Had a chat with this incredible man in 2011 when i was at ZbBz, that was when MB&F collaborated with Boucheron. My story here:
Maximilian Büsser showed me the HM4(Horological Machine No 4), it appeared so eager to take off, I was convinced enough to promise him I would say to readers this, that Maximilian Büsser “has not crossed over to the dark side”.
“In the last 5 years, we have developed a hard core following of fans,and you must be aware of the great divide between horology and jewellery? In this project(with Boucheron), there must have been some who suspect I have gone over to the dark side doing jewellery, but still, my guts told me I should.”
He was referring to the collaboration between his cutting edge swiss creative laboratory MB&F and the 152-year-old House of Boucheron, the most venerable of France’s high-jewellery houses, as well as the JwlryMachine that came into being, an astonishing haute-joaillerie version of MB&F’s Horological Machine No 3 (HM3).
In a spectacular flight of fancy, the House’s peerless artisans have conceived the watch as a splendid three-dimensional jewelled owl, presented either in 18k white gold, with amethyst, diamonds and blue and violet sapphires, or in 18k red gold, with pink tourmaline, rose quartz, diamonds and pink sapphires.
The owl’s eyes are large glowing cabochons, set over the twin cones, and its sparkling wings, wrapped protectively around the precious HM3 engine, are entirely pavé-set with brilliant-cut stones. Its feathered breast is sculpted and engraved from a single block of amethyst or rose quartz. The glowing eyes, sparkling wings and softly gleaming breast create a carefully choreographed play of light.
But the two creators, Boucheron and MB&F seem such an unlikely team. The House of Boucheron, in its historic setting at 26 Place Vendôme, Paris, is a legend in the rarefied world of French high jewellery. A family dynasty, founded by Frédéric Boucheron in 1858, it has never ceased to enchant its discerning clientele, including royalty, aristocrats, billionaires etc.
In direct opposition to his time-honoured creative partner, Büsser founded his creative laboratory just five years ago. And where the House of Boucheron’s jewels are clearly objects of desire, the initial reaction to MB&F’s Machines may well be one of shock and awe. So wherein lies the common ground?
“People. People who share the same values,such as enthusiasm, of curiosity, risk taking…. coming to work together,its not a financial or commercial decision, its not about cooperations with returns. It’s about a project created by 2 human beings. I have known Jean-Christophe Bedos, the CEO of Boucheron for a long time and I really admired the brand, its got a strong character or personality, they are not about the marketer who is eager to please. Its incredile the skills their artisans have and probably, there might be more people who do not like Boucheron than like that, but for those who like it, they love it.
MB&F is even more extreme than Boucheron.
I never create thinking about the client. I don’t give a damn, its all about fulfilling my creative dream, giving meaning to my life, MB&F is a super selfish dream.”
Sometime back, Mr Bedos showed Busser a collection of jewellery, of flowers and plants of diamonds opening up. Busser was completely, as he put it, blown away.
“I remember saying to him, that I do 3 dimensional time machines, and you, you do 3 dimensional jewellery machines, it was lunch a year and a half ago that we decided to come together to do a 3 dimensional time jewellery machine.”
Its not about a need, he says, its “why don’t we do it?”
“Its the pleasure of creating together. We are independent brands that do not need the other, but when both worlds cooperate, there is collective energy, we create things that otherwise we wouldn’t have had we not cooperated. I share one of my pieces with someone I admire, then we put our names on the dial, such as with the HM 2.2 watch. I was a fan of Alain Silberstein and I met him one day and told him so, then came the HM 2.2, its Alain Silberstein but him in a way, the world has never seen before.”
He calls pieces that come out of these instances of admiration and sharing, performance art pieces.
“What is amazing and fantastic about this project is, it is the most free flowing one i have had, there is not a moment that we disagreed.
In January last year, he met up with the creative team at Boucheron to show them what MB&F is about. 2 months later, Boucheron came back with a staggering 60 designs, one of them the owl, which Busser homed in on.
“The owl called out to me, I emailed them back and they said, they thought the same, its synchronicity. On the HM3, the jewellers brought on their work. Many at times, you see diamonds being ploughed on the watch, that’s diamond setting. But this is a whole 3 dimensional work of the best artisans who know and have worked with diamonds.”
