WatchBox Reviews

MB&F Founder Max Büsser Talks Watches, Watch Business, Cars, And Watch Collecting With Tim Mosso

Contact for pricing and availability; Either I have it, or I can get it! Maximilian “Max” Büsser is a watch industry institution. From his early days at Jaeger LeCoultre to his creation of the Harry Winston Opus series of watches, Max has been an innovator. With MB&F watch – “Max Büsser & Friends” – since 2005, he has found favor with watch collectors by taking risks and reaping the rewards. Today, Tim Mosso interviews Max on topics ranging from biographical to philosophical. Watch collecting, classic cars, and watch industry business strategy are among the topics covered in this far-reaching discussion. By the early 1990s, Jaeger LeCoultre was recovering from a near death-blow during the Quartz Crisis era. Henry-John Belmont, then director of the manufacture, recruited the young Maximilian Büsser to manage projects during the brand renaissance of the mid-1990s. Max, who is an engineer by training, learned that design, customer insights, and marketing were as vital to the success of a watch as the assembly quality. In the late 1990s, Max joined Harry Winston Rare Timepieces as the brand sought to invest in and differentiate its watch collection in a suddenly crowded luxury mechanical watch market. While Max shepherded other projects such as the Z-series sports watches during his time as CEO of HWRT, he is best remembered for coining the Harry Winston Opus series of artisan-guided limited editions. Starting with F.P. Journe’s Opus One collection, Max provided resources and marketing muscle to independent watchmakers of esteem while allowing the creators total freedom to pursue their respective visions. Greubel Forsey, Urwerk, Vianney Halter, Emmanuel Bouchet, Christophe Claret, Andreas Strehler, Antoine Preziuso, and Jean-Francois Mojon of Chronode were among the luminaries whose names graced watches of the Opus Series. 2005 marked a major transition for Max and his role in the watch industry. All of his previous jobs involved marshalling massive resources on behalf of a large corporate watch brand. MB&F was different; Max became the owner and the boss. From the first “Horological Machine” – the HM1 – MB&F proved to be imaginative, irreverent, and prolific. As with the previous Harry Winston Opus series, the focal point of MB&F was a team of contributors from outside the firm. While many watch brands take exhaustive measures to claim all work as original and proprietary, MB&F celebrated the many “friends” who contributed to the company’s watches, clocks, performance art, and mechanical curiosities. Everyone from the movement engineer to the strap supplier has been credited by name from the very beginning. In 2020, Max Büsser and MB&F faced their greatest challenge since the 2007-2009 world financial crisis. But amid what should have been an implosion year for a low-volume boutique watch brand, MB&F encountered record demand from watch collectors. In this feature, Max reflects on a year that began with panic and ended with four times as many orders as production capacity permitted. Max has strong opinions about watchmaking. Reflecting on his own role in the MB&F success story, Max opines that modern independent watch brands require a strong guiding hand from a creator-owner. While sharing the creative role, such an owner must take sole control of priorities regarding volume, product spirit, and brand equity. Max views brands controlled by absentee boards, investors, and holding firms as insufficiently nimble and devoid of creative integrity. All of the most successful independent watch brands such as MB&F, F.P. Journe (Montres Journe), and Richard Mille reflect the ambition and creative force of an active owner-manager. And the idea is scalable: Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe reflect the concern and discipline of family owner-operators. Collecting watches is one of Max’s passions, and he likes to buy watches that reflect the relationships that he has built in the watch industry. Watches by longtime MB&F friend Alain Silberstein of France are of particularly great interest to the iconoclastic Maximilian Büsser. Watches by Britain’s Peter Speake-Marin carry great meaning for Max given his deep personal bond with their creator. Kari Voutilainen is on the wrist. All-time classics such as the Patek Philippe Nautilus, Jaeger LeCoultre Reverso, and Audemars Piguet Royal Oak are in the Büsser family watch box. Max also advises watch collectors to seek value in less hyped brands and smaller auction houses. Off the wrist, Max also enjoys modern and classic cars. In fact, he describes cars as his “first love,” and he hoped to design cars. A lifelong adoration of 1960s Corvettes has driven him to find and keep a 1965 Corvette Sting Ray – assuredly one of the only examples in Switzerland. The rare Porsche 911 Turbo 3.6 sits at the top of Max’s shopping list. On the 911 Turbo 3.6, Max opines “there were no CFOs or CEOs” sitting on the design committees for the 964 3.6 Turbo.