How MB&F Turns Weird Ideas Into Fascinating Timepieces


If you love playing with time, read on.


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How MB&F Turns Weird Ideas Into Fascinating Timepieces
By Appointment May 7th, 2018

Maximilian Busser, founder of MB&F Photo by MB&F

Maximilian Büsser, founder and creative director of the high-end watchmaker MB&F, knows how to surround himself with talent. After all, collaboration is in the DNA of his brand, as the acronym stands for Max Büsser & Friends.

These collaborations have led to the creation of highly original timekeeping machines that have expanded over the years well beyond wristwatches to incorporate robot clocks, musical automatons, mechanical music boxes, and even a rocket pen. His latest creation is a futuristic take on a weather station incorporating a mechanical thermometer, a barometer, a hygrometer and of course a clock. Dubbed The Fifth Element, the mechanical object d’art was co-created with clockmaker L’Epée 1839.

Paradoxically, his time machines, which are truly akin to 3-D kinetic sculptures, are not born out of team brainstorming; instead, Busser likes to work in an environment of friendly competition: “I have a general idea and I’ll suggest ‘let’s do something around that.’ Then we go our separate ways to our drawing tables, each comes up with our own design and I will select the best,” Büsser says.

Much of this friendly competition has been with young graduates from the Ecole cantonale d’art de Lausanne, or ECAL, working on a 6- to 8-month internship programme, which has yielded numerous forward-looking pieces reinforcing MB&F’s position in a market niche.

Büsser first leveraged the power of collaboration at Harry Winston Rare Timepieces, working with independent watchmakers like François-Paul Journe and Felix Baumgartner of Urwerk on the Opus series, which pushed the boundaries of horological innovation. But perhaps the key to his collaborations is finding like-minded, and very talented, individuals.

“Weird ideas stay weird if you’re not able to transform them into reality.”

Max Büsser, founder and creative director of MB&F

“As a kid I never really fitted in because I had a lot of weird ideas. This made for a difficult childhood, but it has also made for a fantastic adulthood,” Büsser says with a chuckle. “Weird ideas stay weird if you’re not able to transform them into reality. Luckily, I know how to surround myself with great people that are helping me to realize my dreams.”

MB&F has been collaborating with quintessential Swiss manufacturers like the expert music box maker Reuge and pen manufacturer Caran d’Ache, both known for their respective know-how in their crafts. “They have such an accumulation of knowledge, but they tend to have a very traditional approach, and I feel we electrify them a bit with our crazy ideas,” Büsser says.

“If one person wants to create a beautiful product and the other one just want to make money, it’s not going to work.”

Max Büsser, founder and creative director of MB&F

While the concept always comes from MB&F, his partners’ R&D teams help bring the technical drawing to fruition and manufacture the end-product. However, it’s not easy to find the right partner so some of the creations have remained on the drawing board: “I’ve had some companies turn me away because they think we’re too avant-garde or because they don’t think they’ll make enough money from the project,” Büsser says, adding, “That’s fine—to make it work you really need to see eye to eye and have the same values; you need to have both parties wanting to take creative risks. If one person wants to create a beautiful product and the other one just want to make money it’s not going to work.”

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