MB&F: One Man Turning Childhood Fantasies Into Time Machines, With A Little Help From His Friends
According to the Beatles, you get by with a little help from your friends. And that certainly applies when breaking out of the establishment at the dizzy heights of his stellar career and diving into the unknowns of independent watchmaking, Maximilian Büsser has certainly done just that – placing that collaborative spirit right at the very heart of his own brand MB&F since 2005 (knowingly, M and B stand for Maximilian Büsser and the F is for “friends”).
Before then, he was a much-vaunted “young gun”, serving for seven years in Jaeger-LeCoultre senior management in his twenties, followed by another seven at Harry Winston as managing director, where he was the driving force behind the intensely creative Opus series, which has seen Harry Winston collaborate with some of the biggest names in indie watchmaking. Opus was entirely Max’s brainchild and was a big hint as to where his mind was headed.
It was that unwavering desire for pushing the boundaries of what a watch should look like, and how it should represent the time, that saw Max pouring all he had into setting up on his own as MB&F.
From the outset, Max decided to confound and delight. The Horological Machine No. 1 was first launched in 2007 and was the first-ever timepiece to feature four barrels connected in both parallel and series, as well as being having the first movement to have energy transmitted to the regulating system from two forces simultaneously. And if that wasn’t enough, at the centre is a tourbillon.
It is bold, its aesthetic is like nothing else and it was to become the calling card for Max’s particular brand of watchmaking.
From there onwards, this collective has launched some of the most iconoclastic examples of what could possibly constitute a watch, thanks to its talent for procuring the services of the most creatively interesting names in the watch industry both in and out of the business, such as Stepan Sarpaneva, Jean-Marc Wiederrecht and Kari Voutilainen.
Drawing inspiration from steampunk, 70s supercars and jellyfish, each watch is a miniature masterpiece of innovation that challenges the way we read time, but always with a sense of humour and tongue firmly in cheek. Things became rather more traditional with the Legacy Machine series, combining the trademark far-out machinery with a classical aesthetic, but only – as Büsser himself conceded – to prove the haute horlogerie credentials of his collective’s creations on horology’s own terms; a bold retaliation aimed squarely at the squares.
Since 2013, it has also branched out into horological objects collaborating with the likes music-box manufacturer Reuge (for which it created three music boxes that resembles spaceships), high-end clockmaker L’Epée 1893 (with whom it created a table robot) and writing instrument producer Caran d’Ache, which produced a fountain pen that sit in a rocket-launcher style base.
Max has consistently spoken of his way of doing things as a rebellion, a way of reinterpreting the traditions of watchmaking without being constrained by them. He may not want to become part of the watchmaking establishment, but, if he continues in this highly desirable vein, he may well find himself part of the horological firmament. With a little help from his friends, of course.
Images via Luxatic