Behind the Mondaine Helvetica No1 Collection

Almost 30 years after famously translating the iconic Swiss Railways station clock onto watches, Mondaine released a new watch family inspired by the Swiss-designed typeface Helvetica. When conceptualizing their next collection, Mondaine owners Ronnie and Andre Bernheim wanted to create something equally as iconic and Swiss as their SBB line. They organized a brainstorming session with a group of Swiss professionals that comprised an engineer, a historian, a TV host, and a composer, and the consensus was to incorporate Helvetica into the new watch design. The typeface is so entwined in Switzerland's identity that it seemed only fitting for the brand that famously translated the Swiss Railways station clock onto watches would once again imbue a piece of Swiss design history into a watch.

Helvetica was created in 1957 at the Haas Type Foundry in Switzerland by graphic artist Max Miedinger and Haas business manager Eduard Hoffmann. Originally named Neue Haas Grotesk (after its Neo-grotesque san-serif classification), the typeface was made famous as it was developed by designers in Switzerland in the 1950s, quickly becoming a hallmark of contemporary Swiss graphic design and eventually one of the most popular typefaces of the 20th century. In 1960, the name was changed from Neue Haas Grotesk to Helvetica, meaning 'Swiss' in Latin, to make the font more marketable internationally.  Switzerland's official Latin name is Confoederatio Helvetica (Swiss Confederation), which comes from the old Latin name for the country, Helvetia, after the Helvetians, the first tribe to settle in the region. 'Helvetia' and 'Confoederatio Helvetica' are still used by the Swiss government on Swiss coins and postage stamps.

The design of Helvetica embodies the concept that a typeface should support the reading process, acknowledging that clear communication is the primary goal of typography. It was designed to be neutral with no intrinsic meaning, unshowy, and discreet, which is ironic as it may be the most ubiquitous font today, pervading our daily life more so than any other typeface. Helvetica is seen on countless labels, street signs, logos, the New York MTA subway map and subway signs, and more. The beautiful neutrality of Helvetica is possibly part of its widespread appeal. Thus, inspired by Swiss precision and named after Switzerland's Latin name, with the qualities of neutrality, discreetness, efficiency and timelessness - values that are the cornerstone of the Mondaine brand - Helvetica made its way onto a watch.

Martin Dreschel, the same designer who created the Mondaine stop2go watch design, was again commissioned by Mondaine for transferring the essence of Helvetica to a watch. Just like the typeface, each watch in the Mondaine Helvetica No1 family is simple and minimalist with a clear, concise, and easy-to-read recessed dial. The collection represents the three font weights: Bold, Regular, and Light. Everything from the case sizes and thickness, the tick marks and font on the dial, the strap thickness, to the stitching on the strap reflects the corresponding font weight. The date aperture on the dial is slightly off its traditional central axis position to fit in with the left-justified typography. The "No1" in the Mondaine Helvetica No1 Collection signifies the first collection in this new watch family, as well as the Helvetica "1" which was cleverly used as a model for the watch lugs. This was discovered by manipulating foam Helvetica "1" figures and when bent the shape proved to be ideal for the lugs. 

The Mondaine Helvetica No1 collection launched in 2014, and it's easy to see the simplicity and neutrality of Helvetica is beautifully represented in the collection. 

View the Mondaine Helvetica No1 collection here


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