One of the really special parts of the watch world are the independent brands. Although they may not be as widely known in Australia as they should be, they have definitely had a profile here, largely through the active online presence of many Australian watch enthusiasts, some of whom also own 'Indies'.
One of the most well independents is Max Busser’s M&F. It is difficult to open a watch magazine or go to a watch related blog or website without reading about a Horological or Legacy Machine. This is a brand with some serious fans. I had never had an opportunity to see them 'in the metal', so it was with great pleasure and excitement that I accepted an invitation from The Hour Glass in Sydney, who have just become MB&F's newest authorised dealer, to spend some time with Max Busser and his watches.
I shall write more about meeting Max later; this first post is to give you a glimpse of six MB&F watches, and to share my thoughts about seeing them for the first time. With such unconventional designs, an important question will always be about wearability, so this will be my main focus.
These are the MB&F Machines with which I spent an interesting and glorious late afternoon interlude. The technical specifications of them can be found at MB&F’s website here :
Firstly, we have a family photo.
How much MB&F fun can one person have?
HM01 in White Gold and Ruthenium
Dimensions: length 41mm, width 64mm, height 14mm
With 376 parts, 7-day power reserve and an elevated central tourbillon, the Machine that started it all, the HM1, is a big watch. Max said to me that he designs all his watches for his wrist, they are intended to be worn. I am not sure how my wrist compares to the average female wrist, even with the glove on, but I don’t have a petite wrist, not a particularly large one.
It sits large but reasonably comfortably and not too highly, which is good, but it’s probably designed to be worn a bit higher up the wrist area than I have it in this photo. It’s fun, and probably the most conservative, in retrospect, of all of MB&F’s creations to date.
HM02 in Black Ceramic and Red Gold – Ltd edition of 33
Dimensions (exclusive of crown and lugs): 59mm x 38mm x 13mm
There are 450 parts in this Machine, with instantaneous jumping hour, concentric retrograde minutes, retrograde date, bi-hemisphere moonphase.
This is, I believe, is the final one of these available for sale at any AD, so if you want to take a look at it, get in quick. Differently proportioned to the HM1, it is more sleek, more steampunk, but still long in terms of wrist real estate. It's very striking contrast of colour and texture, and I am particularly taken with the ‘matte-ness’ of ceramic component.
HM03 Sidewinder in White Gold and Titanium
Dimensions (exclusive of crown and lugs): 47mm x 50mm x 16mm
This is one half of a famous duo. The 'Sidewinder' has the cones lined perpendicular to the arm, and 'Starcruiser' has the cones in line with the arm. With hour and day/ night indicator on one cone, minutes on the second cone and date around the movement, this Machine is all about being able to see inside it. When it came out, everyone seemed to be debating whether they preferred the Sidewinder or Starcruiser, but I’d just been thinking about how big they looked.
As it turns out yes they are large, but they actually not only sit pretty comfortably, including on a woman’s wrist (see photo), but they do not look as large as you’d think. I was much more taken with this than I had anticipated I would be. It had quite a different impact on me ‘in the metal’, the whimsy shone through in a way that is not possible when you’re just looking at photos.
(thank you to my wrist model, whose wrist is a bit smaller than mine).
HM04 Thunderbolt in Titanium
Dimensions: 54mm wide x 52mm long x 24mm high
With 311 parts, this aviation-inspired Horological Machine features hours and minutes (right dial) and a power reserve indicator (left dial) with separate crowns for time setting and winding.
When seen in real life, the impact (not to mention the watch) is definitely high, and it was only in being able to see it that the talk about it having its genesis in Max Büsser's childhood passion for model plane kits made sense. This is a watch you want to take off and play around with.
It’s a very visceral watch, the HM4, and sweetly plane-nerdy.
It’s great fun to play with, but of all the MB&F Machines I saw, this was the only one that was difficult for me personally to contemplate, though I’ve seen a photo of it on a friend’s (male) wrist and it looked fine. It carries a bit more heft and sits a lot higher than I had expected that it would, but it also seemed to be heavier than the others.
Legacy Machine no 1 – red gold and white gold
Ah my domed beauties …. I never thought I’d have the pleasure of your company.
"What would have happened if I had been born in 1867 instead of 1967? In the early 1900s the first wristwatches appear and I would want to create three-dimensional machines for the wrist, but there are no Grendizers, Star Wars or fighter jets for my inspiration. But I do have pocket watches, the Eiffel Tower and Jules Verne, so what might my 1911 machine look like? It has to be round and it has to be three-dimensional: Legacy Machine N°1 was my answer." Maximilian Büsser
Appearing to be the most ‘conservative’ of MB&F’s machine creations, it is in fact not conservative at all, with a wonderful marriage of splendid classicism with a edge of an almost industrial modernity.
At a comfortably (and almost small) 44mm with a unique vertical power reserve of 45 hours, it features completely independent dual time zones displayed on two dials. The left crown at 8 o'clock is for setting the time on the left dial, the right crown at 4 o'clock is for setting time of right dial and for winding.
Available in 18k red gold or 18k white gold, my heart belongs to the white gold version. The red gold version bears the warmth associated with that metal, but the clean sharp sleekness of the white gold seems more modern.
Oh and I’m clearly not alone in being enamoured of the LM1 – there is a worldwide waiting list already …
Many thanks to Ching and The Hour Glass for the opportunity to see these watches. As well as being a lot of fun, it made me realise that Max was right when he said that he designed them to be wearable – they actually are.
Oh and just in case you're wondering about the sizing issue, some 20 odd percent of MB&F owners are women.