“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”
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.