Designer casts off chains of reality

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 November, 2011, 12:00am


Maximilian B?sser of MB&F gave up a dream job to set out on his own. His dream job was working with Harry Winston, making watches that were already groundbreaking pieces of creativity and innovation, so you had to wonder what he would actually come up with next.

His wristwatches are eye-catching, sometimes controversial and often don't even look like wristwatches. He certainly did what he said he wanted, which was to 'cast off the chains of reality and let his creative spirit soar free'.

Take Horological Machine # 4, which he named Thunderbolt and which is the basis for a one-of-a-kind piece meant to raise money for the battle against children's muscular dystrophy.

Besides looking more like jet engines than a watch, it has a small panda sitting on it. The HM4 itself is clearly inspired by a childhood dream, but it had to be produced in reality and entirely from scratch. Because of the unusual shapes and architecture, no off-the-shelf mechanisms or parts were able to be used.

Two streamlined jet turbine-styled pods are supported by a horizontal section that actually houses the engine (mechanicals) itself. The pod on the left as it sits on your wrist holds an indicator of fuel, the power reserve, while the right holds a surprisingly and refreshingly traditional two-hand display. Two bold, arrow-tipped Super-LumiNova-filled hands indicate hours and minutes, and the treatment is just like aviation instruments or pilot's watches, right up to the triangle flanked by two dots and the fact that there is no logo actually on the dial.

Each nacelle has its own crown, one to wind the watch and one to set the time, integrated smoothly into the rear. Looking down, you see through specially shaped sapphire crystal that took more than a hundred hours of intricate machining to produce.

It allows the viewing of a good amount of the mechanical goings-on, with a distinctive streamlined cock supporting the balance, its centre cut away to allow a look at the oscillating wheel.

The sapphire portion allows a wonderful view of the finely finished workmanship of the movement, although in the case of this particular piece the view is slightly obstructed by the removable panda that sits on the top of the jets, trying to rein them in.

The panda is the work of Paris-based Chinese artist Huang Hankang. B?sser saw a painting of a panda flying on a rocket a few years ago, and bought it because it lifted his spirits. Huang was asked to join this project in support of the Only Watch auction, and his original painting of the design accompanies the watch to the home of the buyer. The solid gold panda was hand-carved then cast in 18ct white gold, the reins made of twisted gossamer filaments of gold. Photos of the panda and his flying machine circulated on the internet as they visited landmarks around the world.