According to Busser, MB&F makes 12 machines only a month and he has decided that his lab could only produce 12-15 pieces of the JwlryMachine in the total of a year.
Not for the faint hearted, the JwlryMachine is an imposing piece, made all the more so by its sheer beauty. Most mesmerising of all: beneath the owl’s breast, its heart appears to be beating. The visual illusion is created by the faintly perceived swings of MB&F’s solid-gold battle-axe-shaped rotor beneath the translucent stone.
But he shrugged off the suggestion that he started out wanting to impress.
“I never create to impress. I create to feel the adrenaline rush in myself. The market I am in is like a big highway and everybody is charging in the same direction, some on a bicycle, some in cars, some in lorries. But me, I park my car at a side of the highway, get out of my car and go into the jungle with a machete, carving out a path for myself in the jungle. MB&F is our path and I must be careful not to stumble with that adrenaline.”
He lets on further in a rare revelation, “honestly, I have no idea where the company is heading, I bring it where my gut is bringing me, I am not sure where.”
To make his point, he shared a little history about himself.
“I came from a simple family with no money, and absolutely no dream of being a managing director of a company. My father used his money to get me a good education. At 31, I was Harry Winston’s managing director, not many people knew but Harry Winston was close to bankruptcy, we saved the company and built it and in the midst, I had it all, recognition, power….but i was enjoying myself less and less, as the company grew bigger and bigger.
My father passed away 8 years ago, and that was a wake up call.They say, the 2 times you face mortality in life, was when a parent left you, the other, was when your child is born.When my father left me, it dawned on me that I could be the next in line. And the end could be 50 years or tomorrow. Am I going to have regrets if I were to die tomorrow?”
He loved creating, but back at Harry Winston, everything that was created wasn’t from him nor was it for him.
“I was in total neglect of my self, it was a total abdication of the self, I did not do it for me. If you saw “Saving Private Ryan”, at the end of the film, Tom Hanks tells Matt Damon, “Make it worthwhile.” I was 34.I was a symbol of success, I was lucky. And I thought to myself, why don’t I use that as a leverage to do really what I want?”
And MB&F came into being, in his emphasis, a small company of friends, whose focal point is and always will be on creativity. “Here, I superselfishly create what I want, it didnt matter if others could not understand, because I want to live, I want to feel blood rushing in my veins, its about getting out of your comfort zone.”
He showed me machine no.4.
“A year ago I held the prototype in my hand, and I asked myself, who’s going to buy this? but I didnt care. I m so proud of myself, this is my baby, this is me. I built model airplanes as a kid, I was assembling another person’s plane 35 years ago n now I created mine. Everyone wants to sell in this market, but I did it all for myself. Its a self asserting act. I do not care about the others. I have been rational, but in my last ten years, I used my guts and followed them more than my mind, the head keeps you in the comfort zone but its the guts that is who you are, telling you what you want and where do u go. MB&F is alot about that. “
Is there no fear to caution him at all?
“That’s what adrenaline is all about, adrenaline is fear too. When you conquer fear, there is pride. And adrenaline and pride,they are my biggest drug, I m high on that.”
Just as quitting (Harry Winston) has been, starting MB&F has been a most important decision he has made in time.
“On paper,and with numbers, we are now, where I thought we would be 5 years ago. But the way to now, is totally what I have not imagined. You can be sure there are many sleepless nights, days of doubt and terror, there is no protection net and absolutely no one to catch you. I would say, looking back, that its tough but not really. There are problems, but I am so grateful to be doing what I am doing, that I can be sure I am able to overcome a problem. 20years ago, if someone punched me, I would be knocked down. But now, if someone did the same, I would bounce back from the floor, I have this innate knowledge that what is within me and in me, would allow me to beat a problem, be it a health problem or otherwise. I would be battling, not one moment would I stop, because…I m so lucky. It’s that realisation that I m blessed that is giving me this energy. For I have discovered who I am, once you know who you are, what you love and what you don’t, what you are good at and what not, you will survive, you will get over it, and you can be happy.”
“Many people live in cages, to have freedom, is luxury.”
Having been “playing” with time, he has this to say of what this “play” has taught him,, and that is, to make it worthwhile.
“It is a crime not to make the most of your time, and we are all going to die too early.”