Maximilian Büsser of MB&F invents 'horological machines' through collaborations of minds and strengths
Maximilian Büsser of MB&F comes up with 'horological machines' through collaboration of minds and strengths, writes Carl Cunanan
Maximilian Büsser doesn't exactly know how his day will begin or, rather, in which direction his one-year-old daughter will take him. When he is in Geneva, he dedicates the first hour of his day to her. "A fun or zen moment, it depends on the day," says the founder of MB&F (Maximilian Büsser & Friends).
From there, he launches into creativity as he heads to either the MB&F headquarters or the M.A.D. Gallery in Geneva. Starting the day with passion is a wonderful way to fire up, and Büsser seems very good at firing people up. In an industry where heritage and brand names are of paramount importance, he chose to go the way of collaboration, of partnership, of the "F" in MB&F.
The watch world almost lost him. The young Büsser, with a master's degree in microtechnology engineering, made the rounds of the multinational conglomerates and was nearly swallowed up. Lucky for us - and, as he says, very lucky for him - he ended up with watch manufacturer Jaeger-LeCoultre in the early 1990s, and the collaboration seemed to have transformed each of them.
In 1998 at the age of 31, he became managing director of Harry Winston Rare Timepieces in Geneva. Transformations again took place, with the luxury brand becoming a serious name in the advancement and daring of the modern haute horlogerie world, and with Büsser spending much of his time bringing together increasingly impressive names to make increasingly impressive timepieces.
He learned he was able to gather and, perhaps more importantly, motivate people and teams that were passionate, creative, technical, demanding and often easily at odds with each other.
Taking the dreams of visionaries, challenging them to imagine more, and then turning everything into a work of art that sits on your wrist suddenly became Büsser's ambition. MB&F was born, and the company, its people and friends are quick to point out that it is not a watch brand. It is, according to them, "an artistic and micro-engineering concept laboratory in which collectives of independent horological professionals are assembled each year to design and craft radical horological machines".
MB&F's first Horological Machine was released in 2007. It was a three-dimensional multilevel piece that challenged the preconception of what a watch should look like. It also pushed technical barriers with four barrels connected in both parallel and series, and with energy transmitted to the regulating system from two sources simultaneously.
With this piece the worlds of art and science, of old and new, were successfully melded, and thus MB&F began its ascendance.
The themes of challenge, chaos and movement seem to be fixtures in Büsser's life. He seems to be always on the move. His abilities lie in reining in the different dimensional horses and creating order. He does this by understanding everyone's strengths and weaknesses and addressing them, including his own.
When asked what takes up most of his time, he says: "I am a control freak, which is incredibly time-consuming and often not productive." Just as he did with other visionaries, he set up systems of support.
"I have been able to assemble a fantastic team at MB&F which allows me to relinquish control on all day-to-day work," he says. "But I am still a pretty big tyrant on everything which touches the creative [side] of our company."
The Horological Machines that MB&F first began producing in 2007 are machines that also tell the time, not machines made to tell time. While completely capable of indicating what time it is often in an innovative and fun way, they generally don't resemble a classic wristwatch.
But models from a newer line, the Legacy Machines, look more like traditional wristwatches, at least when compared to the Horological Machines. Paying homage to the traditional arts, crafts and traditions of 18th- and 19th-century watchmaking, the Legacy Machines are an interpretation of what MB&F might have produced a hundred years ago to challenge the industry back then.
Challenge is a constant with Büsser, and it shows in the directions he takes his group's work. When asked what gives him the most fulfilment, he says: "Exploring uncharted territory and seeing the bewildered smiles around me."
When asked to name the most challenging thing he ever faced, Büsser points to the hard-numbers side of the business rather than the creative side. "Being a self-financed entrepreneur is a never-ending challenge," he says, "and I could not live any differently."
The challenges continue as Büsser collects new friends - but not just the horologically-minded. If you visit the MB&F M.A.D. Gallery in old-town Geneva, you will see a collection of art and pieces that aren't held together solely by the theme of time. They're more a collection of creative designs and projects of various directions - everything from small mechanical bugs and desktop heat engines to room-filling sculptures and wall-covering prints. There is always motion and movement, whether it is actual in terms of kinetic pieces or snapshots of time such as the beautiful exploded images of classic car bodies. Inspiration comes from anywhere and everywhere, from nature to science to Japanese cartoon robots.
Another example is a recent collaboration with Swiss music box maker Reuge takes an acoustic music-maker and transforms it into what would best be described as a sleek, futuristic and sensuously-sculpted spaceship.
It is clear where Büsser is at his best, and it is something that he found out only after accumulating years of work experience. He is a creator who sees different items, ideas and strengths, and manages to bring together direction from what others - including himself - may see as chaos. That is his world.
"After many years of total chaos on my desk, I have finally managed to clear virtually everything," Büsser says.
The chaos is just another part, another dimension, another force that he must harness. It is an integral part of his process and his world. "I am confident the chaos will creep back again, and I am looking forward to it," he says.
Graduates from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne with a master’s degree in microtechnology engineering
Starts his career at Jaeger-LeCoultre
Recruited as managing director of Harry Winston Rare Timepieces
Launches the first Harry Winston “Opus” timepiece – Opus 1 (Büsser and his team will create the first five Opus pieces)
Resigns from Harry Winston to start Maximilian Büsser & Friends (MB&F)
Introduces Horological Machine No 1 (HM1 “The Genesis”). The shape of the case – two circles overlapping, forming an 8 – symbolises the aims of MB&F
Launches a new, more classic line: Legacy Machine No 1
Launches Horological Machine No 5 – HM5 “On the Road Again” – inspired by supercars such as the Lamborghini Miura
Introduces the first MB&F machine that does not tell time – “MusicMachine” – a collaboration with the music box manufacturer Reuge
First movement fully developed in-house