Today’s video will be dedicated to one of the most successful, iconic, strange, different and fresh independent brand of the last decade: MB&F. And I use these words simply because I don’t want to use the official marketing terminology: disruptive, but I have to admit that disruption suits rather well what MB&F has brought on the watchmaking scene over the years and this from its very start in 2005, well actually 2007, because yes the brand was established in 2005 by Max Busser, but the first UWO, the Unidentifiable Watch Object, the Horological Machine N°1, the HM1, was unveiled in 2007. MB&F’s tagline is “mechanical lab” and this indeed summarises rather well what Max Busser and Friends is all about.
So I will go over most of the time machines presented by the brand and in the second part of this video I will hand the mike as we say to Max Busser himself who came here at TheWATCHES.club in Geneva and it wasn’t a too long walk for him to come and visit us if you see what I mean, yes Geneva is pretty small, but beautiful right! In this very interesting interview, we come back more on who is Max Busser, what drove him in doing what he did and still does, what were the opportunities he cleverly seized and developed upon, and basically have an inspiring conversation with a real entrepreneur who is very transparent about the development of his company, the importance of allies, partners, the friends dimension of the company, the successes, but even more importantly the difficulties, well I think you will enjoy this moment.
Ok I will now start my quick recap of the main timepieces or to use a MB&F proper semantic: kinetic sculptures, and yes when you retrace them like this in this Who’s Who of Watchmaking, well one can only be pretty impressed by the creativity and audacity of what is still a pretty small brand producing less than 300 watches per year. When you put this in perspective of the much bigger players of the industry, well this highlights pretty well where you find creativity and risk taking among these small independent outfits we rather like her on TheWATCHES.tv. In its short history, the brand has come up with a crazy number of completely different timepieces, different designs, different movement developments and creativity and exclusivity is definitely one way to go to remain in the hype, but of course that’s a pretty demanding thing to continuously achieve. Ok, I fully understand that some of these watches may not please everyone and that’s totally fine and I seriously doubt it was their purpose, but nevertheless MB&F has definitely broken some codes and defined some new ones, a true inspiration for many.
So as mentioned the brand started with the HM1 in 2007 and this immediately set the tone that MB&F will be different. This is a tourbillon watch with a very particular design; hour indicator found on the left, minutes on the right and seconds on the 60’ central tourbillon. Kind of a regulator, but a very very special one, and it already had a design feature that will become one of the signature of the brand with this battle ax rotor inspired from famous Goldorak, ok famous to some of us, yes I’m from that generation. This watch was co-designed with Eric Giroud, a man who up to this day is very important in the development of most of the brand’s mechanical sculptures, as Max Busser comes with the initial input and ideas, but then this needs to be refined through what can be a long iterative process, a lot of backs and forths before getting exactly what Max Busser wants, taking naturally also into account technical constraints and manufacturing feasibility, a very important dimension of the business headed by Serge Kriknoff, a partner from day 1 of MB&F.
Then came the HM2 in 2008 and I remember the first time I saw this I went really “waou” what is this? Personally really loved it, not super easy to wear, but how cool is this machine with instantaneous jumping hours, retrograde minutes kind of subdial on the right and retrograde date on moon phase indicator on the left part. And when one says retrograde, well not too difficult to associate Jean-Marc Wiederrecht and his company Agenhor in the development of this pretty crazy timepiece. Personally just love the sapphire version. 2009 saw the arrival of the HM3 with hour and minute indications found in two seperate cone-like elements raised above the dial, a first, and you actually have two versions of this watch; one where the cones are aligned vertically, the Starwinder, and one horizontally, the Starcruiser. This time the solid 22 karat gold rotor really becomes a distinct design element of the watch as it can be seen from the dial side.
One year later in 2010, came the HM4 Thunderbolt, the first manual winding watch of the brand, again pretty crazy with a totally new movement architecture, plus an immensely difficult part to machine; this very large central sapphire component, which may seem like nothing, but made the team’s life super complicated, transposing design ideas into reality can be a pain. And then in 2011, MB&F came with something Max Busser initially thought he would never do: a round watch. This was the Legacy Machine N°1 and I remember very well that when he showed me the prototype at the time, I immediately thought; well you are going to annoy a few people with this one! Legacy Machine would become a new collection for the brand and as the name stated pretty explicitly, well there is hommage dimension to traditional watchmaking of the 18th and 19th century, but of course with a twist, a pretty big one with this balance wheel floating above the dial.
