Maximillian Büsser, the colourful founder of MB&F on his passion, the people he gets on with and who loves his brand
Everyone who follows great design and watches knows MB&F, that idiosyncratic brand established by Maximillian Büsser a little more than a decade ago. We talk to the watchmaker on, well, everything really.
Choosing to be kind
My parents were probably the most respectful and kind people I’ve ever met and in your professional life you have to deal with a lot of people who are not that kind, and I decided I just wanted to work with people who share the same values, that’s why I called the brand Maximillian Büsser & Friends. When I launched the company everybody told me it’s the worst name ever.You can’t call a high-end watchmaking brand Friends. And I said, well that’s the only word I have. And it’s funny because 13 years later, success makes you sexy and so everyone’s like, oh, great name.
The happiness equation
Happiness equals reality minus expectations. If reality is higher than expectations you’re happy. If reality is lower than expectations, you’re unhappy. It’s a simple equation. I’m 51, I’ve had some really tough times in my life, even in my company. It’s been 13 years – we had four very rough years, one where we nearly went bankrupt and now we’re doing super well, but it’s not always been that case. It’s the fact that I’ve fallen down and got back up on my feet that today I feel serene for the first time. I know that I will fall again; I know that something is going to happen, I don’t know where it’s going to come from but it’s being an entrepreneur, it’s just normal.
On finding your passion
I wanted to be a car designer. From the age of four to 18, I was drawing cars. When I graduated from high school, the Pasadena ArtCenter College of Design opened their European headquarters 20 minutes from where I lived in Switzerland. My dad was middle class, no money, and he said, okay, with your mum we’ve decided we’ll try and find a way to pay for this. But I said, you know what, I’ll do engineering. I’ll specialise in car design afterwards.
In the middle of engineering I fell into watchmaking, which was a dead industry 30 years ago. As a student I did a project on watchmaking where I sent letters out to the brands saying, I needed to interview somebody in the company. And the companies were so small that each time the CEO replied, saying “Come at this date at that hour and I’ll give you an hour”. That’s unthinkable today.
On the value of a watch
You buy a watch because it’s beautiful, you love it, you sell it at a loss or you keep it and maybe in 40 or 50 years it will be worth 10 or 50 times that. Brands tell you that a watch is an investment. I would never dare say something like that. They may be in 30 or 40 years like that Ferrari GTO that sold for $75 million. A guy who buys a Ferrari now and managed to flip it and make his 30 percent that’s not a problem. But all the others, they’re going to have to wait 40-50 years and maybe if they’re lucky and they have something exceptional, something rare, it will fetch incredible prices.
On his creations
People who buy an MB&F are clearly people who are very different from most watch buyers. They’re usually entrepreneurs, people who’ve created their own success, very strong minded, who don’t care what other people think of them. It’s people who say, you know what, I don’t care if you don’t like it, I love that piece because of the journey, of the story of why it was created and because it speaks to me. And I’ve discovered that over the years I don’t give a damn what people think of what I do. It’s the only way I can create something like this. And, honestly, some of them have been massive flops.
The value of rethinking
The HM5 was one of the most important pieces for me because that young car designer finally tackled the car design part. It is probably one of the most complicated pieces we’ve ever created but most people just don’t get it. It was the weakest seller in the history of our company. Because to make this possible we’ve got a complete internal titanium chassis, which is independent, like a car, and the body work is screwed on like the panels of a coach-built car. It’s completely water-resistant, the titanium chassis. It took us four years to create this piece and I’m presenting it during the Basel Fair and one of my retailers goes, “Okay, so what happens if water goes in?” And I realised, God, I hadn’t thought of that. Imagine, this is an $85,000 watch and you come out of the water and you have to actually go like this ( Shakes his wrist). It’s not very elegant. So, then we created the first ever exhaust pipes on our watch. These two holes here are actually drainage systems. If water comes in here, it flows out from the back. Once you explain the story, they’ll go okay but if you don’t explain it, you just see it in a showcase, people go, why would I pay 80 grand for this?
The HM5, one of the most complicated watches MB&F has produced