Maximillian Büsser and The Knighted Rebels

Silencing those of us who question the lack of creative novelty in the 21st century.
13 years ago the father of one of the greatest watchmakers of our time passed away. Perhaps it is true what they say, that every disappointment is a blessing, because with the passing of his father, Maximillian Büsser, Founder and CEO of luxury watch brand Maximillian Büsser & Friends(MB&F), decided to take a leap into the unknown and dared to dream. This dream of his became very much a vivid reality. He dreamt of leaving Harry Winston, the company he virtually rescued from bankruptcy, only to start all over again. Only this time the purpose was to nurture his love and passion. With that, MB&F was born, a watch brand with the soul of an artist.

Each time piece is a three dimensional kinetic work of art, some inspired by day dreams of Büsser’s childhood, others inspired by the simple need to transform passion into creation. Regardless the source of inspiration the result remains the same, time is told in an innovative and unfettered manner.

In the MB&F showroom the art of watchmaking is displayed amongst other eccentric “machines”, as it features unique sculptures from other artists and creators that are up and coming. We had the chance to dive into the brilliant mind of Maximillian Büsser, the mad scientist, so to speak behind MB&F, read about his wonderful advice for entrepreneurs and his appreciation and perception of uninhibited creation. Then admire photographs from the MB&F gallery in following pages.

In a world of mass marketing, where big companies mold consumers to their will, I think MB&F is a cry of rebellion

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What motivated you to create Maximillian Büsser & Friends?

When I started at Harry Winston it was a big shock because I did not know the company was being sold and H.W. Timepieces was virtually bankrupt. This was 16 years ago, I was 31, and I felt I had done the biggest error of my life. With a team of 7 people we were working like hell creating a new strategy, travelling like crazy to help get out of that hole without New York ever helping us in any way. I learned two things through growing the company and becoming really successful: first is that I am capable of doing it. You do not know what you’re capable of doing until you are confronted to it. The second is much more amazing for me: it is that the bigger the company was growing, the more I had what most men want – recognition, power, money or your face in the newspaper  – the less I was enjoying myself. Even though it was easier and easier, it was becoming less and less pleasurable – and I didn’t understand why.

It was my father’s passing away 13 years ago that made me realise this is not the life I want to live, not the life I would be proud of on the day I pass away. So I started dreaming about what would later become MB&F but I didn’t have the funds to get started and I just put the idea into a drawer and closed it. Yet, every time I opened the drawer I thought ‘..that’s a fantastic idea!’ and I started opening the drawer more and more often. Then two things happened much like when you fall in love: A) you become completely stupid, and B) you stop reasoning – because you’re obsessed. And suddenly everything was about that. I just had to do it.

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MB&F is about giving a real art perspective to watchmaking. We deconstruct the most beautiful movements of the past to reconstruct them into 3D pieces of kinetic art which give time.
You have said that your childhood is a great inspiration for your work. Is there a specific moment in your childhood that was a defining moment?

I was an only child – and a very lonely one at that. And the only way I could escape my loneliness was by day-dreaming, so by the age of ten I was a full time superhero saving the world, a fighter pilot during the second world war, or Luke Skywalker and Han Solo.

Those are the years that formed partly the man I am today, and I transfer many of those child’s dreams into our kinetic sculptures at MB&F.
Your bespoke, and what some may call positively crazy approach to watch making is both innovative and creative, even when you seem to be inspired by the more traditional sense of watchmaking. Why do you think this approach is important?

A watch has one goal: to give you time, and our Horological Machine is a work of art which by the way gives you time. Since 1970 (and the quartz movements) no one needs a mechanical movement anymore to read time, so the only reason anyone would create, develop, craft or own one of those pieces is because they are works of ART. And that is where MB&F asks a seminal question: why do mechanical watches from 2014 look like the practical time-telling objects of 1960 ? Isn’t it crazy ?

I love to create three dimensional pieces of kinetic art which give time. Many are indeed references to my childhood, to the roaring seventies (which were by the way one of the most incredible creative eras of the 20th century), to what made or makes my heart beat faster…

In a world of mass marketing, where big companies mould consumers to their will, I think MB&F is a cry of rebellion. A shout which comes from very deep and says “Wake up, think for yourself, create for yourself, stop being what everyone else wants you to be”

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We often say that some of the greatest creative minds are a little crazy, in the best of ways. What would you say is your “craziest” characteristic? 

On a creative side, to never think about what clients want. The greatest innovation has always come from selfish creators who needed to transform their creative obsession into reality. I invite you to read Ayn Rand’s famous novel called “The Fountainhead”. It is a great eye-opener on how real creators work.
Does it influence your work process and if so how?

All the time. In a world where everyone is driving down the same highway – some in sports cars, other on bicycles – we have decided to park our car on the side of the road, and enter on foot into the jungle with only a machete. It is exhilarating to create your own path and to actually not know where it is going to take us. To be able to truly create, you need to let go of trying to control your own destiny.
The watch, Legacy Machine One, won multiple GPHG awards. How did it feel to have your work so well applauded?

It was fantastic, especially for the whole team who worked on it, and at the same time very weird. It was as if the establishment knighted the rebels.

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In your showroom you fuse the art of watch making with other forms of art. Why did you choose to fuse these two aspects and why is art important to you?

At MB&F we usually feel like aliens in a world of watchmaking normality, and realised that out there were many aliens like us but in their own worlds defying practicality and common sense. Artists, creators, designers who painstakingly created and crafted incredible “Machines” which were often overlooked or misunderstood by their environment. At the M.A.D. Gallery we bring together all these “orphans” to create one jolly family!

For example, by explaining the story of how German “Machine Light” creator, Frank Buchwald, started crafting by hand from scratch less than ten pieces a year of his incredible Machines, we are in fact in one way talking about us. And by introducing to our MB&F fans these amazing creators/creations, we are helping them build an awareness they usually did not have.
Being an entrepreneur is a long and stressful process, how do you stay calm and focused and keep from going “mad” so to speak?

I remind myself at all times how lucky I am. Unlike most people I know, I not only found what makes my heart beat faster, but actually made it happen – so that validates that there are many very stressful moments (we nearly went bankrupt in 2007 and in 2009, and taken our fair share of knocks in the following years) but they are all worthwhile. Of course entrepreneurship, especially if you are a disruptive creator, comes with a price. MB&F is a very big part of my life and it is not easy to balance with family and friends.
You’ve said that relying on yourself is an important aspect of becoming an entrepreneur. What advice would you like to share with our readers who are also thinking of embarking on an entrepreneurial path?

Entrepreneurship has to be a passion – because you have more chances of failing than succeeding. So you must only go down that road if you think your life will have been incomplete had you not tried. It is never about money. It is all about pride. Pride that you have done what you believe in and not what others told you to do.
Would you like to share any of your upcoming ventures with our readers?

2014 is a particularly creative year for us: after the Legacy Machines 101 and the Starfleet Machine (our first clock) we are unveiling this coming week our second MusicMachine – a creative joint venture with Reuge and JMC Lutherie – and will present on September 18th our 3rd iteration of HM5, before launching a world premiere on November 4th our craziest Machine to date: HM6, aka Space Pirate. And that is only for 2014. Get ready for 2015, our 10th anniversary year!