This watch’s architecture is phenomenal and mainly thanks to the collaboration with Kari Voutilainen and Jean-François Mojon. Personally I love this watch and I feel immensely happy being a proud owner of one. I know I love it now and I know I will love it in 50 years, counting on some serious further developments of the health industry to get me there! So from now on, the idea for MB&F was to alternate launches; a new Horological Machine one year, followed by a new Legacy Machine the next one. In 2012, we saw the HM5 inspired by the world of supercars of the 70’s, the Lamborghini Miura in particular, and this vertical way of displaying time with two horizontal disks reflected through a special prism, and in 2013 came the second LM with the LM2 and its twin balance wheels and central differential, but this time with a single hour and minute dial.
In the same year, MB&F presented its first co-creation with famous Swiss music box manufacturer Reuge with the Music Machine N°1, a spaceship inspired music machine and this would be the first of three other co-creations with Reuge. So the brand didn’t hold too long with this idea of alternating launches, creative urges I guess, and in 2014 we not only got introduced to the very crazy HM6 Space Pirate with its shielded tourbillon, but also the LM101, a timepiece with the brand’s first fully in-house developed movement. A very nice timepiece coming in a smaller size than previous LM models.
And in 2015 came a firework of new machines for the brand’s 10th anniversary. First came the HMX to really mark this anniversary and specially the collectors that trusted the brand since this watch was directly meant for them and was made available for them at a at-cost price, yes, you heard me right. But 2015 also marked the first co-creation with historic clock manufacturer L’Epée, but this time with a time telling object with Melchior and this would only be the beginning of a very creative and productive collaboration between the two. But 2015 didn’t stop there as we got introduced to most probably one of the most beautiful perpetual calendar watch of recent history with the Legacy Machine Perpetual. Not only is this watch absolutely stunning, a dream of mine of course, but technically speaking it is also super interesting with a very smart fully new reinterpretation of the perpetual calendar complication developed by master watchmaker Stephen McDonnell.
Basically, the reference month of this watch is made of 28 days and then the mechanics manages exceptions of 29, 30 and 31 days. In other QPs, it’s the opposite, meaning the reference month is made of 31 days and this changed everything and in particular enabled to develop a fully secure QP, meaning that the user can safely change date, month and even year indications with the use of simple pushers found around the case. QPs can be a headache when not operated very consciously, for instance changing a date at a certain time, so this timepiece adds a huge ergonomic feature to one of my favorite complication and just looks so incredibly beautiful. 2016 is marked by the second collaboration with L’Epée with Sherman, another table clock robot, quickly followed by Balthazar, that’s this dual faced dude sitting behind me, just a fantastic piece of mechanic, a rather heavy one, 8kg of more than 600 components, 40 days of power reserve, but also with the introduction of the HM8 Can Am, kind of a mix between the HM5 and HM3, with vertical time indication and dial sided rotor or let’s say the upper part of the watch.
But if you follow me correctly, well where has the HM7 gone? Well this one, the HM7 Aquapod was actually launched in 2017 and yes, this is again a rather crazy timepiece with kind of a sportier look as well as a jellyfish inspired shape. And in the same year we saw the LM Split Escapement, where this time the anchor of the regulating organ is found on the movement side and only the balance wheel is seen floating on the dial side.
This development is a direct perk from the LM Perpetual, since on this last watch, they simply didn’t have the space to fit all this together and had to split it, unlike on this LM1, where all of the regulating organ parts are pretty close to each other; the balance wheel and the escapement. And in 2017 we also saw Octopod, a new collaboration with L’Epee, with this alien like almost frightening design and in 2018 came the HM9 Flow, a pretty spectacular double balance wheel timepiece inspired by the design of planes and cars of the 40’s-50’s, again MB&F pushing quite far when it comes to audacious design. Ok, I will stop here and it could have continued quite a while, because on top of all the different models evoked, well there are many variants of all them which could also deserve some special attention, like for instance the full sapphire HM6, or even other objects such as the great Arachnophobia, Starfleet, Kelly & Chirp, Destination Moon, but I will really stop here and now we will finally get some quality time with Mr.
