Hubert Burda Media

Maximilian Büsser goes rogue

It may be the greatest decision he has ever made. The otherworldly creations Büsser has since developed truly belong in their own universe.

Maximilian Büsser likens his life to Jack London’s novel Call of the Wild — a tale about a domesticated part-dog and part-wolf that is trying to deal with issues of its existence and inherent attraction to the wild.
The charming 45-year-old founder of Maximilian Büsser & Friends (MB&F) got the wolf bit figured out 14 years ago when he decided to leave Harry Winston’s timepiece division and form his own high-end watchmaking house. “I’ve been in watchmaking for 21 years. I adore it and it’s my life. But it is constantly rehashing what has been done before, and I just wanted to break free,” he explains of his decision.
Since plunging headlong into the wild, Büsser has never turned back, happily thriving in a universe where he has complete creative freedom. And it is there where MB&F’s most groundbreaking works are born.
The company comprises a horological laboratory where the industry’s most talented artisans and technicians — Büsser’s friends and the “F” in the brand name — design and craft an original masterpiece each year. “It’s a lot like a casting process, where you choose the right people for the job,” he puts it rather aptly.
Since 2005, MB&F has elevated horology to dizzying heights. Christened Horological Machines (HMs), its pieces are mostly futuristic in design and influenced by whatever inspires Büsser with a pointed focus on being creative.
Take the HM4 Thunderbolt launched in 2011: The aviation-inspired piece resembles a miniature jetpack, and, if not for the numbered dial, looks like it bears the capacity to launch off and spit fire all at once.
The audacious entrepreneur’s role in his company is that of creative director, conceptualising the watches, sketching them (not very well, he claims), then subsequently consulting head designer Eric Giroud, who gives Büsser’s ideas practical form.
Giroud has been Büsser’s right-hand man from the very inception of MB&F and is a crucial member of the team. “We’ve an amazing creative relationship. I have these ideas, which are very…weird. He manages to transform my sketches into a beautiful object in 3D,” says Büsser.
One would think that after years of working so closely together, Giroud would now be unfazed by Büsser’s proposals but initial discussion between both men on MB&F’s latest HM5 On the Road Again (seen in pictures) proved otherwise. “When I spoke to him about doing this one, he went: ‘What are you talking about?’ He was stunned,” Büsser recounts. It took four weeks before he could coax Giroud into sharing his vision.
Recently revealed last December, the wedged-shaped watch features bi-directional jumping hours and minutes displayed under optimum conditions, via a hidden reflective optical grade sapphire crystal prism which bends the light by 90 degrees and reflects the horizontal display vertically. The convex lens also magnifies the numerals by 20 percent for improved legibility.
The HM5 is a nod to the Amida Digitrend watch and supercars of the 1970s, with slide-operated louvres that open to allow light in to charge the Super-Luminova numbers on the time disks, and dual exhausts to drain water if the watch gets wet.
Yes, you read right. The case of the HM5 is not water resistant, although the movement is. The latter is encased in a steel container within the case. When the watch is submerged in water, the case will take in some water, which is drained via the exhaust ports.
Looking to the future, MB&F already has six HMs in the pipeline, slated for release in the next six years. This year marks the launch of four different timepieces — one new HM, two variations and a performance art piece.
As to what the future machines will be fashioned after, your guess is as good as ours. But with MB&F’s knack for the unexpected, you’d probably never guess.