The Immortals – The MB&F Legacy Machine is a jaw-on-the-floor originalD.C. Hannay
Maximilian Büsser is a dreamer. His is a tale of audacity, swirled with a healthy pour of unfettered creativity. After all, his company, MB&F (Max Büsser & Friends) has a slogan: “A creative adult is a child who survived”, meaning his own sense of wonder never left him. As a result, his virtuoso horological expressions are studies in utter fearlessness. And if you’re not familiar, there’s a lot to unpack.
Büsser is the mind behind probably some of the most unconventional wrist watches you’ve ever seen. Most watches we’re familiar with are relatively flat by design, with one of the goals of watch design being to pack all the mechanicals into as thin a space as is practical. But Büsser’s work makes use of all three dimensions, imagining fanciful sculptures for the wrist. In fact, he refers to his work as Horological Machines, which can resemble jet engines, robotic creatures, spaceships, even a sort of mechanical panda. But that’s not all: some of his other work includes a stainless steel and Murano glass sculptural desk clock evoking a robotic T. Rex’s legs, a clock shaped like a rocket (complete with tiny astronaut climbing the ladder to the capsule), and a mechanical music box shaped like an Imperial TIE Fighter. Virtually all of the preceding is fully crafted in Switzerland with a rotating cast of all-star watchmakers and other artisan collaborators.
For someone as heavily invested in outside-the-watchbox thinking, Max does actually produce something as ordinary as a circular cased watch, the Legacy Machine series, but as you’d imagine, the results are just as jaw-on-the-floor original. Upon the release of the Legacy Machine No. 1 in 2011, Büsser signalled to the world that he had created a more wearable timepiece, and it’s at this point that his reputation grew exponentially. Sell out was assured, and the FOMO was palpable. So what was the fuss all about?
Büsser says the inspiration behind the Legacy Machine series was time travel, and the innovations of 19th century watchmaking informed his designs. And since much of horological technology was invented more than 100 years ago, he wanted to celebrate what we still use today by subverting it, and in some cases, exploding it into three dimensions. With the help of watchmakers Jean-François Mojon and Kari Voutilainen, Büsser placed the manual winding movement’s balance wheel front and centre, a whirling dervish set at the peak of a highly domed sapphire crystal.
Other unique features include the vertical power reserve indicator (styled after a sextant), and two fully independent time zones on separate dials, each with their own crown.
The reimagined movements were as exquisitely finished as you might imagine, and the entire visual three-ring circus was packaged in a 44mm diameter case, wrapped with your choice of stainless steel, titanium, red or white gold, or platinum.
All that creativity and craftsmanship paid off, and the MB&F Legacy Machine No. 1 was awarded the Public Prize and the Best Men’s Watch Prize at the 2012 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève.
In the ensuing years, MB&F has issued a number of new editions of the Legacy Machine, including split escapements, a perpetual calendar, a flying tourbillon, and I kid you not, one reference known as the Thunderdome. Prices ranged from five to six figures, if you could find one, and they generally only increased in value. And in 2021, MB&F celebrated 10 years of the Legacy Machine with the new LMX.
The LMX calls back to the original LM1 with its dial layout, but tilts them toward the wearer, and adds the neat trick of a rotating 3D power reserve indicator, showing either a weekday or seven-day display. Few manufacturers give watch fans so much to gawk at: One really can get lost in all the myriad details.
The great thing about a maison like MB&F and a mind like Max Büsser’s is that you never know what to expect. Just when you think there are no more worlds to conquer, along comes another left-field idea, executed at the highest level. And although I may never own one of his watches, because of that unbridled creativity and insistence on quality, the horological world is a better place because of him.