“AC­TIV­ITY KILLS MY CRE­ATIV­ITY. I TRY TO SPEND 45 MIN­UTES OR AN HOUR JUST SIT­TING IN MY GAR­DEN, NOT DO­ING ANY­THING BUT THINK­ING”

Prestige Hong Kong - Tic Talk - - PEOPLE | INSIDE VIEW -

Max­i­m­il­ian Büsser Founder, MB& F

If you are lucky enough to wear an MB& F out in the wild, strangers will stare, and hard. In fact, they might even talk to you. This is not to say that the watches are flashy, or any­where near typ­i­cal of any­thing.

Take the Horo­log­i­cal Ma­chine

No 9 Flow, for ex­am­ple. The lat­est ex­am­ple of mind- warp­ing horo­log­i­cal ex­per­i­men­tal­ism from avant- garde Swiss watch­maker Max Büsser comes with a vis­ually as­ton­ish­ing three- part case, fea­tur­ing a unique man­u­al­wind­ing me­chan­i­cal cal­i­bre de­vel­oped es­pe­cially for it, with a twin bal­ance wheel assem­bly, linked by a plan­e­tary dif­fer­en­tial that av­er­ages out the time­keep­ing rate. It also rep­re­sents an un­prece­dented achieve­ment in water re­sis­tance: get­ting a com­plex three- part case like this to be water re­sis­tant at all.

But then there’s lit­tle that’s typ­i­cal about Büsser. To be­gin, most in­de­pen­dent watch­mak­ing firms are headed, or at least fronted, by a watch­maker, which he isn’t. He also fell into the world of watch­mak­ing by ac­ci­dent. As a child, he wanted to de­sign cars, but ended up get­ting a mas­ter’s in mi­cro­engi­neer­ing.

The only child of a Swiss fa­ther and an In­dian mother, the young Büsser spent a lot of time by him­self. He be­came a “full- time car de­signer” till he was 18, but grew up and moved away from his child­hood dreams when he set his sights on a mar­ket­ing role at Proc­ter & Gam­ble af­ter com­plet­ing his de­gree.

Then came the mo­ment that changed his life. Dur­ing Büsser’s mil­i­tary ser­vice in Switzer­land in 1990, he was driv­ing a 1950s jeep with a trailer when the trailer made an ill- fated con­tact with a bump. “I was thrown out of the car, luck­ily onto a patch of grass, and the whole car and trailer rolled over and two tonnes of jeep landed on my back,” he has said.

Büsser spent six weeks in hos­pi­tal, and got out with his en­tire torso en­cased in plas­ter. Cru­cially, he cel­e­brated sur­viv­ing by buy­ing his “first real me­chan­i­cal watch”

— an Ebel chrono­graph pow­ered by the leg­endary Zenith El Primero move­ment. Then, while re­cov­er­ing, he took a ski hol­i­day and bumped into Henri John Bel­mont, then man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Jaeger- Lecoul­tre, who of­fered him a job help­ing to res­cue the man­u­fac­ture at a time when Swiss watch­mak­ing gen­er­ally was in dire straits. “Bel­mont asked me if I wanted to be one of thou­sands of em­ploy­ees in a cor­po­ra­tion, or if I wanted to be one of the hand­ful who save JaegerLecoul­tre,” he says.

He took up the of­fer, and Bel­mont cre­ated a role for him at the man­u­fac­ture. Pos­si­bly Büsser learned some­thing from his fa­ther’s ex­pe­ri­ences work­ing at a ma­jor Swiss pro­cessed food giant.

“I saw my fa­ther suf­fer for most of his work­ing life in a big cor­po­ra­tion,” he says. “He was fun­da­men­tally the most hon­est man I have ever seen, and was con­stantly be­wil­dered, hurt and abused by all the pol­i­tics and back­stab­bing in the or­gan­i­sa­tion. I re­mem­ber think­ing at around 13 that I would not let peo­ple walk over me the way he un­for­tu­nately had to suf­fer. He ac­cepted it be­cause he needed to keep a job. His to­tal ab­ne­ga­tion of his own pro­fes­sional hap­pi­ness so as to be able to pro­vide is one of the many ways he ex­pressed his love.”

To­day, Büsser is re­spon­si­ble for a watch­mak­ing firm that makes his own dreams come true, and boasts some im­pres­sive num­bers. It has rev­enues of 15 mil­lion Swiss francs ( about HK$ 117m), and an an­nual out­put of more than 200 watches, which in 2013 al­lowed him to de­cide he didn’t want to grow the busi­ness be­yond those num­bers. It was a “crazy de­ci­sion,” in his own words, and he’s stuck with it to this day.

Lim­it­ing the out­put gives him the space to cre­ate, he says. “I can only cre­ate when I have noth­ing to do. Ac­tiv­ity kills my cre­ativ­ity. I try to spend 45 min­utes or an hour just sit­ting in my gar­den, not do­ing any­thing but think­ing.”

What drives him to­day, he says, are “love and grat­i­tude. Love for my fam­ily, love for cre­at­ing, grat­i­tude for where I have ar­rived in life, when I never even dreamt of it. Ac­tu­ally in my life there are only two goals now: to love and to cre­ate.”

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