WHO IS BEHIND THE BRAND MB&F
MAXIMILIAN BÜSSER is an enigma. He was an only child and experienced some loneliness that comes with that. He created his own playmates and games, decided to become a car designer at age 4, earned a Masters degree in technology engineering, and got his first job offer in the watch industry while skiing the slopes of Switzerland.
He believes he was a boring geek when he landed the job at Jaeger-LeCoultre, a brand he says was struggling to stay alive at the time. He, along with a small team saved Jaeger and it was a happy experience.
He had not known any entrepreneurs during his childhood and it was an unfamiliar landscape for him, but the seven years he spent helping turn around this brand served to increase his passion for beautiful watchmaking. It was mostly a positive experience except for the occasional frustrations he felt when he was told, “no, we can’t do that,” for some risk he wanted to take.
Following his stint at Jaeger, he joined Harry Winston for another seven years as managing director of timepieces—a place where the artist in him began to emerge. It is also the time and place where he realized how much enjoyed working with creative watch designers and watchmakers. Büsser earned status, money and power, but it was not enough. In fact, it was too much. These were the most unhappy years of his professional career.
He left to create his own watch brand and simply named it what it would become—Maximilian Büsser & Friends, or MB&F. It so happens, that I was in attendance for his standing room only announcement to the world at the Richemont Hotel in Geneva. It was to be unlike anything else ever known in watchmaking—a collaborative concept to create artistic ways to deconstruct traditional watchmaking ideas and then re-assemble these ideas into crazy time machines.
It was an artistic and fun endeavor, but not without risks and near failures. He fell to his knees several times and came very close to bankruptcy at one point, but Büsser says he never doubted that the company would be successful.
He controlled the costs of doing business, including foregoing traditional advertising, which he knew could never be part of the firm’s budget. He also believes that growth for the sake of earning more money can stifle creativity and this runs counter to his concept for MB&F. For Büsser, creativity is addictive and that the more he creates, the more he wants to create.
Often, he is asked how much expansion he plans for his business and his stock answer is always the same, “I don’t.” There are no plans to expand. Büsser is satisfied with producing a limited number of pieces each year and likes the pace he has set for the company. Of course, he wants demand to continue to grow but he also appreciates that fans of the brand like it just the way it is now.
Meanwhile, he has opened several art galleries to celebrate other types of machines that have become icons of modern human existence. He calls it “performance art.” His M.A.D. Galleries have allowed him to meet many other incredible creators in other fields, but we’ll save this for another time. It’s part of the enigma that is Maximilian Büsser.
GLEN B BOWEN, COPYRIGHT 2017
Conceived by MB&F and built by L’Epée 1839, Destination Moon is the quintessential torpedo-shaped rocket of childhood dreams.
Developed specifically for Destination Moon, the architecture of L’Epée’s eight-day movement follows the basic engineering of a real spaceship. Power in a rocket comes from its base and the power for Destination Moon comes from the oversized winding crown in its base. The control systems of a rocket are above the power source and the same holds true for Destination Moon, which has a vertical regulator underneath the time display, as well as a time-setting knob at the top of the movement. That regulator with its animated balance is protected from cosmic radiation (and curious fingers) by a small panel of virtually invisible mineral glass. Hours and minutes are displayed by large, white numerals on stainless steel disks.
And there's Neil: a smile inducing, space-suited figurine forged in solid silver and stainless steel, magnetically attached to the ladder connecting the crown to the movement. Neil imparts a childlike sense of wonder by putting Man into the Machine.
After pushing the boundaries of horological exploration by blasting into outer space (HM2, HM3, HM6), launching into the sky (HM4), and powering down the road and around the track (HM5, HMX, HM8), MB&F plunges into the water with Horological Machine No.7, aka HM7 Aquapod.
The organic jellyfish-inspired design of HM7 Aquapod is counter-balanced by the very mechanical horology within: a central 60-second flying tourbillon tops the concentric vertical movement architecture, with indications radiating out from the centre like ripples in a pond. Like many jellyfish, HM7 glows in the dark: on the hour and minute numerals, around the inside of the movement and along the tentacle-like winding rotor.
