“People hurry along the station platform, the conductor steps onto the running board, far behind him another man hops on board, his scarf fluttering in the wind, and suddenly time stands still. The second hand on the big clock beneath the platform roof has reached twelve. It hovers for one and a half magical seconds. Then the minute hand ticks forward by one minute, and the second hand is once again on the move.”
- Köbi Gantenbein, The Station Clock: A design legend from Switzerland
The history of the Mondaine SBB watch collection begins with Hans Hilfiker, Swiss electrical engineer and designer and Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) employee. In 1944, Hilfiker designed the Official Swiss Railways Clock, which has signaled trains at almost all of Switzerland’s railway stations for over seventy years. Hilfiker’s unique, functional and memorable design quickly became an icon of innovation and reliability. Stark black ticks against a clean white dial and a red paddle-shaped second hand is aesthetically pleasing and draws the eye, but is also purposefully constructed for efficiency. Hilfiker created the clock to be highly-visible with an easy-to-read face and to ensure smooth and precise train departures. The red second hand, nicknamed “Rote Kelle” or “Red Signal”, was cleverly designed in the shape of the disc that train controllers previously used to signal to train drivers that they could depart the station. This red second hand has become the symbol of Swiss punctuality.
The SBB Station Clock Technology
In designing the station clock, Hilfiker’s task was to get all of the station clocks in Switzerland to be synchronized. He achieved this by connecting them to the central master clock in the Zurich signal box via a telephone network. An electrical motor independent of the master clock was then used for the second hand. The second hand completes a full rotation in 58 seconds, then pauses at the 12 o'clock mark for 2 seconds and releases for another rotation once the master clock has sent an electrical impulse to the minute hand to tick forward. The pause of the second hand is therefore meant to counter any fluctuations in network frequency.
The Official Swiss Railways Watch
Years later in 1986, the SBB station clock found its way from the railways to a watch with the exclusive licensing agreement secured by the Bernheim family, the Mondaine watch company owners, from the Swiss Federal Railways. To this day Mondaine remains the only company licensed to use the iconic SBB design for their timepieces. The Bernheim brothers saw the bold, easy-to-read, and modern design was well suited for watches and brought the design to wrists worldwide with their creation of the Mondaine SBB line.
Taking the same movement used in Hilfiker’s station clock, Mondaine created the “stop2go” watch. The stop2go adopted the same clock design and incorporated the second hand's brief pause as experienced at Swiss railway stations. Emulating the same smooth sweeping second hand movement in a regular quartz watch was a complicated task, which Mondaine accomplished by using two synchronized motors - one motor to move the second hand, the other to release the minute hand jump and to turn the hour hand. Rather than moving each second one step forward, the second hand moves in four little paces every second to create the impression of a continuous gliding motion as seen on the original SBB clock in each Swiss station. Mondaine turned to designer Martin Drechsel to create the look of the timepiece. A tribute to its industrial background, the stainless steel three piece cylinder case held by two flanged braces mimics the clocks hung in railway stations. The unique knob crown is built as a functional switch for the new movement, which is set by rocking rather than turning the crown. Sapphire crystal glass encases the iconic dial, complemented by a black or red leather or black silicone strap.
Shop the Mondaine stop2go styles here.