If you had to come up with three adjectives to describe MB&F, what would they be?
You might think at first that the whole point of a brand like MB&F is that it can’t be neatly defined or categorised, but nevertheless there are descriptors that surface more often than others. You’ll probably come up with some variation on the following: three-dimensional, incendiary, anything goes.
The latest Horological Machine from Max Büsser’s creative labs draws elements from the legendary North American race series that ran between 1966 and 1987, the Canadian-American Challenge Cup. So if you’re anything like me and have no knowledge of car stuff, here’s the 411 — the Can-Am (as the race was popularly known) was insanely relaxed about construction limitations, including engine capacity, and became something of a sandbox for car manufacturers to push the limits of performance. Basically, as long as the car met safety regulations, had two seats, and bodywork that enclosed the wheels, you were good to go.
Just as car manufacturers scrambled to combine the best of their technological expertise in one monstrous asphalt demon, the MB&F HM8 takes two of the brand’s most iconic elements — the battle-axe rotor and the heads-up prism display — and wraps them in a sleek metal skin.
MB&F have definitely visited this shape before, with their HM5 and last year’s HMX, but as Büsser firmly states, the HM8 exists because “for me, the story hadn’t finished. It needed to go just that one step further.”
The HM8 is bigger than the HMX. It’s almost the size of the HM5, but you can’t really tell, because the HM5 was pretty solid and the HM8 is as open as it can be. It cleaves closer to the wrist because of the movable lugs, like how a supremely engineered car hugs the road. The metallised sections of sapphire crystal framing the rotor reflect the light that traverses the whole length and width of the watch, light that pours into the movement, bringing exceptional clarity to the time display.
“This is probably one of the coolest pieces I’ll ever design,” says Büsser. “It’s never been more about enjoying myself than with this watch.”
If you had to define the three cornerstones of MB&F, the triangulated points of contact where you go to immerse yourself in its entire philosophy, what would they be?
There’s Max Büsser himself, of course, the MB&F products and how they are a vessel for his creativity and his life stories. He came first. There is also the MAD Gallery, launched in 2011, a repository of wonderful objects that provoke and delight and charm. There is also the MB&F Tribe, the circle of MB&F owners that the brand formed this year.
This completed three-step progression cycle of the institutions of creator, location and audience — not just as abstract spaces or entities, but as formalised quantities — is what signifies (to me anyway) a new phase of MB&F. When visualised, it is both a triangle, the shape with the least number of vertices possible for geometrical stability, and a circle, which has an infinite number of vertices. It is the prism and the rotor, and it marks a stage that is less focused on pure growth and more towards continuous iterative improvement.
Unsurprisingly, that’s how Max Büsser describes the development process of the HM8. “We have all these projects going on at once, and you get some that advance very quickly and others that are blocked for whatever reason, and you have to come back to them in a few months. With this, the evolution was continuous. I started with the flat base and this front-facing cylinder, and [long-time design collaborator] Eric Giroud started making some sketches. I still felt there was something missing, and it came to me that it would be super cool to have these roll bars connecting the two shapes, so we worked that in. I still felt that it needed more, so we continued to fine tune the shape of the bars, which were originally cylindrical in cross section and gradually became more streamlined. This is how it happened. We just kept at it until everything flowed together as you see it today.”
If you had to pull together three reasons that encapsulate just how and why MB&F matters to our time, our generation, what would they be?
I’ll give you a hint — the answer’s in the preceding sentence. The answer is the name of the company, which locates the internal universe of one man within a multiverse of dynamic forces. These are the Kari Voutilainens, the Stepan Sarpanevas, the Jean-François Mojons, the Eric Girouds, the Jean-Marc Wiederrechts, the creative powerhouses of horology that illuminate and energise our industry. People like Serge and Charris and Hervé, who give mass and gravity to the company so that anyone who walks past a MAD Gallery (three and counting) or encounters an MB&F watch is inevitably drawn into its orbit.
Maximilian Büsser. And. Friends.
We are one and we are many, a complex human experience that is unique to our time, with its all-pervading technology that simultaneously connects and isolates. MB&F’s perspective of multiverse-watchmaking offers us more than just interesting timepieces; it shows us how to navigate modern existence as individuals with multiple tribal identities.
These are the experiences we carry when we wear an MB&F watch, or any watch for that matter. Büsser’s personal watch collection, apart from the classic must-haves, includes pieces made by everyone he’s worked with. “When I put the watches on my wrist, it’s not the product that I care about so much as the stories that these guys went through in order to bring their products to life.”
In other words, it’s the journey. And when you go on a journey to create a watch with MB&F, it’s different from any other journey, with any other company.
“First of all,” says Büsser, “I never start off creating a watch with the cost price in mind.” He pauses in acknowledgement of what he just said. “It’s a really stupid way to do business, I’m aware. But I just don’t think about it. What’s important is for me to find out if something can be done, and if so, who can do it. We’ll figure out the cost later. And we’re very lucky to be able to work like this.”
When you think about it like that, there’s very little question as to why the Can-Am race is so attractive to those in charge of the engine room at MB&F. If it’s cool, do it. If it’s new, do it. If it makes jaws drop in amazement, do it. If it makes everyone else crazy with jealousy that they didn’t do it first, do it. If it makes zero people jealous but we’re doing it just for the sheer joy and exuberance of it, do it. Do it and don’t slow down. Let’s see where we end up. I don’t know about anyone else, but that sounds like a good plan to me.
So, you guys know any watches like that?
ENGINE — Three-dimensional engine conceived and developed by MB&F from a Girard Perregaux base calibre • Automatic battle-axe winding rotor in 22k gold • 42 hours • 28,800bph / 4Hz • 247 components • 30 jewels
FUNCTIONS/INDICATIONS — Bi-directional jumping hours and trailing minutes displayed by two optical prisms that both reflect and magnify
CASE —18k white gold/titanium and 18k red gold/titanium • 49 mm × 51.5 mm × 19 mm • 60 components • 30 m / 90’ / 3 atm water resistance
SAPPHIRE CRYSTALS — All sapphire crystals (front, back, top, bottom) treated with anti-reflective coating on both faces
STRAP & BUCKLE — Hand-stitched alligator strap in marine blue (white-gold case) and dark brown (red-gold case) with folding buckle in matching case material