Max Busser and get to know him a bit better. I used to be a very creative kid. From the age of 4 to the age of 18, I was drawing cars all the time; I wanted to be a car designer. When I turned 18, my parents, unfortunately, didn’t have, or actually fortunately, didn’t have the means to send me to the Pasadena Art Center, which is the greatest car design school. I did engineering in EPFL in Lausanne. I did five years of Microtechnology engineering. In retrospective, it was a great choice because I’m sitting here in front of you telling you a story. During my years of engineering, I hated it. I think I fell into depression. I was a very unhappy dude. I scraped through every year and when I finished my diploma, I thought, “I’m going to go into something different.” I had actually seen a presentation from the guys at Procter & Gamble during my years at the university where they started explaining how they analyze the market and analyze how people thought and therefore created a product for them. I thought that’s interesting. That’s a dimension– It was a humanity dimension, which I thought was interesting.
I thought I’d go into marketing. Luckily for me, I actually had fallen in love with watchmaking during my years at university, and I bumped into Henry-John Belmont one day when I was skiing in January 1991. He was there with his family at a cafe and had a cafe with him, and he asked me what I was going to do. I said I’m going to do Procter & Gamble, I’m going to do Nestle, I was interviewing all these big firms. I told him jokingly, “Mr. Belmont, if they don’t give me a job, you can always give me a job at Jaeger.” He laughed and laughed and that was it.
A week later, he had me called up. “Will you go and see Mr. Belmont in the Vallée de Joux in the manufacturer of Jaeger-LeCoultre?” I say, “Yes, sure.” I took my car up there and it was the most incredible interview of my life because the man who was going to save Jaeger with Günter Blümlein, actually, for three hours, sold me his dream of how he was going to save Jaeger. He wasn’t interviewing me, he was just basically telling me how he was going to do this. I was like, “Great, wonderful.” At the end of the three hours, he says, “Okay, I’m giving you a job.
I’m creating a job for you. You’re going to be our product manager. I’ve got so much on my plate that I need a young guy like you who loves watchmaking, who’s an engineer.” Again, it’s a good thing I did engineering, “We’re going to create all the products together.” In what kind of condition was Jaeger at the time? Oh my gosh. It was in really dire situation. I think in those days, if I’m not wrong, the year before, the brand had done 17 million Swiss francs.
Which is what I do with MB&F today, with my little structure. We were 220 employees. We were actually to survive, we were, of course, selling a lot of movements to third parties, selling movements to Audemars, to Vacheron, to IWC, to Patek, et cetera. We were making lighters for Christian Dior. We were making pens for Christian Dior. We were making dental surgery instruments for a company called EMS. Anything we could take as a job to make the company work, we would take. Those were the days I entered Jaeger. Between Blümlein and Belmont, they had a vision of what they were going to do with Jaeger-LeCoultre.
Of course, we were part of a mini-group, there was IWC and Jaeger. We were going to be Les Montres de la Manufacture. Actually, if you take catalogs of those days, it was Les Montres de la Manufacture watches. We were the only real manufacture in those days, which was doing virtually every part of the movement and the cases. Today, this is pretty current, practically 30 years later. In those days, we were the only ones. Using that knowledge and the people behind it, we were going to create crazy movements, incredible movements. It was all about products. When I left, we had 40 calibers being manufactured at any given time. 40 different calibers! It was incredible.
Some of them, we would craft 50 a year. It made no sense. I remember being the product manager, working on all these products. I remember we had the Reverso stainless steel, the 250 model, which was good. There was a classic size, which was our best seller. It was selling at CHF 1,950.- retail. We were making, on every piece, margin, not profit, I’m probably going to get in really trouble telling you this, we were making SFr. 100 Francs. That was the margin. We were losing money on every piece, and we were making thousands of them. Losing money on every piece, but the retailers and the clients will tell us, “1,950 francs? That is way too expensive It’s not automatic.