The 303-component, 72-hour power reserve HM7 Engine was developed in-house by MB&F. Spherically three-dimensional, all its mechanisms – from the winding rotor at the bottom, to the flying tourbillon on top – rotate concentrically around the centre. The curves of the high-domed sapphire crystal are mirrored in the shape of the time display rings.
SHERMAN doesn't walk, talk, weld cars, or roam Mars. He doesn't try to kill Sarah Connor, help Luke Skywalker, warn Will Robinson, star in feature-length films, or enforce the law. In fact, Sherman really only does two things, but he does both extremely well. Sherman tells the time. And Sherman makes people smile, which is probably the world's most useful and emotionally valuable complication.
The movement plates and bridges of the clock make up the skeleton and body of the robot; Sherman’s mainspring barrel bridge extends down to support his rubber caterpillar tracks, movement spacers act as shoulders for the arms, and his eyes are bolt heads supporting the regulator. The transparent dome on Sherman's head reveals his mechanical brain. Sherman's arms can be manipulated into nearly any configuration, and his hands can be used to hold items.
MUSIC MACHINE 3 may appear to come from a galaxy far away in the future; however, its origins are much older and much closer to home. MusicMachine 3 features all of the traditional elements of a beautifully arranged, high-end mechanical music box; not really a surprise since it was developed and crafted according to MB&F's design by Reuge, the last remaining producer of high-end music boxes in the world today.
MusicMachine 3’s design with those lattice-like vertical wings support and protect the dual music cylinders, each playing three melodies: the theme tunes from Star Wars, Mission Impossible, and James Bond on the right and The Godfather, Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, and The Persuaders on the left.
MELCHIOR was one of MB&F’s 10th Anniversary Pieces, presented in 2015 under the theme ”A creative adult is a child who survived”. Created with L’Epée 1839, Melchior is not only an impressive kinetic robot which may remind you of your childhood dreams, but also an impeccably finished, 480-component mechanical table clock.
Jumping hours and sweeping minutes on Melchior’s chest are displayed via discs bearing MB&F’s signature numerals, while a dial on Melchior’s abdomen is the power reserve indicator. And this robot’s self-sufficiency is to be admired, for the finely-finished, highly-visible movement boasts a power reserve of 40 days, thanks to five mainspring barrels which help make up Melchior’s rippling torso. The gatling gun on his left arm doubles as the winding and time setting key.
With Legacy Machine Perpetual, MB&F and independent watchmaker Stephen McDonnell have reinvented one of the most complex traditional watchmaking complications: the perpetual calendar.
The result is Legacy Machine Perpetual, featuring a visually stunning in-house movement, developed from the ground up to eliminate the drawbacks of conventional perpetual calendars. The 581-component, fully integrated and purpose-built movement of Legacy Machine Perpetual has been designed for user-friendly and trouble-free use: thanks to an innovative “mechanical processor” (patent pending), no more skipping dates or jamming gears, and the adjuster pushers automatically deactivate when the calendar changes, so no problems there either.
With its biomorphic curves, animated spheres, 'winking' eye and beating heart, HM6 is our most organic machine to date.
In each of the four corners of HM6’s biomorphic case is a 360° sphere, capped top and bottom by transparent sapphire crystal domes. Up forward, two spheres rotate vertically respectively displaying hours and minutes. Back aft, the twin spherical turbines spin, regulating the automatic winding system to reduce stress and wear.
The transparent cupola on top houses a flying tourbillon and offers a tantalizing glimpse into the sophisticated engine inside. The sapphire crystal display portal on the back reveals more of the 475 finely finished components making up the highly complex movement, which required over three years of development. The sapphire crystal plates of the HM6-SV and Alien Nation editions offer even more comprehensive views − top and bottom − to the movement within.
