MAD Machines: Designs of the Time

Horological machines are as much, if not more, art and sculpture as they are micro-engineering. They are machines which tell the time rather than machines to tell the time.”

Maximillian Büsser is, hands down, one of the most innovative watchmakers in the business and his new gallery is a testament to the vision and creativity that he brings to the world of haute horology. The pieces conceived and displayed here defy all expectations of a traditional timepiece and celebrate his vision of mechanical artistry and sculptural engineering to create a world where keeping time can become performance art.

A graduate of Lausanne with a Masters degree in Micro-Technology Engineering, Büsser went to work for Winston Rare Timepieces in 1998, at the age of 31. In his seven years there, he helped to transform the brand’s image and introduced the astonishingly original Opus timepieces.

Winston Opus V
Winston Opus V

The Opus collection was born of collaborative efforts between Büsser and a variety of independent watchmakers and mechanical designers. The overwhelming success of the Opus designs inspired Büsser to resign from Winston in 2005 and embark upon an independent endeavor with the goal of continuing to foster creative collaborations and ensuring conceptual freedom in mechanical design.

Thus was born MB&F. Maximillian Büsser and Friends is a creative collective dedicated to producing the most impressively daring, artistic, provocative, whimsical and downright fun horological machines of our… time. Working with a host of talented and creative conspirators, the stated goal of MB&F is to assemble teams dedicated to “design and craft each year a radical and original horological masterpiece.” Typically consisting of thirty to forty individuals, each member of the team focuses on a specific aspect of the production process. Büsser and Eric Giraud, a trained-architect-turned-industrial-designer, do most of the designing for the timepieces; other “friends” focus on the movement, face, case and buckle as well as handle things like communications, photography and sales.

In less than seven years, MB&F has produced seven distinct “horological machines” and one “legacy machine,” meant to pay homage to traditional watchmaking of the 18th and 19th centuries. The individual designs come in a variety of colors and metals, but the spirit remains the same within each incarnation. The HM1 came right out of the gate with an unusually shaped face and three separate dials – the hours and the minutes each have their own. The HM2 also has two dials, but set into a square casing; on the right side one can tell the hours and minutes and, on the left, the retrograde date and bi-hemispheric moon phase. The HM3, which has its own unique shape, comes in four different versions: Starcruiser, Sidewinder, Frog and Rebel. The HM4, reminiscent of jet engines, doesn’t even face out the way a typical watch does and it has two limited edition versions that include miniature paintings of pin-ups meant to mimic the ‘nose art’ that was so common on fighter planes in WWII.

MB&F Horological Machines 1, 2, 3 & 4
MB&F Horological Machines 1, 2, 3 & 4 (Right to left, top to bottom)

In addition to the regular timepieces, MB&F has also introduced “Performance Art” versions, specially designed by various artists, that add even more delightful creative dimensions to pieces that are already full of surprise.

The HM2 Only Watch - designed by Sage Vaughn
The HM2 Only Watch – designed by Sage Vaughn
MB&F Jewelry Machine - a jewel-encrusted version of the HM3 - designed by House of Boucheron
MB&F Jewelry Machine – a jewel-encrusted version of the HM3 – designed by House of Boucheron
The HM4 Only Watch - designed by Huang Hankang
The HM4 Only Watch – designed by Huang Hankang

But that isn’t all Büsser is doing. In January, MB&F opened its first gallery in Geneva. The MAD (Mechanical Art Devices) Gallery at Rue Verdaine 11 has shown everything from fantastical wristwatches to tiny safes, applause and finger tapping machines, innovative and odd-looking vehicles and even a human-like robot. It is a testament to the amazing possibilities of engineering and mechanics, but also to the ingenuity and originality of each artist that has been involved.

MB&F Gallery Pieces
MB&F Gallery Pieces by Tatsuya Matsui, Nik Ramage, Xia Hang and Nika Zupanc

With so much enthusiasm, talent and commitment dedicated to a common goal, one can’t help but wait with anticipation for the next innovation to come out of MB&F. And to hope for a gallery to open up closer to home.

Blancpain: Time For Taste

Haute horology and haute cuisine have much in common – beyond the obvious need for impeccable timing. Both require a refined focus on presentation, nuance, innovation, surprise, technical mastery and, of course, taste. So it should come as no surprise that Swiss watchmaster Blancpain was invited to join the selection panel charged with choosing the Swiss culinary representative to compete in the prestigious Bocuse d’Or European contest this March.