It was hand-winding, it doesn’t have a date, it’s not water resistant. Imagine such an incredibly expensive price for something which doesn’t have those features?” but we believed in it. We kept on believing in what we did. I stayed seven years, ’91 to ’98, it was incredible. I think we went from like 17 million to about 150 million in revenue. These are pre-Richemont days. Of course, this was the Mannesmann ownership. At the same time Günter Blümlein was creating A. Lange & Söhne. I actually saw that happening. That was an incredible adventure also. What did I learn? I learned the love of beautiful, great products. We were all product people. We are pretty bad at marketing.
We were actually appalling in marketing. We didn’t know how to tell the story, but we created great products. I was completely surrounded by only engineers, product creators. That’s something which just stayed with me. They were just great people, nice people, dedicated, enthusiast, passionate, and who actually jelled together to create an incredibly strong team but with no superstars. That all together coming together, we made that story. We wrote that story. Something I’ve always tried to do afterwards in my following adventures. I’m headhunted in ’98, I thought it was a joke, to become Head of Harry Winston Timepieces. After four months of interview, they actually give me the job, which I’m shocked. I’m much more shocked afterwards when I discover the state of the company.
So Harry Winston Timepieces, in those days, we’re talking of ’98, 20 years ago, was seven employees who all wanted to leave because they knew the extent of the damage. The product was clearly not at the level of the brand. The retailers were not the ones we should have. Most of the suppliers we were working with, not all luckily, were not the people we should have been working with and the team all wanted to leave. When I discovered all of these, that we could barely pay the salaries at the end of the month, I jumped on a plane, went to New York and told my new bosses like, “This is a nightmare. Everything is wrong.” I knew it needed help, but not at this level.
They looked at me and said, “Well, it’s your nightmare, young man, because we’ve got other problems to solve.” I think the Timepieces operation accounted for 3% or 4% of the revenue of Harry Winston those days. It’s like, “Look, if you manage good, if you fail we just put it bankrupt. Thank you very much. Go back to Geneva.” I was like, “Oh my God.” I thought I had done the biggest error of my life, by far.
But probably gave you this kind of entrepreneurial spirit because even though it was a big company, you had to do things really by yourself. Well, we were eight and everything had to be reworked at the same time without any money. I was working– seriously, I was working 17, 18 hours a day. It was probably the worst year of my life, ’98 and ’99 I got a massive ulcer after three months, and I was popping Zantex every like three hours. We didn’t have a booth for Basel. We had to create one. Everybody who went to see to even create the booth told us, “Well, no, we don’t want to work with you because the brand has got a bad reputation of not paying.” Finally, it was actually Paul Genoud in Geneva who accepted the challenge. And I said, “Look, this is the budget I have,” which was peanuts.
And he’s like, “Oh, we’ll manage. We’ll do something.” When you become more successful and there’s more money in the company, everybody is your friend. At those beginnings, that’s when you see the real people. Jean-Marc Wiederrecht from Agenhor was like, “Yes, let’s, let’s do these crazy.” We were doing all these retrograde movements. This was our story together. Harry Winston and Jean-Marc Wiederrecht, that’s how we started doing all these retrogrades, et cetera. It was a really tough year. By the beginning of 2000, about 16 months later, we started seeing a bit of light at the end of the tunnel. During all that time, New York never helped us. I feel like saying on the contrary, and so we were really all alone. Then early 2000, Serge Kriknoff joined me, who’s then afterwards going to be a pivotal person in the MB&F story.
He will become a production director. We were both 33 years old. Together with him– He was taking care of that part. I could start concentrating on the other things. Then it became an incredible story. Five years later, 2005, when I left, we’d gone from $8 million to $80 million. We’d created Opus. We’d created the Manufacture which was being built. Opus has seemingly changed a lot of things in the world of watchmaking already, luckily, by putting a projector on all these great independents.
I had no idea what I was getting into when I had that idea. The original idea was to help somebody, I’ve always had enormous admiration for is Francois-Paul Journe. Francois-Paul in 2000 launches his brand in Basel, and I think we had dinner three times together that week. He was telling me, “It’s complicated because people will say, ‘Well, this is interesting, but who are you?'” He couldn’t tell what he had done in his previous lives because he had signed NDAs with all the brands. We’re walking down from Hall 1.1 to Hall 1.0 at the end of the day on one of the last days of the show, and I said, “Well, we should do something together.
