“Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.” – Confucius

MB&F’s new M.A.D. House

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MB&F moved into their new home, the refurbished Villa Coppier-Defer in Carouge, Geneva last September. We visited them and checked out their spring novelties, the LM Perpetual Stainless Steel with salmon dial plate and the Legacy Machine No.2 in palladium.

In a world where being disruptive is a supreme virtue, an entrepreneur who innovates by unification is refreshing. For the past 18 years, Maximilian Büsser has been bringing people and art forms together to realise creative projects at the edge of play and seriousness. Their creations have brought smiles and amazement to even well outside their client circle. These, spiced up with the attitude and luck finally brought greater business predictability to the team who has been with the company for years. The extent to which this was no walk in the park and how much learning it brought, Max Büsser shared in a gripping presentation at the Auditorium during the SIHH 2019.

With the themes MB&F has been elaborating on (bulldogs, turtles, spaceships, moon-machines, frogs, pandas, cars and robots) it would be rather easy to become overwhelming. Instead, they have been very conscious about what fits in this universe and what doesn’t. They have also made a significant effort to integrate their universe into the real world we all live in. Part of this is how they form and animate the community of creators, customers, admirers and journalists around the brand. Part of it is the example they set to anyone interacting with MB&F – representing the brand professionally and supporting each other. 

Part of it is how they occupy a space but never suppress it. Their juvenile curiosity co-exists with the respect of the wonders of the past which makes the old and new interact in a way that they continue in an inimitable story. Like how they looked around in the 19th century salon of the Beau-Rivage Geneva hotel last year before the 2022 Geneva Watch Days and infused it with kinetic objects from the M.A.D. Gallery and some furniture from their new home being built. And yes, also how they selected, refurbished and furnished their new home for the years to come. MB&F moved into the new M.A.D House last September and we had the chance to visit them last week.

MB&F and Villa Coppier-Defer

About two years ago, Maximilian Büsser started looking for a new home for his company as they outgrew their current space. The MB&F team had worked in different buildings, which was not ideal anyway. For months they couldn’t find the right venue until at an inspection of the next modern office, Mr Büsser noticed a house with a garden next door. The villa Coppier-Defer was built in around 1908 for a ceramics manufacturer Clément Coppier and his wife Adèle Defer as a family home. The architects were the French Charles Meysson (Chief Architect of the city of Lyon) and Edmond Fatio from Geneva, who also restored Geneva’s Tour de l’Ile in 1898. Although the building became protected, no general renovations were done in the past 60 years. Therefore, as the house was in such bad shape, the initial inspection by the MB&F team concluded that it would not be possible to turn it into a high-end watchmaking workshop.

Time passed, and a row of soulless office buildings got crossed off from Max Büsser’s list one by one, when Serge Kriknoff, COO and partner at MB&F poked Maximilian to revisit the villa. The atmosphere of the house prompted them to move ahead with creating a plan, and eventually come to an agreement with the owner. Preserving the original beauty of the building is what made the refurbishment challenging. 

The over 100 years old wooden staircase was rebuilt, the wooden inlays, doors and windows and even other furniture such as the food delivery window between the dining room and the kitchen were renewed. On the ground floor, the former adjoining reception rooms had varied decor adapted to each space: painted landscapes in grisaille give the living room a soft and cosy atmosphere while a pattern of lemons contributes to the tonic character of the dining room. This floor became the watchmakers’ area, where instead of chests of drawers and cupboards, kilns and other machines stand by the wall. The dining table and easy chairs were changed to watchmaking workbenches, and the chandeliers to modern flat lights supplementing the natural light streaming through the large windows.

Fireplaces have become symbolic gates to new dimensions and hold busts of superheroes, time capsules and toys. The stairway has been decorated with a wall clock by renowned watchmaker Jean Kazès and drawings of robots swarm around cars and conveyors. Paintings and figurines of the Japanese manga superhero Grendizer are on and next to the walls. Objects conceived in collaboration with friends and others just dear to the residents are placed on shelves everywhere.

Logistics and QA are situated on the first floor, while design and management lives on the second. In contrast to other companies, at MB&F there are 5 designers (+ Stephen McDonnell as an independent in Belfast) for 7-8 watchmakers doing the assembly. The two former guest rooms on this floor were joined to create a meeting area. This is where we laid eyes on the novelties that the brand recently announced.

Legacy Machine Perpetual Stainless Steel with salmon dial plate

Stephen McDonnell started to design the perpetual calendar movement in 2011 and it was first presented in 2015. As Maximilian Büsser says, there were times during the development of the completely redesigned QP mechanism, when Stephen could not find a solution to certain problems, when after sweat and tears the Eureka moment arrived, just a few days into his holidays. The multiple layers of the astonishing integrated movement could well symbolise the numerous waves of the creation process. The timepiece was awarded the Best Calendar Watch prize at the 2016 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG). Different metal and colour versions have been created, including this palladium presented at the Geneva Watch Days, which also introduced rectangular pushers.

The novelty has a steel case and a salmon-colour base plate – both of which are incredibly rare and their combination unique in MB&F’s repertoire. The pushers are rectangular just like on the palladium edition. Although not limited, production numbers will depend on MB&F’s capacities.

Legacy Machine No.2 in palladium

The two suspended beating balance wheels aiming towards the centre of the LM 2 timepiece return on a palladium version of the 2011 LM2 timepiece. Their rhythms are averaged out by a differential mechanism which then transmits the resultant rate to the single gear train. The model has already been casted in red gold, white gold, titanium and platinum with different colour variations. This time the case is palladium, which is an extremely difficult metal to process. Just like on many LM timepieces, the dial is white lacquered, but it is the top plate of the movement which is sunray-engraved and plated to this beautiful blue-grey aquamarine. The movement was designed by Jean-François Mojon and his team at Chronode, and the finishing was designed by Kari Voutilainen.

The Legacy Machine No.2 in palladium will be made in an 18-piece limited edition.

MB&F started out with crazy ideas 18 years ago in Maximilian Büsser’s flat. After years of operating in offices, the MB&F family has moved in together, in a place that may inspire even crazier ideas to surface. You can tell how happy they are in the M.A.D. House. And as Maximilian Büsser said, ‘When it feels right, it is right.’ 

Photo credits: Loupiosity.com
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