There’s nobody quite like Maximilian Büsser –or like his company, Maximilian Büsser & Friends, a cooperative of designers, watchmakers, and other assorted talents which he put together in 2005 after leaving his position as head of the fine watchmaking department at Harry Winston. The goal of MB&F, as fans (and they are legion) like to call it, is to create every year a new “Horological Machine” that captures the idiosyncratic vision of Büsser himself, as well as the collaborator with whom he’s chosen to work on each year’s design. In an industry where it usually takes three to five years to develop even a fairly mundane new timepiece, Büsser’s ability to come up, each year, with a new and spectacularly revolutionary timepiece has made him quite literally a legend in his own time –and, unlike other visionary designers, the keen business sense he’s honed through the years coupled with his precision-guided sense of suspense (every new launch has a lead up that produces anticipation worthy of a new Harry Potter novel) has kept his company on the horological front pages for over half a decade.
Just this week, Büsser showed that he still has surprises up his sleeve. Up ’til now, the watches have been called “Horological Machines” and have been unabashedly avant-garde, with design cues taken from jet engine nacelles, manga superheroes, and other thoroughly (post) modern worlds. But with Büsser it’s always smart to expect the unexpected. Witness, then, the latest watch from MB&F: not a Horological Machine, but rather, the Legacy Machine No. 1.
Büsser asked himself, “What would have happened if I had been born in 1867 instead of 1967?” The hyper-futuristic, steampunk-by-way-of-Star-Wars aesthetic of his Horological Machines would be impossible under such circumstances, but the Machine Age worlds of Jules Verne and such feats of early steel architecture as the Crystal Palace and the Eiffel Tower would have sparked his imagination –and, too, the three dimensionality of his signature style would have been intact. The substantial but classically round pocket watches of the era would have had their influence as well.
Legacy Machine No. 1 thus presents in a round case, two dials (each of which can be independently set) which are both regulated by a single balance. The single large diameter balance wheel is set on a vaulting, suspension bridge like double arch that holds it suspended above the two dials of the watch, and it beats at a classic, pocket-watch era cadence of 18,000 vibrations per hour. The design of the dial is completed by the world’s first vertically oriented power reserve, which traces the number of hours left in the 45 hour power reserve along an arc whose shape is reminiscent of the gnomon of a sundial. The three dimensionality of the dial elements is underscored by a seductively shaped, deeply domed sapphire crystal under which the watch components seem, as Büsser enthuses, like buildings in some Utopian undersea city.
Turn the watch over, and there’s a sight to gladden the heart of any traditionalist –a stunningly finished arrangment of classically beautiful bridges and plates, thanks to the twin talents of Jean-François Monjon and Kari Voutilainen, both superstar watch and movement designers whose names are, like Büsser’s, household words to horological insiders.
All watches tell time, but watches that take time as their subject can become works of art, and the Legacy Machine No. 1 is the latest in triumphant sculptures for the wrist from the house of Maximilian Büsser & Friends.
Available in 18k red or white gold, $92,000.
Jack Forster is the Editor in Chief of Revolution Magazine, a quarterly publication celebrating the world of fine watchmaking, and he also manages Revolution Online www.revo-online.com the foremost information and discussion site on the internet for watch enthusiasts.