Like its big brother Legacy Machine No.1 (44mm), LM101 (40mm) is dominated by a suspended “flying” balance wheel, its sedate oscillations drawing the eye ever closer. Two pristine-white subdials are placed underneath: at the top right, hours and minutes are displayed by blued-gold hands, while the 45-hour power reserve indicator is displayed in a smaller, but similar subdial below. In an apparent feat of magic, the domed sapphire crystal protecting the dial appears to be invisible.
Turning over, the display back crystal reveals the exquisitely hand-finished movement. Curved plates and bridges designed by award-winning independent watchmaker Kari Voutilainen pay homage to the style found in high quality historic pocket watches.
MusicMachine 1 is the first music box of a trilogy that looks and sounds out of this world. It contains all the traditional, time-honoured elements of a superlative high-end music box, but designed and configured in a totally unconventional way.
Each of the cylinders on MusicMachine 1 plays three tunes. On the left, may the Force be with you with the ‘Star Wars’ theme, the ‘Imperial March’ from ‘The Empire Strikes Back’, and the theme from ‘Star Trek’. Back on earth, the right cylinder plays Pink Floyd’s ‘Another Brick in the Wall’, Deep Purple’s ‘Smoke on the Water’ and John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’.
MB&F celebrates the pioneering works of past masters and complications with Legacy Machine No.2.
Suspended high above the dial, the double “flying” balances are in fact the most visible parts of two fully independent regulating systems, each beating at its own rate. The planetary differential sits proud of the surface, supported by a stunning double-arc mirror-polished bridge. The complex differential is the key element in the double regulator system: the rates are averaged out by the mechanism, which drives the blued gold hour and minute hands of the white stretched-lacquer sub dial. To make things just a bit more complicated, the two flying balances and their escapements are identical mirror images, right down to the position of the stud holders pinning their balance springs.
Derived from the HM3 series, MegaWind combines a giant “battle-axe” winding rotor with highly legible hour and minute indication cones, rising from the case.
MegaWind is powered by the beautifully engineered, Jean-Marc Wiederrecht-designed HM3 engine. Placing the rotor and regulator on the dial side required flipping the movement upside down – possible thanks to two large ceramic bearings visible through the display back. Rotating displays of this size and shape generated a number of technical headaches: the cones are machined from solid blocks of aluminium, chosen for its optimal strength to weight ratio, and reducing energy requirements to an absolute minimum.
Close inspection of the case reveals a myriad of carefully considered details: the bespoke clover-head gold screws, the cleverly integrated lugs attaching the strap, and the bevelled perimeter of the rotor display crystal that adds visual flair as the angles catch and reflect flashes of light.
At first glance HM5 appears to be a relatively simple timepiece… but it’s more complicated than you might think.
The time display consists of bi-directional jumping hours and trailing minutes – with indications inversed, reflected 90° and magnified thanks to an optical prism. Looking below the surface of the HM5 case reveals a surprise: another water resistant case, which protects the high-performance engine inside.
HM5 has a futuristic case design, but it’s a direct homage to two 1970’s icons: the first high-performance supercars, and the plucky Amida Digitrend watch. Last but not least, even though it was inspired by an era when quartz was king, HM5 has a self-winding mechanical movement.
The main features of Legacy Machine No.1 are the large 14mm “flying” balance wheel, its one-of-a-kind vertical power reserve indicator and the completely independent dual time zones.
Combined with the fine-finished movement and round case – MB&F’s first! – LM1 is a sublimation of classical excellence and traditional watchmaking, but remains an authentic three-dimensional MB&F Machine.
LM1’s movement bears testimony to the talent of its creators Jean-François Mojon and Kari Voutilainen. Geneva waves, highly polished gold chatons and bridges with impeccably executed bevels following deliberate internal angles showcase the absolutely peerless fine-finishing. LM1 was awarded the Public Prize (voted for by horology fans) and the Best Men’s Watch Prize (voted for by the jury) at the 2012 Grand Prix d'Horlogerie de Genève.
