Today will be a rather special instalment of the Collector’s Series. First of all, for a change, I’ll meet up with not one but two collectors, both sharing their thoughts on the same watch. Second, the collectors in question will be familiar to you, as I’ll be talking with our managing editor Brice and our community manager and editor Robin. And the watch they’ll discuss today is equally special, as it’ll be about one of the most talked-about watches produced by an independent watchmaker recently… Yes, both of them just took delivery of their M.A.D.Editions Red, the final version of the “thank you watch” created by Max Büsser at first as a gesture to the people who helped build and develop MB&F. And today, they explain why they madly (pun intended) wanted one, what it represents and what they think about it after about a week of ownership.
Frank Geelen – In a nutshell, what is M.A.D.Editions? And what’s the story behind this watch?
Brice – Before even mentioning the whole idea behind M.A.D.Editions, we have to understand a bit more about who and what’s behind it; Max Büsser and MB&F. Max, whom I’ve now known for about 8 to 9 years, created his own independent watchmaking brand named MB&F after moving away from Harry Winston. There, as of 2001, he initiated one of the coolest collections of watches ever imagined, the Opus Series. In short, the idea was to invite some of the most respected and creative master watchmakers to develop an extraordinary watch, always with the idea to push the boundaries of horological innovation. Names such as F.P. Journe, Felix Baumgartner, Vianney Halter or Andreas Strehler participated in the concept.
When in 2005 Max Büsser created his own brand, he decided to rely on external partners, the so-called friends, to assemble collectives of independent watchmaking professionals to develop radical watches. United we stand, divided we fall, applied to watchmaking. It has not been a simple journey, and the company has known ups and downs, but now the brand is healthy, produces superb watches, has a clear strategy and has strong recognition from its peers and the collecting community… And still relies on its friends to make beautiful things. And Max somehow knows that he would not have been able to achieve this without friends and partners. And this was, at first, the raison d’être behind M.A.D.Editions. A watch designed by Max, with a clear MB&F identity, but with much simpler mechanics, to be gifted to the brand’s partners as a gesture, as a mark of confidence.
Robin – To add to that, what Max and the MB&F team have done with the M.A.D. Editions 1 Red is to open up independent watchmaking in the true MB&F spirit to a greater audience than ever possible with the HM and LM series. Not that many people can afford a watch of 50,000 euros or more, so providing an opportunity to at least own something that is closely linked in spirit and creativity is extremely appreciated by many, myself included!
And to be honest, the communications couldn’t have been clearer. Even talking to Charris (Chief Communications Officer for MB&F) last year, the entire concept of the M.A.D.Editions is clear as day. At first, just a token of appreciation to all who helped build MB&F into what it is today. And second, with the M.A.D.Editions 1 Red, answering to the calls of the community and trying to be as fair and open as possible about it.
How did you find out about the project, back in 2021? I can remember that you, Robin, were one of the very firsts to even notice this?
Robin – Keeping track of everything that’s happening on social media for MONOCHROME is one of my prime objectives within the team. I vividly remember coming across an Instagram post of the M.A.D.Editions in blue last year and being stunned for a moment. What was this? How did I not know about this? Have I missed an email or something? Quickly browsing through several accounts on Instagram got me nowhere.
The next move was to call Brice and see if he knew anything about it, but no. I think I was one of the first to pick up on it, yes, and since neither of us knew anything I reached out to Charris to try and get more details. He quickly called me back and explained the entire idea behind it and the fact it was never intended for public sale. I think we talked about the entire project for half an hour or so, and immediately after that, I wrote a story on it. Again, as one of the firsts, I think.
It just goes to show how widespread yet tight-knitted the watch community can be from time to time. Here I am, sitting in my home office in the Netherlands, seeing a post from someone halfway across the world and getting all excited about it. It caused quite a storm then, and it is causing a storm again right now. How cool is that?
So, at first, it was not intended to become a commercial project…?
Brice – as far as I know, it’s mostly because of the whole buzz surrounding the watch that Max and the team at MB&F decided to launch this watch. There’s been an incredible reception… I mean, the idea of owning a watch designed and conceived by the MB&F team was, for most of us from the collecting community (and me included), just a dream. MB&F watches start at around 50k, which is unattainable for many of us. So imagine the reception of collectors, watch enthusiasts, and watch journalists when Max and the team presented the first M.A.D.Editions (the blue one)… Finally, a Büsser-created watch that we could afford? Well, not really at first, since this was a watch to thank his friends.
