MB&F HM11 Architect

Home is where the heart is

A new premises for MB&F and a brand new horological machine celebrate the idea of home – but Swiss watchmaking’s iconoclastic indie still wants a start-up mentality to be at the centre of his brand, wherever his team happens to be located.
Max Busser
Max Busser

As we know, MB&F founder Max Busser loves to travel – so much so that he even brought his Swiss watch brand to Dubai. Today there are MB&F M.A.D.Gallery (M.A.D. stands for Mechanical Art Devices) in Geneva, Taipei, Dubai and Hong Kong.
Now, happily ensconced in a stunning new property in which the team will doubtless create and develop even more mechanical marvels, MB&F unveils its latest horological machine – the HM11 Architect, an ode to experimental design and the idea of home.

Dubai Watch Week is now a highlight of the watchmaking industry calendar, but of course MB&F was the first Swiss watch brand to officially make Dubai home from home. Now you’ve also got a house in Geneva for the brand? Where does the heart of the brand feel most at home these days?
My home is Dubai, MB&F’s home is in Geneva. Have been living a schizophrenic life for nearly ten years and it worked out well for both the brand and my family.

How did you discover the M.A.D House and what compelled you to acquire it for MB&F?
We are actually only renting – it was built in 1907 and has been owned by the same Geneva family since 1949.
I was getting very very depressed visiting big aseptic office spaces for the better part of two years. One day during a visit of the umpteenth boring office, I saw this beautiful old house through a window, and told the realtor THAT was what I was really looking for. Instead of shrugging me off, he actually said “well maybe something can be done”. I had no idea that the space I was visiting and the old house were both owned by the same family. The rest is history.

With a big house – will we see bigger quantities released at MB&F?
From 2013 to 2021 we had willingly decided to remain at the same size – which meant productions oscillating between 210 to 280 pieces/year. This year we will achieve about 395 pieces but demand is easily five- to tenfold that. That increase was very difficult to achieve and we do not wish the company to grow anymore over the next three years.

HM11 Architect is your upcoming major release , the latest in the futuristic machines that consistently surprise and defy categorization. How much fun do you have creating these pieces?
That is where I derive by far the most pleasure. Horological Machines are the fundamentals of MB&F. They are the kinetic sculptures which define who we are. They allow me to explore free from historical burdens.

MB&F M.A.D.1.GREEN has got watch lovers in a spin, but of course is available only to a lucky few by lottery. From a brand perspective why did you decide to introduce this ‘accessible but almost impossible to acquire’ watch and has the subsequent frenzied desire for MB&F watches reached its apex yet?
The M.A.D. 1 was solely created for friends and family. It was originally only offered to the artisans who had worked with us and the clients who had bought MB&F pieces. It was meant as a thank you and then took a life of its own – something we had not anticipated and it scared us a lot. We cannot allow M.A.D. Editions to take energy off our MB&F mission.
Interestingly it seems the M.A.D. 1 has not only reinforced MB&F’s image (which is pretty counter-intuitive), it has also allowed some of our more conservative clients who only enjoyed Legacy Machines to start eyeing a Horological Machine !

Being creative, thought-provoking and bringing people together is part of the world of MB&F. Have these values evolved since you started?
They have very much remained the pillars of MB&F – We have added a fourth dimension stemming from our own experience: inspiring people to take more risks, be more creative and follow their own path in life.
What was the most challenging period of MB&F, and do you think your toughest years are now behind you?
Every era had its own challenges. The first ten years were brutal. We had some very scary moments and came close to bankruptcy a few times. From 2014 to 2019 it was a little easier but still very tough and I maybe fell into a pattern. 2020 and the pandemic helped me shift gears and pivot on many subjects. The last three years have been incredible. Having said that, the challenges have shifted alongside the paradigms. Our biggest issues are now making sure our team, which has grown substantially, will maintain a start-up attitude whilst bringing more process and sustainability to the company.

What’s your favourite thing about the watchmaking industry that isn’t the watches?
The people ! At least those who actually love watches and watchmaking.