Blancpain at Bocuse d'Or Suisse - February 6, 2012
Blancpain at Bocuse d’Or Suisse – February 6, 2012

Conceived in 1985 following the second Sirha – an international catering, hotel and food trade fair held every other year in Lyon, France originally known as the “Salon des Métiers de Bouche – by famed chef Paul Bocuse and director of the event venue Albert Romain, the Bocuse d’Or competition has been held in conjunction with the international event ever since.
With the intention of staging a live competition in front of an audience (something the trade fair, or Bravo television network, had yet to do) as a way to wrap up the well-attended event, Bocuse dreamed of “a row of kitchen booths, we’ll have young chefs from all over the world and a jury composed of international gastronomy stars will taste and mark the performances.” He contacted friends and colleagues from around the world and it was decided that each country would select one candidate to compete. The chef in charge of the national selection process would then become a judge for the international event.
The first Bocuse d’Or took place in 1987. Twenty countries participated and Joël Robuchon presided over a jury that consisted of some of the best chefs in the world: Jean Banchet, Albert Schnell, Heinz Winckler and Masakichi Ono, among others. The first trophy went to Jacky Freon of France.
In 2007, in an attempt to foster even more international participation, the Bocuse d’Or competition announced that it would begin holding continental competitions. Victorious chefs would then participate in the international Bocuse d’Or held at Sirha. This year, the Bocuse d’Or Europe will take place as part of Horeca Life during Brusselicious, the 2012 Year of Gastronomy on March 20 ad 21. Twenty participating countries have been announced and the top twelve places will qualify for the final competition in 2013.
On February 6, Switzerland chose its competitor, with the help of Blancpain. The 17-person Swiss jury was chaired by Frank Giovannini and included such culinary greats as Philippe Rochat, Freddy Giradet and Roland Pierroz. The winner, Teo Chiaravalloti, a sous chef from the Hotel Villa Principe Leopoldo in Lugano, won a Blancpain Fifty Fathoms watch – perfect for standing up to the gauntlet of the gastronomical profession – as well as the chance to compete in one of the world’s most prestigious culinary competitions.

Blancpain at Bocuse d'Or Suisse with winner Teo Chiaravalotti
Blancpain at Bocuse d’Or Suisse with winner Teo Chiaravalotti

Other parts of the world have already selected their global competitors: the US will be sending Chef Richard Rosendale of The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia; Latin America will be sending Chef Marcos Jose Saenz Gonzales from Guatemala, Chef Fabio Enrique Watanbe from Brazil and Chef Hugo Cesar Ahumada Dominguez from Mexico.
The Bocuse d’Or Finals will take place in Lyon next year on January 29 and 30.

Ebel Luxury Watchmaker Sends Holiday Wishes for 2012

Written by: Lisa Pearson

E.B.E.L. or Ebel, which stands for Eugene Blum et Levy in honor of the founders of the company, Swiss watchmaker Eugene Levy and his wife Alice Levy. The luxury watch company has long referred to themselves as the “Architects of Time.” From their early beginnings in 1911 in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Neuchâtel, Switzerland; Ebel has been creating elegant and classic timepieces with their extensive link to the world of architecture and design. Ebel created and released their first timepiece in 1912. In 1935, they became the first Swiss watchmaker to introduce the Western Electric precision and quality control standards. They became most famous for their 1911 line of sports watches that debuted in 1986.

Photo of Ebel 1911 watch
Photo of Ebel 1911 BTR watch

Regarding their rich history, the Ebel website states, “At the heart of EBEL watches beat an incredible artistic signature. One that shares with the finest architects a tireless quest for absolute beauty and perfection; one that honours know-how and talent…the EBEL brand has built its reputation upon cardinal values uniting classical elegance and sculptural designs with a passion for fine workmanship and watchmaking mastery. Faithfully preserved and yet constantly reinterpreted, these values are the fingerprint of the Architects of Time.”

Ebel has created timeless pieces which attract watch connoisseurs as well as everyday watch snobs alike. They set themselves apart from competitors by creating quality and premium pieces that are at a lower price point than other luxury watchmakers.

Ebel exudes class, elegance, and above all, they are philanthropic. In March 2011, the people of Fukushima, Japan as well as other nearby cities endured a horrible earthquake and tsunami. Many people lost their loved ones, homes, farms, cars, pets, and many other important things in their lives. Many people were also in danger of exposure to radiation as the Fukushima power plant was affected by the earthquake.

While many non-profit groups as well as celebrities as well as people from all over the world reached out to help the citizens of Japan, Ebel also stepped in to help.

In December 2011, Ebel released a short but touching video on their website titled Ebel Seasons Greetings for 2012 that simply yet powerfully says:

“In the Spirit of the Season, Ebel has chosen to share its wishes and support with a people touched by deep tragedy in 2011.Ebel is sending the nation of Japan a holiday gift to help fund the work of reconstruction. To you, our cherished friends, colleagues and customers, we offer our very best wishes for a peaceful 2012.”

Eloquently and humbly stated, Ebel shares their wishes for a peaceful 2012 for the world. Ebel, who has long made a name for themselves with their creative and quality timepieces will undoubtedly continue the legacy of Eugene Blum and Alice Levy.