Robin – Exactly that… When you look at my first article on this M.A.D.Editions watch, the title was The Accessible Watch By Max Büsser That You’d Want to Buy… But Can’t! – That says it all. And this was something clearly communicated by Max and the team from day 1. Even talking to the brand, they emphasized the fact it was never intended as a commercial product. It was just meant as a big thank you gesture to those who helped MB&F move forward over time.
I guess that this and many more articles, posts on social media, and comments made clear to the brand that there was a market for this watch. So maybe, I’ve helped a little in making this watch finally available to a wider audience… I just loved sharing the story then, as I love sharing the story now.
And then comes the watch you’re wearing today… Which is now available (sort of) to a wider audience?
Brice – yes, seeing the reception of the first blue model, it seems that Max and the team at MB&F took the decision to make this watch real. But MB&F, and M.A.D.Editions for today’s matters, isn’t really a large-scale manufacture, capable of doing thousands of watches a year. So there were quite a few things to take into account before releasing this watch. First, I’m sure the team knew that there was a quite long line of potential buyers – the reality is, the line was huge and actually far longer than what they expected.
So there were decisions to make I guess, and the team behind M.A.D.Editions decided to allocate the first pieces (about 1,000 if I’m correct) in a rather special way. Some were reserved for the first enthusiasts who registered their interest by email, way before this red version was announced – I must say a huge thank you to Robin for giving me the idea to tell Max and his team that, if ever they would come up with a commercial edition, we would be interested. The rest of the watches were allocated according to an impartial process… a raffle!
Robin – I think it is important to put things into perspective first. MB&F is not a large corporation. The company is run by a small team of very passionate people, all aimed at doing fascinating and creative things revolving around watches (mostly).
All of a sudden, through a stroke of genius perhaps, this small collective comes up with a way to give back to its own inner circle. And it blows up to something no one could have expected. In total, they received more than 25,000 emails and messages from people who wanted one. So to say the team was overwhelmed is quite an understatement.
Yet again, in my mind showing MB&F’s true nature once again, the allocation process couldn’t have been clearer, and fairer. We know the allocation process from some brands can be, troublesome, to say the least. Not here. Those who reached out at the very beginning expressing interest in a watch if ever it became commercially available, were put on a list. Those people now had a first chance to buy one, with no strings attached. If you changed your mind and not wanted one anymore, that’s all fine.
At the same time, MB&F also announced a special lottery for the remaining slots. Everyone has had the opportunity to enter the lottery for a two-week period. After that, a random computer-generated draw selected the lucky winners who were granted access to it. Very straightforward, very open, nothing to complain about. But no doubt, some people will be disappointed nonetheless, as MB&F simply can’t produce 25,000 watches.
So, how and when did you pick up your M.A.D.Editions MAD 1 Red…?
Robin – just last week, during the Geneva watch week. We took advantage of being in Geneva for Watches and Wonders to visit MB&F’s MAD Gallery and see the brand’s latest creations… And at the same time, we were able to pick up our brand new watch! I already spotted some of our friends and colleagues wearing one during the fair so I was pumped to finally get to see it for myself. From a personal perspective, despite seeing tons of watches the entire week, this was somehow the pinnacle of my week.
Brice – clever move from Max once again, indeed. He made sure that some of the watches from the first batch were ready before Watches and Wonders so many of us could pick it up a bit in advance – at least, those part of the group of people who wrote an email to the team after the launch of the blue model to show their interest.
And what about those who couldn’t be in Geneva, or didn’t make it to the pre-order list?
Brice – if I’m correct and to clarify things, the brand has just closed the raffle and the lucky winners might have been contacted now. It seems that deliveries are planned between September and December 2022. But rest reassured if your name wasn’t part of the first batch, Max has announced that a new batch of M.A.D. 1 Red will be re-launched in early 2023. So yes, there’s still a chance for you to get one!
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Enjoying the watch so far?
Robin – Oh, yes! Big time! I guess we all know the sensation of checking for the time, seeing one of your precious watches on your wrist, and then failing to take note of the actual time of day altogether. It is like that, times ten for me. I find myself just looking at my M.A.D. 1 Red and making the rotor spin. Call me a nerd but I even light it up with a UV torch every now and then just to see that insanely cool rotor light up in the dark.
