“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.