OCT. 19, 2015, DUBAI: THE FAMILY MAN
If Switzerland is the cradle of the watchmaking industry, Dubai is its “sanctuary,” according to Büsser. The owner and creative director of MB&F surprised many when he moved permanently to the Emirate in 2014. One year later, he was welcoming his peers to his new home during Dubai Watch Week, an event co-hosted by the preeminent watch retailer in the U.A.E., Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons, and the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève.
“When my wife and I learned that we would be expecting our first child, I knew I didn’t want to be living next to our workshops in Switzerland because I wasn’t going to see my daughter grow up. Rolf W. Schnyder, the ex-owner of Ulysse Nardin is the man who inspired the move. He built Ulysse Nardin while living in Kuala Lumpur. I remember meeting him there 10 years ago and asking him what the hell he was doing all the way [over] there. He said, ‘I’m watching my children grow up. ’ And, that really hit me. Initially, I was thinking of moving to Asia because I’ve always been extremely attracted to Asia, and I’m half-Indian myself. But, my wife who is smarter than me said, ‘You know, that’s really far,’ so we settled in between, in Dubai. I’ve been coming to Dubai for 17 years. I’ve seen it evolve from a small town to the mega hub it is today. I’ve always liked coming here. I especially like the people here. The Sediqqi family has been like a second family. They helped me when I took over from Harry Winston, and they were one of the six retailers who bankrolled me when I created MB&F, based simply on the design of the first Horological Machines. And, [that] sense of family means something here. The city is built for family, and it’s built for children. Moving here with a small child is paradise.”
OCT. 27, 2015, GENEVA: THE ARTIST
A finalist in this year’s Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, Büsser traveled to Geneva a week before the results of this year’s competition. A past winner, Büsser says it matters little to him if he wins again. That’s not why he’s making watches.
“You start creating art when you start creating selfishly. When you have a dozen marketers within the company, looking at the market, you don’t get [to] create art. When you have a creative that says, ‘I don’t give a damn what you think about what I do…I need to do it to express myself,’ then you become an artist.” No one could’ve imagined the response the HM3, HM4 or HM5 received. I really believe that without Urwerk, without us, without a couple of other independents, clients would not be requesting this kind of watch. They wouldn’t know it existed. The first time I saw one like it was with Vianney Halter’s Antiqua, in 1988. I was blown away. I was working at Jaeger-LeCoultre at the time, and no one there understood what I was getting excited about. That was the tipping point for me. After that, the Ulysse Nardin Freak, the Richard Mille RM 001, the Urwerk UR-103 and the Opus 3 we developed together with Vianney Halter, and were like walking into the light for the first time.”
NOV. 5, 2015, SINGAPORE: THE BUSINESS MAN
Singapore is the premier market for independent watchmakers, and a natural pit stop during every global product launch. We caught up with Büsser at The Hour Glass for the launch of the MB&F Perpetual.
“I never expect anything commercially, because otherwise, I wouldn’t create anything. I create what I believe in, and what I am super proud of; whether it sells or not, I’ll be just as proud. Money has never been an objective; pride has been. I just have to find another way to pay salaries, but that’s not the issue. I think we are going to have a problem because there are such few pieces, with 60 people at dinner the first evening, and 14 people at dinner the next day—today. Between the two dinners, we already have 70 very good clients, by which I mean collectors who already own between three and even 10 MB&F watches and we have only seven pieces which we can allocate to Singapore. So, I don’t think I am going to have a problem commercially, but I’m going to have an issue—or rather The Hour Glass will have an issue—on who is going to get the pieces.”
A TIMELINE SPLIT IN TWO
The Prequel: The Horological Machine Collection
The first MB&F watch, it sets the tone with a unique design with four mainspring barrels, a tourbillon escapement and a seven-day power reserve.
The first evolution of the HM features a me- chanical movement offering an instantaneous jump hour, concentric retrograde minutes, a retrograde date, a bi-hemisphere moon phase and automatic winding.
The HM3 features cones indicating hours and minutes, with the hour cone capped by a day/ night indicator. The HM3 launches the brand, according to Büsser.
This time inspired by aeronautics, the HM4 features two perpendicular dials respectively indicating hours/minutes and power reserve resembling two jet turbine pods.
Inspired by the futuristic Amida Digitrend watch of the 1970s, as well as supercars of that era, the HM5 is a driver’s watch which can be read sideways while the left hand sits on the steering wheel.
The Sequel: The Legacy Machine Collection
MB&F decided to build the watch it would have conceived 100 years ago, had it been around at that time, and develop a watch inspired by traditions of 18th Century and the 19th Century.
For its second LM, MB&F doubles the fun with two flying balance wheels suspended over the dial.
The LM101 is the first MB&F to feature an entirely in-house movement.
The fourth LM is by far the most complicated watch developed by MB&F, and features a perpetual calendar, a power reserve and a retrograde leap year indicator.
THE LATEST CHAPTER: THE LM PERPETUAL
If independent watchmakers are an “endangered species,” as Büsser suggested when we met him in Dubai, MB&F is one animal that is not waiting for anyone to save it. It is very much taking matters in its own hands. The release of the Legacy Machine Perpetual in November was its latest statement of intent. The intent to stay alive—to stay relevant in a collector’s mind, and ruffle a few feathers along the way with disruptive design and innovative answers to the challenges of micro engineering.
