Interview with MB&F Founder Maximilian Büsser

Celebrating its 10 year anniversary this year, MB&F just recently introduced its latest creation, the Legacy Machine 101 Frost. MB&F is a truly innovative company as it strives to create incredibly horological machines, usually releasing one a year. MB&F brings together some of the greatest minds in the industry, harnessing each individuals strengths and passions to create innovative and unique horological machines. We had the opportunity to interview Maximilian Büsser, founder of MB&F. Below, Büsser discusses his history in the watch industry and his passion for watches.




When did your love of watches begin?

1985, when at 18 my parents wanted to give me a watch as a gift. Their budget was 700.- Swiss Francs (approx. 800US$ and an enormous amount of money for them and for me) and so I started researching what was available at that price. At some point am sitting in university next to a guy who is wearing a watch I did not recognize. I ask him what it is, and he replies “a Rolex”. I have no idea what it is. When he tells me it has a mechanical movement, I look at him in total disbelief, and when he tells me the price (I will always remember: 4’700.- Swiss Francs, the amount I would earn in a year as a cinema usher in the evenings, selling Hi-Fi on Saturdays and giving private math tuitions during lunch break), I insult this poor guy. How on earth can anyone be so crazy or stupid to spend that sort of money on a watch – mechanical at that ????

So now in third year of university we are allowed to choose the subject of a project which must mix sociology and engineering, and I immediately choose: why would anyone pay these insane amounts of money for a watch ? That was not the title, but it was clearly my scope. And a miracle happened: when I wrote to the brands for an interview, every CEO actually gave me an hour of their time: Breguet, Vacheron-Constantin, Audemars Piguet, Jaeger-leCoultre even M. Gerald Genta himself. And what I discovered during those visits and talks made my head spin. I was hooked for good.

In 1989 at the age of 22 I did my Swiss military service and in the middle of it had a terrible accident where my Jeep overturned, I was thrown out and it actually landed on my back at 50 km/h. I should have been dead. No question. Am still wondering today how come I am not.

After six weeks of hospital, I hobbled onto a bus into town, and went directly to the small watch store called “Le Diadème” in Lausanne. My whole torso and right arm were in a cast, but luckily my left arm was free. I left with the Ebel Chronograph on its wrist to celebrate that I was still alive. And had emptied my bank account in the process.


You have a degree in engineering. Did you pursue that degree knowing you wanted to become a watchmaker? If not, when did you know that you wanted to become a watchmaker?

Actually my big plan was to be a car designer. I dreamt of going to the Pasadena Art Center, but my parents did not have the means, so I thought that starting with engineering and doing some sort of follow up in car design was smart. Well, I never went on to design cars because I stumbled upon watchmaking. Life is always about crossroads…


How did your time at Jaeger LeCoultre and Harry Winston influence you as a watchmaker? Did you learn anything during your time at those companies that have helped you to turn MB&F into such a success?

Those two seven year experiences were crucial. At JLC I learned how to work and deepened my love for beautiful watchmaking. At Harry Winston, I learned who I was and what was important for me. Taking over that quasi bankrupt company at age 31 and turning it around with no help from anyone allowed me to realize not only that I was capable of it, but also that as fame, power and money arrived, it did now make me happy. I was not interested in being the CEO of a big company focused on the double digit growth spreadsheet and needed to break free.


MB&F horological machines are incredibly unique and innovative. Where do you get your inspiration?

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. MB&F is as much my authobiography as my psychotherapy.

HM3 Starcruiser

HM3 Starcruiser

What made you want to break away from the traditional luxury watches to create these horological machines?

It was my father’s passing away 14 years ago that made me realize 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: a very small company where I create for myself and work only with extraordinary people, who share the same human values (hence the “Friends” in MB&F). Pride and respect will always trump power and money.


Tell me about the “& Friends” part of MB&F. Why is collaborating with other artists so important to you?

I built MB&F on a simple philosophy: treat people the way you want to be treated. Whatever I create at MB&F it will never come to life if these incredible engineers, artisans and watchmakers don’t transform my sketches into these amazing pieces of kinetic art. The least I could do was to credit them for the impeccable work they bring to the equation.

As for working with other creators/artists, it generated “Performance Art”, a piece which none of us would have created alone. By mixing creative juices, it is wonderful to see your own creations go into places you would never have thought of. At the end of the day, you are not what you say, but what you do, and I know my life will be way too short for what I have in mind…



“Friends” that collaborated on the LM2.

How long is the process of creating a new machine? What are the different steps to this creation process?

It is an incredibly long, complex and cash intensive process. An MB&F piece is made up of 350 to 600 components, and will take anything between 3 and 4 years between idea and delivery of the first piece. We are now working on what will come out after 2020.

It all starts with one of my ideas, which I sketch. Then work with Eric Giroud, the extremely talented designer, and Serge Kriknoff, our CTO and my partner in MB&F, to transform that sketch into a real 3D design we are all proud of.  Then begins the long march – transforming a design into a mechanical reality, with many different steps and talents involved. At some point there will be a prototype, then the pre-series and then finally the first piece to be delivered to the client.


What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs who are interested in following in your footsteps and pursuing a career based on their passion, rather than pursuing the easy, sure career?

Never give up on your dreams, never, ever relent, never transgress your personal values and always surround yourself with great people who share those same values. Get ready for the worst because the worst will happen, and rejoice in the great times, because they will be the most important chapters of your life. At the end of the day, whatever you do, think hard: will it make you proud at the end of your life ?


Which MB&F machine means the most to you?

Always the next one I am working on.  I put everything I have into each of my creations.


What can we expect next from MB&F?

Our 10th anniversary this year under the sign of “A Creative Adult is a Child who Survived”

And the celebrations will start with Melchior who (I did not say which) [was] unveiled this Baselworld.


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