A Lesson In Design: Haute Time Visits MB&F Manufacture

When my friends ask me, “What is your favorite watchmaker”? I find that’s a very complex question to answer as a collector. By definition, I love many watches. But ever since 2011, I’ve found that question easier to answer because that’s when Max Büsser & Friends launched the Legacy Machine N°1, one of my favorites. Therefore it was with great pleasure that I recently visited MB&F in Geneva:

The Legacy Machine N°1 (LM1) is MB&F’s tribute to traditional watchmaking

My main interest during my visit was actually the new MB&F Legacy Machine 101. Released this year during BaselWorld, it’s MB&F’s smallest watch to date and the first to feature an entirely in-house movement. According to Max Büsser, it should’ve been the brand’s first watch in the Legacy Machine lineup, and it would certainly be a fitting prequel.

The MB&F Legacy Machine 101 is the latest adaptation of the LM range

For me the proportions are simply perfect. The 40mm case wears larger than it looks and with the domed sapphire crystal, makes its presence on the wrist well known. Its main feature on the dial, the suspended balance wheel, looks even more impressive on a 40mm case than it did before.

The Legacy Machine 101 is the first MB&F that features an in-house movement

Of course the feature first appeared in the Legacy Machine N°1. and while it was one of the few watches to feature a suspended balance wheel, at 44mm it was quite manageable in an era of oversized watches. Its high domed sapphire crystal has become a family trait of the Legacy Machine series, and results in a watch wearing slightly larger than its size implies. While unique and beautiful, but at less than half its price, the Legacy Machine 101 is hard to ignore.

The suspended balance wheel also appeared in the LM1

The ‘other’ line, appears to be the polar opposite in terms of design. Yet, the Horological Machine 5 is third in my list of MB&F favorites and it is not without coincidence. As a fan of 1970s vintage cars, this model harks back to two of my favorite cars, the Lotus Esprit and the Lamborghini Miura.

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MB&F also develops the avant-garde with the Horological Machine 5

With a generously sized 51.5mm x 49mm case, the watch has some serious heft to it and you can see its size comparison when next to the LM1 and LM101 on the left. It’s a digital watch with a mechanical automatic movement. A few brands have attempted this particular combination, but it’s something that remains fairly unique, especially from a brand so proud of tradition. It’s quickly become one of the symbols of the brand’s forward thinking spirit as unconventional shapes are a MB&F signature.

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The LM1, LM101 and MH5 showcase the design capabilities and DNA of MB&F

These three watches represent my personal favorites from the MB&F collection. They may well have contrasting designs, but when you look at the entire lineup, including the LM2, HM2, and HM3 (see below), you see very unique pieces and yet a family resemblance. This is quite an accomplishment for a company that hasn’t blown ten candles yet, and that produces less than 300 watches per year.

To find out how they achieved this, I visited the MB&F workshop and met Max Büsser’s business partner and COO, Serge Kriknoff. MB&F designs and manufactures each watch at is workshop in Geneva, and with the launch of Legacy Machine 101, now even designs and manufactures its own movements. What I found most interesting is how concepts where made into finished products.

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Designing the Legacy Machine 101 which features the firs in-house MB&F movement

Since I am a corporate lawyer, I am used to looking at each matter as a problem solving exercise, similar to the way MB&F attacks a new project. A new concept cannot be manufactured until the problem solving is complete. For instance with the Horological Machine 5, the concept included a digital display powered by a mechanical movement. Initially, it seemed straightforward; however, it was actually quite complex to read. So a prism which reflects the digital display by 90° and magnifies it by 20% was designed specifically for that watch.

HM5 Prism
The Prism of the HM5 magnifies the time display. Photo Credit: MB&F

This was not the original solution. They employed many different potential solutions to show the display, including mirrors, until the ultimate solution was achieved. Each step involved a methodical process of elimination until they got to what we see today. The final result could not just be functional; it also had to be beautiful, which it is.

Photo Credit: Haute Time unless stated. For more, please visit the MB&F website.

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