Do you agree when we say, there are two extremes in today’s industry? On the one hand, the market leaders have grown to be truly massive, and on the other, they’re all marketing-focused powerhouses obsessed with expansion and consumer satisfaction. Therefore, it results in less originality, less willingness to take chances, and less overall artistry.
But, it takes courage to go against the grain of the established watchmaking industry by launching a new, independent brand from your home, and it takes even more to avoid failure and, 15 years on, receive praise for your innovative approach.
Who are we talking about? The champion of independent watchmaking. The creator of innovative horological machines. The man who needs no introduction. The man who understood the passion for ‘functional art’, conquering the hearts of people despite the prevalence of the big boys to founding the first horological laboratory in 2005. It’s none other than Maximilian Büsser, founder at MB&F.
In a recent travel to the Middle-East, we caught up with this class-apart watchmaker to discuss the business of independent watchmaking, the co-creations and collaborations by MB&F! Yes, it doesn’t always have to be about watches, yet somehow the essence remains the same! Let’s see what interesting facts and stories Max take us through.
Have you ever dreamed of getting your hands on a Sarpaneva Moomin? Or admired the intricately designed M.A.D one? There’s so much more to watches than you think! And the one thought that is always less spoken about is independent watchmakers. How is the business of independent watchmaking? Decoding this journey Max said, “All of us have very rough decades and to find people who resonated on the same wavelengths as us was tough. But, the past three years have come in as a blessing in disguise. Post-pandemic we saw an enormous wave of new clients who loved our work and the demand grew. At first, we could not gauge where this was coming from and how to react to it. Despite this, we did. As independent watchmakers, we don’t do this because it’s our business, it’s because it’s our calling. We love what we do and the only thing we know how to do. This has given us our purpose!
We all want to enjoy the freedom of being your ‘own boss’. But, have you ever thought about the challenges that come with it? To budding entrepreneurs, Max has some advice for you all. “If you think you want to create a brand because you hate your job, you need to think twice. You will be thankful for going back to your job because with independent brands the failures are enormous. If you look at yourself in the mirror and feel regret for not doing something, only then do it. This is when it’s your calling! Pride has to be the biggest denominator that keeps you going. Since the past two years, it has become much easier commercially, however if you are not ready to empower people around you, it’s going to be tough. Simply put, you cannot build a brand alone.”
Moving on, we deep-dived into the post-COVID state of the watch industry. To this Max said, “Buyers during COVID realised that watches are just a by-product of a larger story. For most people the definition of watches differ – “product of art, product of craftsmanship or a product to show-off”. But for me, it’s a by-product of a story of people who took a risk to create that timepiece and those who followed their calling. When I look at my F.P.Journe or my Vianney Halter timepiece, I don’t simply see a watch. I see it as a story of these crazy human beings who came together to create something extraordinary!”
And now, let’s move to the one aspect that MB&F stands out for- its Co-creations and collaborations. Giving an insight into this ‘M.A.D’ world, Max said, “It’s born out of as much desire as frustration. When you start creating for yourself it’s like an addiction. I wanted to take risks and keep creating – that’s what fueled my desire. When it comes to frustration, it was the finances. But, it’s mind-boggling to note that we came out with 20 calibers in 17 years! Due to limited finances, implementing my numerous ideas was tough. These co-creations gave me an outlet to express my ideas. From devising the plan to set-up the first M.A.D Gallery in Geneva, to working with a group of youngsters with whom we could come up with the first Music Machine, clocks, meeting the right manufacturers – it’s all about synchronicity. I met L’Epee 10 years ago with a simple sketch and since then we’ve come out with 13 clocks.”
We’ve all seen the buzz behind MB&F collaborations with L’Epee, Reuge and the recent one with French Jewellery designer, Emmanuel Tarpin. What can we expect in 2023? Max said, “We won’t have any collaborations this year because we are extremely overwhelmed the past 18-24 months trying to get our traditional timepieces out along with the R&D for the projects lined up until 2031. While we see several brand collabs around us, it’s not something we want to get caught up with. For me, a real collab is when two completely different worlds come together to create something that neither one had thought of creating and that which retains the DNA of both the brands.”
Lastly, the one collaboration that Max would really like to do is an Atmos! “It’s my first-love and has got a special place in my heart.”
Max also shares his top 5 co-creations with L’Epee 1839 and more in the entire interview on our channel.