We haven’t signed an NDA. We can tell the world how incredibly brilliant you are. We could just help each other. It would be great, great story.” There was no economical sense to it. We launched Opus 1, doing 18 pieces, three times six pieces. I think on the Octa version, we were losing, I don’t know how much money on each piece. It was not a about making money, it was about helping Francois-Paul to get more visibility, and, of course, the other win-win was we could have access to his beautiful movements. Let’s not forget that when I came into Harry Winston, I had created this whole Rare Timepieces concept, which was rare diamonds and rare movements. Rare diamonds was a no-brainer. It was Harry Winston diamonds. Rare movements, where was I going to get them? Working, of course, with Jean-Marc Wiederrecht with all the Harry Winston movements, and going to see all these independent watchmakers, and saying, “You have something we could work together and we could all benefit from it.” Treat people the way you want to be treated, something I learnt early in life thanks to my parents, make it into a business.
You were pretty successful with the Harry Winston brand. You could have stayed on and enjoyed that success probably quite easily, but no, you suddenly decided to do something different. Please tell us. It wasn’t sudden. It’s– How do I say, I think life is a continual psychotherapy. I do stuff, and then I look back and I understand why, but when I’m doing it, I actually don’t really know why the hell I’m doing it. There are a lot of reasons. I often explain that the most important one is, of course, my dad passing away on the 31st of December 2001, so right in the beginning of Harry Winston just as we were starting to take off.
I didn’t get along with him, unfortunately. A year after that, I started having really issues where I realized I’m not over this, so actually I decided to go into therapy. That’s one of the many reasons. There were other reasons. I remember one day, I started– all guys starting making money at some point, I started looking into contemporary art. It was probably the time when I met Eric Giroud. Eric has been designing all our pieces together for last 15,16 years now. Eric’s an incredibly knowledgeable person about contemporary art, so I asked him, I said, “Can you come with me and I’ll show you what I like and you give me a bit of advice?” He said, “Yes, sure.” I got into a gallery, I said, “I like this, I like that, and I like this, and what do you think, Eric?” He says, “I don’t think anything.” I said, “I don’t understand.” He said “No, you don’t understand.” He said, “Look, come with me.” He took me to a gallery which I didn’t even know existed.
There was a Thai artist called , in those days, again we’re talking 16 or 17 years ago, was drawing forests with black pencils on a white canvas. It’s like all black. It was very like sleepy, hollow sort of thing. I was looking at that. I was like, “Eric, I’m not going to put that in my sitting room. It’s like so depressing.” He looks at me and he says, “Who gives a damn about your sitting room?” I said, “I don’t understand.” He says “That’s it, you don’t understand. Where you took me the first place is not art, it’s interior decoration. That gallery knows the bourgeois schmucks like you, they want their sitting rooms to look like AD magazine, and they’re going to buy that stuff because it’s trendy. The artists who actually do that, they’re doing that because they know they can sell this to you bourgeois schmuck. He doesn’t care about your sitting room. He doesn’t care if you like what he does.
He needs to express himself.” I realized that that day that I’d become an interior decorator. There’s nothing wrong with that. I think I had been an artist when I was a child and that I’d sold out. I was always thinking, “What do people want? What will they like? Let’s create something they will like. It’s not about what I like, it’s what they like. It’s a complete abnegation of you as a creator.” I realized, “I can’t do this.” I think there was a lot of pent up anger in me. I was angry with myself because I’d sold out, because I’d become a marketeer.
I was angry with my industry which when we had no money at all and we were trying to desperately survive, we were 10 times more creative than when now this industry had billions of money coming in and they were playing it safe. For me, watch making is art. Everybody talks about the art of watchmaking. It’s art and if its art, why couldn’t we experiment? Art experiments? Artists, they create something which has never been done, it’s their vision of it. For me, it was three-dimensional sculptures giving time.
