MB&F is quite a unique brand. In fact I find it harsh to call Maximilian Büsser and his Friends a brand per se – simple because it so much more than that. Büsser’s creative motto is “I create what I believe in”, and he literally means and follows that. You might be well familiar with his timepieces already – whether from the internet or from personal experience, possibly at the Basel World’s Palace, where all the independent creators meet. I however had once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to sit down with the Man himself and closely examine 4 of his outstanding creations. Here is what I saw…
The mutual thing of all four MB&F pieces we handled (and for the entire collection) is quite a conventional approach to their watchmaking side. While the design is fully futuristic (we will come to that in a moment), movements represent traditional, conventional technology and materials like steel and brass. Büsser highlights that “reliability and capacity to service our pieces in the future is one of the keys of our DNA”. What it means is that you will not find any silicon or other high-tech composites inside – mechanically it’s a high-end traditional execution with modern interpretation.
MB&F Legacy Machine N°1
When classic inspired by the pocket watches and watchmaking of the XIX century meets modern creativity of MB&F team, this what you get. A watch that looks like it could have been made 100 years ago, yet holds a design twist of the modern-thinking mind. LM1’s body is 44mm by 16mm case of red gold (white gold optional) – first ever round watch made by the brand. It is fitted with two crowns, very highly domed sapphire glass, sapphire back and an alligator leather strap with buckle.
It is however on the dial where the real fun starts. Time indications is conducted by two separate, independent, white lacquered dials with a gold rings, painted roman numerals and two pairs of blued, gold hands. The magic happens in the center though – BIG, 14mm golden balance wheel (rated at 18.000bph) floats in the air only supported by the skeletonized arm, that took its inspiration from the Eiffel Tower (the one in Paris that is). And if it wasn’t enough, there is also a 3-D vertical power reserve indicator in form of a lever just below the balance wheel.
To power all this MB&F worked with Jean-Francosi Mojon and Kari Voutilainen to create a unique (fully conceived and made from the ground up specifically for this timepiece), hand wound calibre that looks like a high-end pocket watch from a million dollars vintage piece.
From time to time MB&F decides to open its workshop a bit more and work with some great names from the industry. It is for that reason that Performance Art series was born – to transform MB&F idea to even bigger, enhanced art form. HM3 MoonMachine is the co-work of Stepen Sarapneva – Finish born (and living) watchmaker with a weak spot for one particular complication – moon phase.
Carved from red gold, Sarpanava’s tweaked HM3 (the “Frog” version with two sapphire domes and two aluminium capsules with hours and minutes indication) interprets moon phase with the blued, star-studded rotating winding rotor and a small moon face that, as the story goes, was designed as Mr.Sarapenva’s self-portrait.
The rest of the piece is a HM3 Frog version with the 18K red gold case inspired by the space ships from famous S-F movies plus two sapphire domes (just like frog’s eyes – hence the name) that house two aluminium capsules of the hours and minutes indications. Powering them is a Girard-Perregaux based calibre which is entirely reworked by Jean-Marc Wiederrecht and his Agenhor team.
MB&F Horological Machine N°3 – Megawind
Megawind on the other hand is the latest and most likely the last of HM3 we’ll ever see. The reason it was made is to more vividly highlight battle-axe shaped winding rotor, that creates all the kinetic impression of the piece. It was made bigger (hence the name – Megawind), and when you make it run, it somewhat majestically hides under the case, surprisingly not cutting the two sapphires domes off.
White gold and titanium piece you see belongs to Max Büsser. Just as all the other HM3s, it is powered by Girard-Perregaux based automatic movement, made by Jean-Marc Wiederrecht (of Agenhor).
MB&F Horological Machine N°4 – Thunderbolt RT
Sometimes people tend to call MB&F “crazy” – and looking on the HM4 Thunderbolt I almost understand why. Think, if your imagination allows, as far away from traditional understanding of a mechanical watch as you can… and you might not get even close to what HM4 is. I’d call it a sculpture with a mechanical heart, that gives time as a by-product (which is by the way philosophy behind all MB&F timepieces).
This particular piece is two parts red gold and one part sapphire crystal (mono-block). The name “Thunderbolt” comes from the inspiration behind the project – the engines of a jet plane. This engines are interpreted here as two pods with two dials at their ends, positioned perpendicular to the wearers wrist. One shows the time, the other is power reserve indicator.
There are two surprises about this piece (once you get used to the way it looks). First of it sits really well on the wrist, which means it is a fully functional watch, not just a gimmick.
Secondly it is an astonishingly well thought design – both stylistically and mechanically. It was vital for the case shape and the movement to fit, so both thing were designed with each other in mind. The calibre here is the work of Laurent Besse and Les Artisans Horologers. You have to wind it manually to guarantee a full 72hours of uninterrupted working.
Maximilian Büsser and Friends
MB&F’s philosophy, as much as it may seem totally disconnected from reality, stated from the very beginning, that there is no point in making watches just as they were made through last decades and centuries. MB&F is a kinetic sculpture (unfortunately name Kinetic was already taken by a certain Japanese brand) that just gives time as a by-product – giving time is not its main goal. Büsser’s creativity followed by all his friends (and he only selects the best and most talented individuals he actually likes in person) knows no borders. Although he makes the final decisions (saying wisely that “creativity is not a democratic process”) people MB&F works with are as vital part of the process as you can imagine.
When I talked with Maximilian Büsser about his work and creative process, he said one key thing: “What we create is a piece of mechanical art.” You have tones of classic, traditional, minimalistic time-telling watches around – very few dare to go the way MB&F did. And they do it brilliantly, to say the least.
More resources about MB&F Horological Machine on Wikipedia and Official MB&F Website.
Photos: Michał Grygalewicz