondaine watches from this range also come in either a mesh stainless steel bracelet or a genuine leather strap. Some models also have plating to give them different, more vibrant colors.
Aside from variations in color and sizes, the collection has special models. These include an iteration with a second time zone named Helvetic No. 1 Regular. There is also a sleek model with a gold-plated case and white dial, as well as a Milanese strap. This piece is known as the Mondaine Helvetica No. 1 Light Holiday Edition.
For a more casual everyday piece, Mondaine also released a smartwatch iteration of the Helvetica known as the 1 Regular Hybrid. It is compatible with Android 4.4, iOS 8, and newer versions of these systems. Just like any smartwatch, this timepiece has neat features like mobile notifications, activity and sleep tracking, as well as world time. All these, you can get with the sleek Mondaine design in a supple leather strap.
Aside from all these, the Mondaine Helvetica smartwatches have also been updated with Near Field Communication (NFC) capabilities. NFC is a contactless payment technology. With this, a number of other Mondaine watches have also become imbued with the Mondaine PayChip™. This technology makes paying for transactions much more efficient, giving you a great deal of convenience in your everyday life.
A Mondaine Helvetica watch can cost anywhere north of $699 USD.
The original movement used by Mondaine watches ceased production sometime in 2001. However, in 2013, Mondaine relaunched the movement with a redesign under the collection Stop2Go.
Mondaine watches in the Stop2Go collection still possess the famous ball-tipped red second hand. According to the brand, the Stop2Go watches embody the philosophy behind the stuttering red second hand found in many Mondaine watches.
As mentioned, this red second hand in Mondaine watches completes a rotation at 58 seconds, then waits at 12 o’clock for the minute hand to catch up. Only then does the red hand begin a new rotation. These two seconds prove to be a fascinating unique trait for Mondaine watches. They represent time standing still. While you might see this as just an illusion that serves as a metaphor for time and its mysterious movements, it is also a great way to reminds wearers that every second spent catches up on us.
The Stop2Go collection is also notable for incorporating backlight technology. You can easily ready time on Stop2Go watches, no matter where you are — even in dimly lit places. Powered by Super-LumiNova, the backlight of Stop2Go watches provide visibility for up to four hours when fully charged.
A Stop2Go clock costs around $295 USD in retail while Stop2Go watches range from between $550 USD to $650 USD.
Clocks are the foundation of Mondaine as a brand. It is a modern classic and in 2020, the company updated its Swiss Railways clock collection. It now includes more modern designs such as cases in metallic monochrome. This helps give a luxurious feel to the Mondaine clock, which is already popular for its utilitarian style. The catalog of Mondaine clocks also contains classics, with black, red, and grey casing. These clocks cost anywhere between $235 USD to $295 USD.
Getting to Know Mondaine, the Company
The headquarters of Mondaine sits in Switzerland. This is where the company is situated at the moment and where its facilities sit. From our walkthrough above, it should be clear to you by now that Mondaine is not a luxury watch brand. It is an everyday watch brand, but its price points remain true to its Swiss nature. Watches can cost anywhere between $175 USD to $850 USD. Mondaine watch prices also continue to appreciate through the years. As such, Mondaine watches can serve as for the future.
That being said, Mondaine watches are also very high-quality timepieces. They boast superb accuracy and legibility that is needed by everyday professionals. They also carry an iconic design that makes them truly stylish, especially in the modern urban world.
People who are looking for a great entry-level watch should look into Mondaine. It is not as expensive as brands like Omega or Rolex but it provides reliable watches that can last just as long. If you are just starting out your journey into the Swiss watchmaking industry, then Mondaine watches are the perfect choice to go with.
Mondaine Watches, a Swiss Icon
We have all heard and seen the word “icon” used by various brands. We know that the Rolex Submariner is an icon, as is the Omega Speedmaster. However, not all icons can be a Mondaine watch. Mondaine watches are icons not just for their historical value, but also for their unique design. After all, it is not everyday that you can find railway clock-inspired watches. Not to mention, the mechanism behind Mondaine watches, with their 58-second rotation, is truly a marvel to behold.
Mondaine is a brand that deserves a lot more recognition than it gets. If you want a watch that will stand out without having the price tag of a luxury piece, this is the brand for you.
All photos courtesy of Mondaine.