It instantly shot to the top three of the watches I own, just because of the entire experience. From day one until now, this watch has been in the back of my mind. Every now and then, I would think to myself, if ever MB&F decides to market this, I want one. No, I NEED one. It was that strong of an urge.
Brice – Let’s be honest… It’s an overly cool watch. It’s not a watch I’d wear every day, or on specific occasions, simply because it truly is polarizing. Is it practical, easy to wear…? No, the watch is fairly large, it’s thick, reading the time requires some experience… But, really, I just look at it and play with the rotor, and it gives me a huge smile. And yes, there’s this immediate connection with the HM series by MB&F, the 3-blade rotor, the unusual display of the time, the reversed movement. It’s all absolutely mesmerizing.
And what surprised me most is the quality of the execution. It’s not a cheap watch per se – it’s about 3,000 euros – but you can really see the attention to detail, the complexity of the case (there’s not a single visible screw) or the fact that most of the parts have been custom designed, to the exception of the movement, which is made by Miyota. Overall, you get a lot of watch for your money.
I guess that the watch will be a keeper for both of you…? No intention to sell it?
Brice – fair question, since I’m pretty sure the prices will rise drastically on the second-hand market in the coming weeks. But here’s my very clear answer: AB-SO-LU-TE-LY NOT. It’s here, it stays. The reason is simple. This watch means more than just a watch. It’s also a way for me to remind a human connection, to go beyond just watches and products.
The initial intention with M.A.D.Editions was to pay tribute to MB&F’s partners and friends, and I chose to look at my own red version as such too. I know I’ve bought it, but still, it reminds me of the friendship I have with Max, Charris, Arnaud and many more people from MB&F, the dinners we had at Baselworld… The simple fact that, behind this industry, there are women and men. Yes, there’s a bit of a sentimental thing in this watch – and I guess it’s somehow mutual. So yes, the watch is a keeper, definitely.
Robin – Short and simple: No, never!
For several very personal reasons. It starts with the fact I love the watch as a concept, a product. Even though I enjoy very traditional watchmaking just as much as the next one, I also have a soft spot for expressive watchmaking like this, when done right. And to me, this is done very right. Then there’s the opportunity to own a piece of MB&F-esque watchmaking. I have been a fan of the brand ever since I went down the horological rabbit hole, and they know it.
What’s also important to me is the interaction with the team. Every time I run into someone, whether it’s during an event or something else they take the time to come say hi and chat. It’s only a small effort, but you are dealing with people when you’re dealing with MB&F and not a corporation.
One time during a summer holiday I spent a couple of days in Geneva with my girlfriend. Walking around Old Town Geneva I suddenly found myself staring at the M.A.D. Gallery window, with Charris behind it, on the phone, looking just as surprised as I was. We spent the next two hours just chatting with Charris and the rest of the team there, checking out the watches and kinetic art on display. Great fun!
Regarding the M.A.D.Editions brand in general, what do you think the future will be? And what would you like to see as the next watch, if ever there’s one coming?
Robin – That’s a tough one, as we’re only just getting to grips with M.A.D.Editions being launched as sort of a sub-brand. And Max clearly stated it will never come to a point where this side-project jeopardizes MB&F as a whole. That I think, is the most important thing. Max and the team shouldn’t lose themselves over this, however fun it surely is.
But if we’re talking about future directions, who knows? This M.A.D.Editions Red 1 already takes some cues from several MB&F creations. The inverted movement, the triple-blade rotor, the lateral display of time. So maybe down the line, we will see some other MB&F derived creations? Maybe something along the lines of the HM5, one of my personal favourites? I just hope they will not milk it into oblivion, which would be a shame. It’s fun, and it should stay that way.
Brice – Regarding the future of the brand, it’s quite difficult now. I’m not even sure Max and his team know themselves what to do with it. It’s a bit of an unexpected success, and they certainly are overwhelmed with the demand. But I hope they have plans to make this brand a long-term story. Just, they need to keep it as a side project, with a limited production, otherwise, this could dilute MB&F. The decision to make it a separate brand is already a first and important step.
Now, if you ask me what I’d like in the future… Something inspired by the LM series, with a steampunk inspiration. I’m sure Max will find something to play along these lines!