I was helped in that by people like Felix and Martin at URWERK. I was blown away when I saw the first UR 103, that was I remember 2003. The year I came out with the Opus 3 which Vianney Halter, it’s interesting how the past suddenly arrive parallel thinking that we didn’t even know each other. In my creative process, it was like, let’s create something you’re proud of which has never been done, which is beautifully executed. That’s very important also. Too many people look at our pieces and go, “Oh, it’s cool.” “Oh, it’s funky. Funny.” “It’s never been done.” You don’t realize the years of engineering, the incredible workmanship, the craftsmanship, the hand finishing. I wanted to create those 3D sculptures and I started. I was lucky that I launched the brand, the first pieces came out in 2007 before the big crisis because they actually sold super well, then the two also. Then the whole crisis arrived in 2009-2010. Luckily, we’d gained enough momentum that we could actually survive through that. I was lucky from that.
Then one success makes you bolder and you go and push the boundaries, another success and you push the more the boundaries. This is a very important point, I mean if you consider somebody that is– Maybe had kind of similar ideas but obviously didn’t have the same background as you did and the network that you had established through your different experiences, do you think that he would have had those opportunities of standing out? A lot of people have come to me since and said, “Well, I put 900,000 in the company, it’s all the money I had.” Which is a lot of money. I theoretically need much more. I put 700,000 in the company, and 200,000 to live two, three years without a salary. A lot of people have said. “Yes, I want to do the same thing.” I could do that because I first had all the people I worked with, the artisans, the suppliers, the manufacturers. I had been working with them at Harry Winston. They knew that when I said something, I did it.
The trust bond had been created. From a Jean-Marc Wiederrecht, to a Laurent Besse, Peter Speak-Marin, all the first people I worked with, they all were like, “We’re with you?” I said, “Look, guys, this is a drawing, I’m probably going to put all my money. I don’t know if I’m going to succeed.” They told me, “We’re with you.” That’s price. That’s something you can’t buy. The retailers, six of my retailers were crazy enough on a drawing and a 3D prints that I would hand paint it with a photocopy of the paper of the dial in it. I went to see them and they were not only okay to order the pieces, they were okay to finance me by paying one third in advance, two years before I delivered.
Why did that happen? These are all people I’d worked with. If I had been the same guy with the same idea, but hadn’t been the head of Harry Winston Timepiece with the journey I’d had there, I’d come to see the suppliers and the retailers with the same idea, I would have been kicked out. You had come indeed with this concept of Horological Machines, the HM series, which were indeed very different to anything that was seen at the time. Then, nevertheless, you came back to something that in a certain way is more, how do you say, it’s more acceptable. Explain us a little bit the Legacy machine. What’s the idea? The Legacy Machine a was a big battle with my team because my team hadn’t joined the rebellion to create HMs.
They hadn’t joined to create legacy machines. They hadn’t joined to create around watch. The rebellion was the mechanical sculptures. When suddenly I catch them completely on the wrong foot with my drawing saying, “Let’s do this.” It’s a tribute to the great master watchmakers of the 18th and 19th century. A tree can only grow if it has roots and strong roots. We, the watch industry, are so lucky that there were certain amount of geniuses in the 18th and 19th century who created virtually everything we’re doing today. Often these pieces, 150 years later, you clean them, you oil them, and you wind them up and they still work. That is incredible. I just wanted to say thank you and give a tribute to those people who’ve enabled me to create then my crazy HMs.
When I think of it in retrospect, we took an enormous risk. Everybody thought you’re going commercial. You’re going the easy way. A very interesting– Even today, Legacy is like seven years old now, we’ve come up with five calibers. The whole industry thinks that a big part of the revenue of MB&F is Legacy machines. It’s a very small part, it’s probably 25%, 30% of our revenue and 70%, 75% is still horological machines. The perception is it’s round, it’s classic and must be easier to sell. Working not only on that incredible concept of the flying balance wheel, the independent time zones, the vertical powers, but working with people like Jean-François Mojon, like Kari Voutilainen of course, working with the best.
Working with Kari who is able to not only draw a movement which is beautiful, but I told him “Look, it’s the first time you’re going to have your name on a movement which is not yours. The finish will do whatever you want.” He took us there. I mean the engraving on every piece is hand engraved. Nobody does that anymore. Does that mean it’s better? No, it’s just there is a gentleman on his microscope, when you see the legacy machine engrave and when you see the names of the people and Kari, that’s done by hand. All these things we did, we pushed it up here. Then when all these millions of experts came out with their loupes were like “What’s this, oh, wow, this is good.” This is something you pushed even further by designing the larger time telling objects, again with partnerships, with Reuge, with L’Epée, again what was the idea? Was just another way of expressing yourself? A lot of the creations and the avenues we’ve taken, were created by gut feeling and by chance.