The fourth chapter of the Legacy Machine collection, one that celebrates classicism and tradition, is by far the most complicated watch developed by MB&F. Not by design—the Horological Machine collection retains that crown— but, in terms of its mechanics.
“Actually, the Legacy Machine Perpetual is the brainchild of Irish watchmaker Stephen McDonnell,” says Büsser.
It’s been a great year for the perpetual calendar complication. The day, date, moon, month and leap year display has been interpreted beautifully by several brands, from Audemars Piguet to Hermès.
“It’s a complication that very few small artisans dare tackle because it’s so fragile, and requires taking a lot of risks,” said Büsser, admitting he never intended to work on one for MB&F. “If Stephen [McDonnell] hadn’t saved my life, I would have said no.”
McDonnell is one of four watchmakers who stepped in when MB&F’s movement supplier was sold to a competitor who refused to continue working on MB&F’s first project, the HM1. But thanks to McDonnell, Peter Speake-Marin and a couple of other friends, MB&F would “be able to deliver the first two pieces,” saving Büsser from bankruptcy.
“It’s a story of friendship and respect, and it’s a story of great talent,” says Büsser.
The avant-garde brand may have gone with a surprisingly familiar display, composed of four sub dials, but has uncharacteristically made them float above the dial, something no brand had been able to achieve because of the size of the grand levier.
“We are not improving the world of watchmaking,” insists Büsser. “We are improving our own world.”
Instead, the skeletonized sub-dial rest on hidden studs, designed by MB&F, who partnered with McDonnell, to expose all of the 581-components that make up this groundbreaking caliber.
There’s no mistaking it; this new perpetual calendar bears the DNA of MB&F. From the signature suspended balance wheel to the 19th Century style hand finishing and hand-made engravings, it has MB&F written all over it, literally.
Measuring 44 millimeters-by-17.5 millimeters, the new Legacy Machine mirrors the look and feel of previous models. It’s a miniature sculpture of art, providing the perfect piece de resistance for 21st Century independent watchmaking.
Besides the perpetual calendar display, the new Legacy Machine features a power reserve indicator at 4 o’clock, as well as a retrograde leap year indicator at 7 o’clock.
The MB&F Legacy Machine Perpetual launches with a limited edition of 25 pieces in 18-karat 5N and red gold and 25 pieces in platinum 950.
TEN YEARS YOUNG
“In our 10 years of existence, this is my best,” says Büsser. “This is really the first year when I am completely laid-back.” Büsser and his friends celebrated 10 years of creativity this year.
But instead of receiving a gift, the independent brand has decided to give one back to those who have believed, supported and invested in it over the last decade. And, what gift it is.
The HMX is being released at an unprecedented price: CHF 29,000 Swiss Francs. The brand has indeed decided to go against the grain and sacrificed its margins to be able to present the most affordable MB&F ever made.
“It’s not about making watches, it’s about watchmaking,” explains Büsser. Engraved at the back, the motto, “A Creative Adult is a Child Who Survived,” perfectly sums up the spirit of the brand created in 2005, by a watchmaker who once dreamt of becoming a car designer.
And, the latest Horological Machine, named ‘X’ after the Roman numeral for 10, pays homage to the creative studio’s ever energetic and child-like wonder. The new Horological Machine is the latest auto-inspired MB&F, reminiscent of the brand’s HM5 “On the Road Again,” a driver’s watch with the time displayed on the side, thanks to two sapphire-crystal optical prisms that “project” the time onto the front vertical display.
Just like the HM5, the HMX draws its lines from iconic automobiles. In particular, the distinctive Superleggera style of renowned Italian coachbuilder Carrozzeria Touring—creators of automobiles like Alfa Romeo’s Disco Volante—resonates throughout the “coachwork” of the Machine.
Many niche watch brands come and go, and Büsser revealed that the past 10 years were not a smooth and easy ride, “but a wild, unpredictable, constantly-challenging adventure.” Nonetheless, the brand held on throughout, and in the last few years, soared to become one of the most successful, independent watch brands of the modern era, and has done so with limited production and a distinctive style. And, the culmination of a decade of dedication in the HMX is just that.
MB&F is one of the most exclusive watchmakers in the world. In the past 10 years, MB&F has only made 1,500 watches. The same number of watches comes out of the Rolex manufactory every 24 hours. The exclusivity of MB&F is one of the reasons collectors love the brand.
THE ‘F’ STANDS FOR ‘FRIENDS’
At MB&F, specialists make every component, and every specialist is a friend. While most brands conceal the names behind their creations, MB&F makes sure to recognize those who help in the development of any timepiece. It’s a tradition Büsser started at Harry Winston, with Opus, a collaborative series that pairs independent watchmakers with the Swatch Group brand. And, it’s the reason he called his brand Maximilian Büsser and Friends. In fact, 50 “friends,” total, collaborated on the MB&F Legacy Machine Perpetual.
ARE YOU M.A.D.?
The MB&F MAD Gallery is a fairly unique concept in the watch world a gallery, focused on kinetic art, and all things with a beating heart. Opened in 2011 in Geneva on Rue Verdaine, a stone’s throw from MB&F’s offices, it showcases carefully-curated pieces—or Mechanical Art Devices—made by artists and engineers from around the world. It has also led to several collaborations with MB&F, including a series of futuristic clocks with Reuge and L’Épée 1839, as well the incorporation of micro-sculptures from Xia Hang into one-of-a-kind wristwatches.