For people who eventually fall down the rabbit hole of this small and niche hobby, there are so many names in watches and watchmaking that you absolutely NEED to know about. We at Horology Obsessed have started a new blog series called "Icons in Horology" to cover all the need to knows in the watch world and give their full story to the best of our ability.
There is one man in the that is an absolute community builder and finds every ounce of beauty in humanity which is always portrayed through his beautiful and stunningly unique timepieces and other vast oddities. Today, we look at a man who worked at Jaeger LeCoultre, brought the timepiece division back to life for former jewelry giant Harry Winston with the beautiful "Opus V" and is now an Owner/Designer of his own independent watch brand Maximilian Büsser & Friends, also known as MB&F. Today we talk about none other than Max Büsser himself.
For those that know the brand MB&F, they are more than aware of the futuristic and science-fiction stylings of their timepieces. Each piece is conceptualized, designed and created by a team of exceptional creators, artists and visionaries (up to 90 collaborators total) with Max in the hot seat ensuring everything runs as smooth as and effectively as possible. However, the man who created this brand and designs these examples of mechanical and technical splendour doesn't exactly have the typical training of your "modern" watch maker.
MB&F Horological Machine No. 10
For most of us, we are all brought into the world of watches in a very similar way, Max included. Max is a classically trained engineer that had absolutely 0 links to watch making at all. At the age of 18, he had very little interest in watches due to the fact that mechanical watches were slowly becoming labelled as antiquated technology and the Swiss watch industry was starting to essentially die out. However, as Max pointed out in an episode of Hodinkee Radio, his parents wanted to buy him a watch which then got the gears turning in his mind about timepieces.
The life before the watch maker
Max attended and graduated from the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (shown left) with a Master's degree in Microtechnology engineering. While in university, there was a course which involved engineering and sociology. After a conversation in regards to the price of a Rolex with a fellow classmate, Max used that course to contact the CEOs of the big Swiss watch brands (AP, Vacheron Constantine, Jaeger LeCoultre etc.) to interview them and learn more about why brands are still manufacturing a product that is in a technically dying industry. During these interviews, Max was introduced to the beauty in engineering. All the CEOs essentially told him the same thing, "We know what we do is pointless, but it's so beautiful." This was a big awakening for Max which lead him down the path to the watch industry even more.
Jaeger LeCoultre - 1991-1998
In 1991, Max was skiing with friends at a resort in Verbier, Switzerland where he ran into Henry-John Belmont, the then CEO of Jaeger LeCoultre. When Mr. Belmont asked Max what his plans were since graduating university, Max went on to explain that he was in the interview process with companies such as Nestle and Proctor & Gamble. As the conversation was nearing an end Max describes "At the end of the conversation I said 'Well Mr. Belmont, if I don't get hired by Nestle, you could always give me a job at Jaeger.' " A couple months later, Max was asked to meet with Mr. Belmont at Jaeger (factory shown above) where he was taken on a 3 hour tour of the factory and shown all the beautiful concepts and designs that were to be produced. Max listened to every idea and at the end of it, without being asked a single question, Mr. Belmont turned around and told Max "you got the job." Receiving that response was an obvious shock which lead Max to inform Mr. Belmont that he was in the middle of his interviews with P&G and Nestle, to which his rebuttal was "Young man you have to know one important thing in your life. Do you want to be one amongst 200,000 in a big corporation, or do you want to be one among the 3 or 4 of us that are going to save Jaeger?" That question was then answered the next day with Max joining Jaeger LeCoultre. Max worked a variety of positions during his time at Jaeger which included working as a product manager along side Günther Bluemlein, the man who helped relaunch IWC and with a small team took on A. Lange & Söhne, which for Max was a large developmental milestone for his career.
Harry Winston Timepiece Division - 1998-2005
While working at Jaeger, Max was head hunted to spearhead and essentially rebuild the timepiece division for then jewelry giant, Harry Winston. At just 31 years old, Max was in charge of a small team in a company that was going bankrupt and their timepiece division was not showing any form of growth. When Max finally entered the company, he explained to then CEO of Harry Winston, Ronald Winston, that he was not there to make diamond covered quartz timepieces and that Harry Winston needed to create a timepiece that was completely unique and would shake the world of watches as they knew it. Max was giving the green light by Mr. Winston and the hunt began and the watch that was produced by Max, the team at Harry Winston, Felix Baumgartner and with the help of a beautiful movement created by none other than Francois Paul Journe (F.P. Journe), the beautiful Opus series and the Opus V were born (shown above). In the release of the Opus line, it was a massive release for Harry Winston and completely stabilized the brand and grew their timepiece division greatly.
The birth of MB&F - 2005-Present
With the great success Max had experienced at Harry Winston growing the brand up 10x from $8 million to $80 million with his new creations and stunning timepieces through the Opus line, he began to notice with more success the more unhappy he was becoming. This caused Max to re-evaluate his path in the horological world thus creating the realization that he needed to create his own brand. His first creation and concept was the Horological Machine No. 1 (shown right). Released in 2007, the HM No.1 contains the world’s first movement with four barrels connected in both parallel and series, as well as the first wristwatch movement to have energy transmitted to the regulating system from two sources simultaneously. Right off the bat and his first release of his new brand, Max brought something into the world that was an engineering marvel and extremely unique. Now in the MB&F catalogue, there are 10 different models in the HM lineup, the Legacy Machine lineup with 7 models and a smattering of collaborations with different brands and artists. In continuing with his brand and always creating, Max has produced some of the most beautifully intrinsic and mesmerizing timepieces in the history of watch making and continues to produce absolutely gorgeous pieces of mechanical and wearable art. From the Horological Machine to the Legacy Machine, wall clocks to stunning pieces with other collaborators, Max is an absolute legend in the horological community and to this day continues to make absolutely beautiful timepieces and other magnificent objects. In our opinion, Max is truly one of the greatest creators and greatest examples of horological genius in the modern watch era. If you're interested in checking out Max's beautiful works of art, click the link to the MB&F website - https://www.mbandf.com/en
MB&F Legacy Machine "Thunderdome"