The Legacy Machine N°1 Final Edition brings the LM1 series to a close, and does so with the signature MB&F flair for the unexpected.
Haute horlogerie is (usually) a very restrained and serious business; however one of Maximilian Büsser’s main goals in creating MB&F was to bring a child's sense of awe and playfulness into high-end watchmaking… mission accomplished with the HM3 Frog!
The HM3 Frog is crafted in titanium or zirconium, combined with a 22k gold “battle-axe” winding rotor. A close inspection of the case reveals carefully thought out detailing including distinctive clover-head screws and a figure 8 engraved around the domes that mirrors the form of the display back. The hours and minutes revolving domes complication, framed by an oversized date wheel, was designed by Jean-Marc Wiederrecht. Machining those aluminum and sapphire domes posed a number of technical challenges.
What could possibly bring together the 152-year-old House of Boucheron, that most venerable of France’s high-jewellery Houses, and MB&F, the cutting-edge Swiss creative laboratory whose Horological Machines first invaded our planet only a few years ago?
The answer is the JwlryMachine, an astonishing haute-joaillerie version of MB&F’s Horological Machine No.3.
The visual illusion of the owl’s heart beating typifies the hint of secretiveness that Boucheron’s artisans instil into some of their best-loved jewels; as does the fact that the uninitiated will need to search for the time indications on the sides of the cones among the owl’s sparkling plumage. The extreme refinement that radiates from the proportions, the choice of stones and the quality of craftsmanship makes this creation “very Boucheron”.
The streamlined, faster-than-sound looking HM4 ‘Thunderbolt’ stretches horological art to its very limits. Both the aviation-inspired case and the engine inside have been described as radical, even anarchistic!
The HM4 engine is the culmination of three long years of intensive development. Each of the 311 components was developed specifically for this calibre. Horizontally-configured dual mainspring barrels drive two vertical gear trains, transferring power to the twin pods indicating hours and minutes on the right, power reserve on the left. With the dials perpendicular to the wearer’s wrist, HM4 might be described as the perfect pilot’s watch.
First launched in 2009, Horological Machine No.3 was far outside existing timekeeping references and marked the beginning of an iconic series.
The wearer can fully appreciate the art and craft that makes up HM3 and draws one’s gaze inside the highly complex machine; a machine comprising more than 300 fine-finished, high-precision components. The movement of HM3 has been literally turned upside down to allow for an uninterrupted panorama of the solid gold winding rotor’s graceful arcs and the high-speed oscillations of the balance wheel. Turning the watch over reveals the technical secret behind its inverted movement: two large ceramic bearings efficiently transmit power up to the cones and date wheel.
HM3 is available in two versions: ‘Sidewinder’, with cones lined perpendicular to the arm and ‘Starcruiser’, with cones in line with the arm.
First launched in 2008, Horological Machine No.2 revolutionized the world of haute horlogeriewith its distinctive rectangular shape, flying buttresses, dual portholes and modular construction. Its mechanical movement offers instantaneous jumping hours, concentric retrograde minutes, retrograde date, bi-hemisphere moon-phase and automatic winding.
The dynamic tension between apparently incongruous elements in Horological Machine No.2, such as that between innovative technology and sculptural art, matte finish and mirror polish, modern alloys and precious metals, and between traditional watchmaking and 21st century micro-engineering, endows this machine with vibrant vitality. The sapphire crystal cases of the HM2-SV editions offer visual access into the meticulously hand-finished engine.
Launched in 2007, Horological Machine No.1 was an innovative and totally original timepiece: it was the world’s first movement with four barrels connected in both parallel and series, as well as the first wristwatch movement to have energy transmitted to the regulating system from two sources simultaneously.
The movement features no less than 376 components, 81 functional jewels, 4 mainspring barrels, a 7-day power reserve and an elevated central tourbillon. With its 48 discrete elements, HM1's three-dimensional case has a complexity and sophistication matching its movement. The multi-strata of the dial both captivate the eye and challenge the mind.
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