“The goal of MB& F is to be happy. It is a life de­sci­sion, not a busi­ness de­ci­sion. I can cre­ate what­ever I want; that’s my num­berone mantra”

DA MAN - Caliber - - INSIDERS -

on the ball. If they drop the ball, there’ll be is­sues, but if they hold that ball and do their part, they’ll see their in­flu­ence on the work. That’s the most im­por­tant thing in a work life: mak­ing some mean­ing.

We all work be­cause we need to make money, pay the rent, get food on the ta­ble, get a nicer car or jacket, or what­ever. But the real mean­ing of work is to make your­self proud. And if you’re proud of your work, ev­ery­thing else seems like no prob­lem. CA: Yet, you re­lease more and more mod­els. How does your team keep up with that? MB: It’s in­ter­est­ing. We had a meet­ing with the whole team 10 days ago, and I said: “We’re not go­ing to grow, so how we can be more ef­fi­cient so that we can cre­ate more?” Ev­ery­body was find­ing ways, be­cause one thing I can as­sure you is that we’re not go­ing to grow. Last year, our sales at re­tail level were 40 per­cent higher than our pro­duc­tion, be­cause we pro­duced 280 pieces and the sell­out was 350. In­stead of grow­ing our pro­duc­tion this year, we’ve cut our re­tail­ers by one-third, which is a big shock to ev­ery­body. The point is be­ing more ef­fi­cient: You got fewer re­tail­ers—that’s less time and money and en­ergy, so we can spare more time, en­ergy and money to cre­ate more prod­ucts. CA: How will that im­pact de­mand, then? MB: Luck­ily, the de­mand is there. It hasn’t al­ways been there—we had some rough early years. But the point is to al­ways pro­duce less, much less than what the mar­ket wants. It’s not about ex­clu­siv­ity, but se­cu­rity. When ev­ery re­tailer got the prod­uct, they start bat­tling against each other. When ev­ery re­tailer bat­tles with each other to get the prod­uct, they’re not go­ing to dis­count the price.

By de­cid­ing not to grow, we ac­tu­ally en­sure that the value of our prod­ucts and that of our brand keeps go­ing up, which also means our sec­ondary value goes up, too. That’s some­thing most brands don’t pay at­ten­tion to. We’re work­ing a lot with auc­tion houses; we of­fer free CA: That’s pretty star­tling con­sid­er­ing to­day’s eco­nomic slow­down. MB: The eco­nomic slow­down is partly due to the in­dus­try over­pro­duc­ing for the last three to four years. But there is also the cre­ative cri­sis. I have this feel­ing that over the last five to eight years, most brands have not in­no­vated. They mostly go back to the ba­sics, back to their iconic prod­ucts or vin­tage pieces. I see a lot of watch col­lec­tors hav­ing watch fa­tigue since ev­ery year is roughly the same—there’s only the change of bezel or dial col­ors or ma­te­ri­als

All me­chan­i­cal watch­mak­ers are artists, be­cause what we do is point­less. There’s no point to own a me­chan­i­cal watch, and if you’re try­ing to jus­tify that, you’re in­sane. So, it’s art. And if it’s art, it should be artis­tic. It should show a cre­ative streak. You look at the art world, you’d see gazil­lions of paint­ings. If you look at the watch world then, gazil­lions of watches are prac­ti­cally the same. I think our in­dus­try needs to rein­vent it­self; it needs to take own­er­ship of that artis­tic cre­ative streak. CA: So, is that the goal of MB&F? MB: No. The goal of MB&F is to be happy. It’s su­per­selfish. MB&F is a life de­ci­sion, not a busi­ness de­ci­sion. It’s a pretty crappy busi­ness de­ci­sion; it’s a su­per-great life de­ci­sion. I can cre­ate what­ever I want, that’s the num­ber-one mantra of MB&F. Sec­ond mantra, I want to only work with the peo­ple I ap­pre­ci­ate—hence, the “& Friends.” All the bul­lies, liars—I don’t want to deal with them at any level. Ar­ti­sans, sup­pli­ers, to even clients and jour­nal­ists. We just don’t want to be hyp­ocrites any­more.

The day I set up MB&F was the first day of my life when I don’t care about what peo­ple think about me. God knows, that was very im­por­tant for me for a long time in my life. I was such an insecure guy; I was such a dorky guy, so ter­ri­fied of what peo­ple think. MB&F is not only my form of psy­chother­apy; it’s me break­ing free from this whole other mantra that you have to abide to what peo­ple ex­pect out of you. CA: How do you abide by the mar­ket in terms of cre­ativ­ity, then? MB: We don’t. We’re in­sane. We never ac­cept re­quests for unique pieces. We did a few in 2009 be­cause it was rough and we nearly went bank­rupt, so I had to ac­cept a few. And we haven’t done any unique piece ever since.

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