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When Swiss engineer Hans Hilfiker created a clock for the Federal Swiss Railways in 1944, he can hardly have imagined that it would become one of the most widely recognised timepieces of the century. Hilfiker’s design – along with his 1953 addition of a red second hand in the shape of a guard’s signalling disc – is still used throughout the country’s train network and is commonly known as the "Swiss Railways Clock".

Recognising the mass appeal of Hilfiker’s work, in 1986 the Zurich-based watch company Mondaine bought the official licence to the design from the Federal Swiss Railways. Mondaine translated Hilfiker’s blueprint into a series of wristwatches, which it continues to develop. Considered a canonical design, the watch is included in 20th-century design collections at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Design Museum in London, as well as featuring in Phaidon’s definitive encyclopaedia of 999 Design Classics. Although Mondaine was founded in 1954, since purchasing the Swiss Railways Clock licence the company has produced watches almost entirely based on the Hilfiker model – until recently.

Mondaine’s launch of a new watch range in 2014, the Helvetica No.1, was emblematic of the company’s desire to continue translating Switzerland’s design heritage into desirable contemporary products. As the name implies, this addition to the Mondaine stable is a celebration of Swiss typographer Max Miedinger’s era-defining sans serif typeface, first released in 1957. The Helvetica No.1 was created by the young German designer Martin Drechsel, a former employee of London studio PearsonLloyd and graduate of the Politecnico di Milano.

Having already worked with Mondaine on designing 2014’s Stop2Go version of the Swiss Railways watch, Drechsel understood precisely why the Helvetica project was such a natural fit for the company. "Mondaine’s aesthetic is deeply rooted in the tradition of timeless Swiss design and watchmaking," Dreschel said. "The Helvetica project was particularly interesting for us to reconsider all of that again."

All of Mondaine’s watches are assembled in a dedicated factory near Solothhurn, and are emblematic of Swiss craftsmanship.