After spending decades learning the rules of watchmaking at legacy manufacturers like Jaeger LeCoultre and Harry Winston Rare Timepieces, Maximilian Büsser broke away in 2005 to start his own company.
MB&F (Maximilian Büsser & Friends) is an artistic concept laboratory based on a simple idea: assembling collectives of independent watchmaking professionals to develop radical horological masterpieces.
Eiseman Jewels sat down with Büsser to talk entrepreneurial spirit, high-end horology and what it means to join the MB&F Tribe.
Tell us a little about how MB&F came to be. Was there one pivotal event thatpushed you to start the company?
For me, MB&F was a life decision, not a business decision. Watchmaking saved my life. It’s given me a purpose and a surrogate family. I did not create MB&F thinking it would flourish. I created it to be proud of something, even if it wasn’t successful. The company started with just me working alone in my flat for two years without a salary, having poured every cent I had into it.
Today, it’s a small manufacturer made up of 23 people. Over the last 12 years, MB&F has been an incredible entrepreneurial and creative adventure. During that time, we have created 14 fully new calibers and changed our industry.
What inspires MB&F?
For us, watchmaking is an art that demands experimentation and pushes us out of our creative comfort zone. We deconstruct stunning traditional watchmaking and reconstruct it into pieces of kinetic art, which also happen to give time. Giving time is not the purpose — the sculpture and the story that gave it life is.
MB&F is not a company — it is a philosophy. The machines we create are only the result, not the objective.
What is one thing we may not know about you or MB&F?
I was a kid who didn’t fit in, and I suffered a lot because of it. Many years later, I not only discovered that it is OK to not fit in, but I actually made a life out of it. There’s also the fact that we try to help all the artists we curate at our M.A.D. Galleries.
What is one word you would use to describe MB&F’s creations?
How would you describe the difference between the Horological Machines and Legacy Machines?
The creative processes behind both lines are totally different. Horological Machines are a free-thinking exploration of my childhood and what made me emotional along my fifty years. They are creatively raw, and come from the gut.
Legacy Machines, on the other hand, derive from a completely intellectual process. They are a tribute to the great master watchmakers who, between 1720 and 1870, created virtually every “complication” we know today. They were the giants, the real icons. With Legacy, I wanted to revisit the elegance and subtlety of their genius with a 3-D, 21st-century twist.
What makes MB&F different from other manufacturers?
I feel like just about everything makes us different, from concept to philosophy to business model. The results are creations like no other.
Any favorite pieces in the current collection?
As I create for myself, every piece is my ideal piece — at the time of creation. And then I move on to the next. The next one is always what gives me an adrenaline rush. Watchmaking is a very frustrating world in that every new movement takes between three and four years to come to completion, and so we are working at any given time on four to five completely different concepts and calibers, going from one to another on a daily basis.
When designing pieces, who do you envision wearing them? Do they have a certain style or life?
I create solely for myself. And more often than not, I am terrified that no one will like, buy, or want to wear what we have spent years and millions of dollars creating! I like to think that anguish is an important part of the creative process.
When a customer purchases an MB&F machine, they don’t just get a new horological masterpiece — they join a tribe. What is the significance behind MB&F owners joining the Tribe?
Our creations are extremely polarizing. Over the years, we’ve noticed that our clients all over the world — whatever their culture, language, religion or upbringing — actually resemble each other quite a lot.
By registering their new timepiece on the MB&F website, our clients become part of the Tribe. Not only do they benefit from an extra two-year warranty, but they get all of the insider news we share only with our clients and opportunities to meet up with other Tribe members, if they wish. This includes invitations to our events including Baselworld and Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH).