What happens when you bring together the creative force behind Rome’s most famous luxury emporium and the creative mind behind some of watchmaking’s most radical flights of fancy? The answer is sheer magic. The collaboration between Bvlgari and MB&F, or rather between Bvlgari’s creative director Fabrizio Buonamassa and MB&F’s founder and creative director Maximilian Büsser, has resulted in this extraordinary take on the Legacy Machine FlyingT, an exuberant, high jewellery version of MB&F’s first women’s watch. Presented in 20 pieces in white gold and 20 pieces in red gold, the FlyingT Allegra watch is a triumphant combination of the distinct personalities of two radically different brands.
Wouldn’t it be cool if…
As Maximilian Büsser explains in our exclusive video interview (at the top of this article), many collaborations start with an optimistic ‘wouldn’t it be cool if…’ but usually, never get beyond the constraints of the conditional tense. Four years ago, during Dubai Watch Week, Max Büsser met Bvlgari’s legendary creative director Fabrizio Buonamassa (the genius behind the design of the Octo Finissimo watch line and the rebirth of the Serpenti), who expressed his admiration for MB&F’s products. Two years later, during the GPHG 2019, Büsser and Buonamassa met again, this time with Antoine Pin, head of the watch division at Bvlgari and discussed the possibility of working on something together. However, it wouldn’t be until the 2019 edition of Dubai Watch Week that the ‘what if’s’ became a reality. Naturally, Büsser was taken aback that a giant luxury brand like Bvlgari would warm to the independent watchmaker. Still, something ticked and Büsser and Buonamassa set to work on the Legacy Machine FlyingT Allegra.
One plus one equals three
Büsser’s pursuit of collaborative projects started a long time before he founded MB&F in 2005. As the managing director of rare timepieces at Harry Winston, Büsser crowning achievement was the Opus Series, a collection of remarkable timepieces made in collaboration with independent watchmakers. This intrepid vision of collaborative watchmaking became a fundamental pillar for the brand (Max Büsser & Friends). As Büsser says in the video, in collaborations, “one plus one equals three”.
And although the collaboration with Bvlgari will leave many in awe, it is not MB&F’s first time at the high jewellery rodeo. In 2010, MB&F and the French high-jewellery Maison Boucheron teamed up to make a high jewellery version of the Horological Machine 3. Known as the JwlryMachine, this magnificent high jewellery piece was styled like an owl, complete with jewelled feathers and glowing cabochon eyes set over the twin cones of the hour and minute indications.
The Mb&F FlyingT
The LM FlyingT was Büsser’s first watch for women and broke MB&F’s 14-year long tradition of masterminding complex men’s watches. Unveiled in 2019, the FlyingT set out to give women the same complexity and 3D spectacle of MB&F’s men’s watches by staging a flying tourbillon in the centre of the dial. Supported by a vertical column construction, the flying tourbillon rises prominently from its deep well to perform its one-minute gyrations under the high-domed glass. The development of the cinematic flying tourbillon, which projects beyond the dial plate and is secured in place with a diamond, required radical technical solutions. While most modern watch movements rely on a radial and co-planar approach, the FlyingT uses a vertical and co-axial approach. Another challenge in the construction of the FlyingT involved the shape of the upper tourbillon cage. Because it has more mass on one side, it had to be compensated. The solution was to place a counterweight hidden under the tourbillon case. The intriguing hours and minutes dial perched at a 50°angle at 7 o’clock was designed so that only the wearer can consult the time. Again, Büsser’s idea was not straightforward and involved the incorporation of conical gears to transmit torque from one plane to another.
flyingt Alla Bvlgari
Appearing in 2019 with a black dial and full-set diamond models followed by guilloché, lapis lazuli and green malachite versions, nothing could have prepared us for this stunning collaboration with Bvlgari. Rome’s preeminent jeweller, Bvlgari is renowned for its sumptuous high jewellery pieces with a powerful emphasis on colour and cabochon-cut stones. When it comes to iconic women’s watches like the Serpenti, Bvlgari’s flair for pairing intrepid designs with mouth-watering gemstones is legendary.
The ‘Allegra’ part of the watch’s name is taken from Bvlgari’s Allegra watch, a jewellery model with a mix of different sized and different coloured gemstones suspended on an outer bezel. There is another model, the Astrale jewellery watch with colourful gemstones circling the dial, which also feeds into the design of the FlyingT Allegra. When Buonamassa started sketching, he envisioned the FlyingT as a miniature planetarium with bold, colourful gemstones like planets floating around the central tourbillon.
The five gemstones set on the dial of the FlyingT vary in colour, size and shape. Set against a scintillating snow-set background of brilliant-cut white diamonds (0.24 ct), the dials are set with a medley of tsavorite, topaz, amethyst, tanzanite, rubellite and tourmaline arranged in a track surrounding the aperture for the tourbillon. As Antoine Pin points out in the interview, Bvlgari’s gem setters had no trouble at all incorporating the stones on the dial thanks to the volume provided by the high domed sapphire crystal of the Flying T. The hours and minutes dial is also paved with diamonds, respecting the serpentine hands that are a signature feature of this watch.
New case design
Buonamassa interpreted the high-domed volume of the case as a flying saucer from the 1950s or 1960s. Compared to the original case of the FlyingT and viewed from the side, you can see how the case has practically lost its case middle and lugs. The lugs are barely visible on the FlyingT Allegra, accentuating the domed flying saucer profile of the watch. The original 38.5mm case size of the FlyingT was slightly increased to 39mm to accommodate the new shape and the blanket of brilliant-cut diamonds (2.80ct) set in the case and buckle. Even the crowns at 9 and 3 o’clock have been enlarged and are now set with coloured gemstones. A smooth gold plaque spanning the dial from 4 to 6 o’clock bears the two brand names: MB&F x BVLGARI.
The caseback reveals the sun-shaped oscillating weight as its gold sandblasted rays rotate on the ruthenium disc positioned above a platinum counterweight. Although the automatic rotor hides most of the movement, which is more than compensated for by the action on the dial, the 280-part automatic movement, conceived and developed in-house by MB&F, delivers an impressive power reserve of 100 hours.
Availability and Price
The Legacy Machine FlyingT Allegra is limited to 20 pieces in white gold and 20 pieces in red gold. The retail price is CHF 160,000 (+ VAT), USD 185,000 (+ VAT) or EUR 150,000 (+ VAT).