We opened a M.A.D gallery in 2011 which was again a crazy concept, we had no idea what the hell we’re doing. At the same time I was jury, I was the jury at ECAL, Lausanne School of Design, of their luxury masters they were doing. I saw a group of youngsters who had incredible talent. One of them, a young Chinese designer called Ko Shin Won at the end of the masters came to me and said, “Do you give internships?” I was like, “Well, no because I design all my pieces with my good friend Eric Giroud. I’m not going to start designing with somebody else.” Then I thought about it and you realize that’s some of the many things I’ve learned is that when you meet incredibly talented people, stay close.
Try and do something with them. I thought how can I give an internship to Shin. I called him up and I said, “Okay, but we’re not going to draw any watches.” He goes like, “What?” He’s applying to MB&F for internship but I’m like, “No, we’re going to design other stuff. I’ve got also some other ideas.” Actually, the very first project he did as an intern with us was the Caran d’Ache pen we did which took many years to come out with. Then was MusicMachine 1 and it was the Starfleet machine clock. We did all these crazy projects which were the emanation of what we believe in wristwatches put into other domains: 3D mechanical sculptures, beautiful finishing, a sense of childhood also any in it, a sense of humor, a sense of, “Wow, this is so cool.” Now if you look at L’Epee, we just released, five years later, our 10th clock.
We’ve done 10 clocks with L’Epee and ideas keep on rolling out. I’ve met people who’ve bought that first MB&F watch saying, “I discovered you through that L’Epee clock. That Reuge music box. I bought first Melchior the Robot and then I came to the brand.” It’s, again, a decoding machine. It’s an entry into our world. It’s, again, by helping other people we help ourselves. Well, you have multiple legs onto which your company is today standing on, and I believe you’re expanding this even a little bit further now. No, we will skip this. Do a quick fast forward since what we talked here is not yet disclosed but I can already promise you that they did it again, you’ll soon understand. Okay. Let’s go back to it. I think that that’s one of the most important lessons is, whatever I do today, I’ll be doing for years. We keep on having questions as an entrepreneur even your private life, “Should I go here? Should I go there? Should I decide this or should I decide that?” It’s very difficult depending in your mindset.
One day you’ll say, “I want to go there,” and then one day you want to go there and you realize no, no, the only answer is will I be proud of that 5 or 10 years down the road? Suddenly, all these decisions become way easier. Yes, this would be easier, maybe we’ll make more money, but I’m not going to be proud of that. This will be more difficult. Probably we won’t make money, but when I look back I think that was the right thing to do.
What we have to create has to generate incredible emotion. It has to be innovative, creative. You have to get that course of adrenaline. You’ve got that electricity in you when you see it, when you feel it, when you wear it. That means I think we have to go back to the drawing board as an industry because we have to take more risks, and I’m talking as an industry, we have to take risks because only risks will generate emotion. I have this big scare, this horrible feeling in me that my industry is starting to bore the people who love it. I am so shocked by so [laughs] many people I meet in this industry. They love the glam, the glitz, the excel spreadsheets, the double-digit growth, but they actually don’t know anything about watchmaking and that’s what it should be. We need to bring more people back into this industry who actually love watchmaking. Our clients love our products much more. So I know this was pretty long, I nevertheless hope you enjoyed it, maybe you saw it in multiple episodes and I fully understand, but I just wanted to finish by reminding that last year we produced an episode of this Who’s Who of Watchmaking talking about URWERK, which for me is the brand that really marked the start of this new creative modern take on watchmaking some 20 years ago, a modern take in terms of design, of how time is interpreted and displayed, but nevertheless remaining true to what quality watchmaking is all about.
Well MB&F pursued successfully on these premises and pushed beyond the creative limits thanks to the vision, experience and talent of Max Busser and we of course wish the brand plenty of success in the future, but my gut feeling tells me that we won’t be disappointed; not to be surprised, now that would be the surprise.