MB&F is the brand that I’ve probably written about the most in recent years, but I have been following it since its early days. 2022 brings a new innovation from Maximilian Büsser & Stephen McDonnell: a legacy machine dedicated to lovers of complicated mechanisms and high-speed sports.

While MB&F does not boast a long history, it compensates by resourcefulness: in the 17 years of its existence, the brand has produced no less than 20 calibers. The latest one is not just an anniversary number; it is also a first – for both the brand and Swiss watchmaking in general.

And since we mentioned the short yet rich history of the brand, I suggest we take a short look at it before talking about this new release. I will partly pick up the main reference points the founder of the brand, Maximilian Büsser, insisted on during the Dubai-Geneva duplex launch, organized together with Stephen McDonnell for the watch that houses this important twentieth caliber.

No innovation comes without costs

In July 2005, Maximilian founded the MB&F company, which would operate for two years in the very apartment where he lived. He expected the first years to be difficult, but they turned out to be extremely so; he managed to overcome this difficult period only through perseverance. He tried to sell the retailers not so much his first creations – HM1 and HM2 – but rather the concepts behind them: he had to convince the retailers of their originality and viability, as well as of the future of the brand, and for that he could only rely on his sketches. The savings he put into this bet were quickly gone and bankruptcy was looming around the corner.

But Maximilian’s idea turned out to be visionary, and I don’t mean just the concept of the first horological machines, but also the fact that he gathered around him a team of talented collaborators: free-thinking designers and watchmakers. MB&F has become, if not a creative cooperative – which is an inappropriate term in the luxury field – at least a space where watchmaking can be explored and rethought in a radically different manner from that of other independent houses. But it wasn’t about innovating for innovation’s sake. MB&F’s originality stems from the fact that its ground-breaking vision is deeply rooted into tradition, and this is not just a marketing slogan. While it’s true that Büsser’s watches are no longer called watches, but machines, their connection to tradition is obvious to the eyes of true connoisseurs who make up the brand’s fan base. The subsequent launch of the so-called legacy machines, which pay homage to the work of master watchmakers from the 18th and 19th centuries, only emphasized this connection between MB&F and tradition.

2011, the year when Legacy Machine 1 was first introduced, was a new threshold that MB&F passed with flying colors. More subdued than the eccentric horological machines, the legacy machines are the best thing that Swiss watchmaking has to offer today. They are far from being mere “reinterpretations,” the result of a nostalgic vision; the past and future of watchmaking blend harmoniously in each of these timepieces: they are and will remain collectibles, just as stunning now as they will be in 50 years’ time.

There is much to be said about how the MB&F collections were developed. In them we discover not only some of the most interesting expressions of watchmaking avant-gardism, but also jewelry watches and table clocks transformed into genuine kinetic sculptures suitable for a modern curiosity cabinet, dedicated to buyers who are, at the same time, knowledgeable about horological mechanics and design, and capable to invest large sums of money in watches. But Maximilian Büsser is a man of surprises, so last year he introduced an unbelievably cheap watch as opposed to the usually exorbitant MB&F timepieces – a creation priced at CHF 1,900, which he dubbed M.A.D.1. The model enjoyed immediate success. I had the opportunity to write about it – and about many other MB&F timepieces for that matter – at the time of its release. Now let’s get back to the present of MB&F.

Two chronographs in one watch

LM Sequential EVO is the new MB&F sensation, launched during the Geneva-Dubai duplex I mentioned earlier, an event that also indicated the importance the house attaches to the two cities. LM Sequential Evo is the first ever chronograph by MB&F – which was reason enough to capture the attention of the enthusiasts. But we are talking about a significant first in the whole universe of watchmaking, since the MB&F chronograph virtually divides this function into four subfunctions. The case of the LM Sequential EVO houses not one, but two chronographs, which are interconnected, but are still capable of functioning independently. Hence the four usage modes for (1) timing several unrelated events, (2) timing the individual duration of two events that start at the same time, but have different finish points, (3) measuring sequential events (e.g., taking several laps of the circuit) and (4) sequential aggregation of several phases of an event.

Visually, the two chronographs have a mirrored layout, each featuring its own 60-second and 30-minute counters and the corresponding pushers. Even though everything seems overly complicated, LM Sequential EVO is easy to handle. What was complicated was its development, and Stephen McDonnell was the one who was able to solve this technical puzzle, even if it took him five years to pull it off. Let’s say that Stephen McDonnell is an older friend and collaborator of Maximilian Büsser, for whom he had created, for instance, the fascinating LM Perpetual timepiece which virtually reinvented the perpetual calendar. “We know things are done in a certain way, but there’s always room for innovation. Sometimes the watchmaking industry struggles for innovations to be accepted”, McDonnell says. “I don’t belong to the conventional segment of the watch world. I am not Swiss; though I live in the Land of the Cantons, I cannot say I really belong to this industry. I don’t pay too much attention to what is going on in the industry, nor do I follow very closely what they write about it. I work on things that I find interesting, on things that I like.” This about summarizes not only McDonnell’s horological credo, but, in a sense, the MB&F approach as well.

*This article was published in issue 16 of Lifetime Magazine – Collectible watch stories.

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