Today we’re talking with someone who bought an MB&F. And while MB&F is already pretty much ‘out there’ with their designs (remember the drop-dead-gorgeous LM1 owned by @winewhiskeywatches), today’s collector got one of the most unusual designs in the world of watches. Today’s collector was not necessarily a long-time watch collector, but he has an eye for the unusual, for the creative side. His name is Todd Searle and his business card states “Creator at Large”. He’s both an author, a content creator and a sales professional. For Todd, it had to be the MB&F Horological Machine HM7 from the first glance. Let’s find out what it was that attracted this collector from Chicago, Illinois, in this bold watch.
Frank Geelen, MONOCHROME – Have you always been a fan of MB&F?
Todd Searle – I fell in love with MB&F from the first time that I saw the product online. I was a relatively new collector and my conception of watches at that time would not allow me to consider owning an MB&F. I was told by too many people that the watch would lose value and I would never make my money back if I decided to sell. I continued to be drawn in by Max’s amazing products and was always fascinated by the creativity of the watches and how different they were from any other product on the market. I knew that Max Büsser was incredibly creative and I wanted to find out more about his watches.
While writing my book ‘32 Regrets: A Guide to Reclaiming Creativity’, I had the opportunity to connect with and interview Max, and I was immediately taken with his approach to watchmaking. It was evident to me that Max wanted to create watches that he wanted to see in the world and didn’t care if other people liked them. He wanted to create because he had a vision of taking traditional watchmaking and exposing it to the human eye to be seen, not to be put behind a caseback. Max’s vision was to create 3D mechanical art that also tells the time. Max passion and drive to create were so clear during our interview. I was absolutely hooked at that point.
What makes this such a special brand?
As I grew into a more confident watch collector I began looking at and adding more independent brands to my collection. I started to understand the ethos, the product, and the reasons why independent watches are such a different product from mass-produced watches. As I became more comfortable with my collection, I knew I wanted to add an MB&F to the collection. There were so many great pieces, I wasn’t sure where to start.
During my interview with Max, I spoke with him about his creative process. His answer floored me and I still think he executes this vision as well today as he did with HM1. He told me: “The creative process is my vision of watchmaking. This is a very, very, very personal vision that is about a three-dimensional piece of art. And I want to basically deconstruct traditional watchmaking, which I love, and reconstruct it into a 3-D sculpture, which, by the way, gives you the time.”
I admired that Max was willing to rethink traditional watchmaking and look at it with fresh eyes, to approach new shapes and dimensions that wouldn’t fit within the traditional bounds of watchmaking. There’s a rebellious streak to the brand that I just love.
Why did this particular watch stand out to you?
At this point, I began the search for my first MB&F. I loved the more traditional Legacy Machines and think the LM1 is a stunning watch. The LM1, however different, still had the feel of other more traditional watches in my collection. I love the rest of the Legacy Machine collection and think those watches represent a beautiful and innovative collection, but I knew my first MB&F couldn’t be something that resembled any of my other watches. You wouldn’t go to MB&F to get a traditional watch, right?
For me, it was down to the Horological Machines. To the uninitiated, these are MB&F’s wildest designs. There is nothing else that embodies Max’s ideal of three-dimensional mechanical art that tells the time as much as the Horological Machine series. There were nine to choose from at the time and I was taking my time to decide which one I liked. I happened to see a few different horological machines on the market and wanted to find out about sourcing additional straps from MB&F.
I was lucky enough to connect with Thibault Verdonckt, MB&F’s International Sales Director, at that point. We started a conversation and began talking about the book, how he found his way to MB&F and why I was so drawn to their products. Thibault helped to solidify my appreciation for the team at MB&F and their work.
I had already limited my choice down to two watches, and this was no longer a question of if, but when. I knew I had a tough decision to make – I was very torn between the HM5 and the HM7. Then, as someone who grew up swimming and learned to scuba dive and loves being in the water whenever I can, I knew what watch I had to have: the HM7.
We ended the conversation with Thibault asking if there were any watches in particular I was looking for. When I mentioned the HM7 Aquapod Titanium Blue I could almost hear him smile through the phone. He had just taken one in. The timing couldn’t have been better.
Tell us more about the watch you chose.
The story of the genesis of this watch, of Max’s wife getting stung by a jellyfish, is fantastic. I love how these moments and these details of his life play into his watchmaking. It is a great design inspiration and the watch truly has the feel of a jellyfish, whether on or off the wrist. The tentacles of the winding rotor really do play into the bulbous shape of the watch. The tourbillon that sits at the top of the watch was the icing on the cake, watching it spin is mesmerizing and I could watch this watch tick all day long. I do not find the HM7 to be too busy visually, I can quickly check the time, but if I have time and allow myself to be distracted, the rotor, the tourbillon, and the lume draw me in. The lume on this watch is insane. Not only is lume everywhere, it adds a depth to the watch that you can dive into. It genuinely feels as though you are watching a jellyfish swim.
I decided on the blue titanium version because I am a huge fan of blue and I love the way the watch reads. It has the feel of a nautical compass and while being a large watch, it sits so perfectly on your wrist. Moreover, because it is titanium you hardly notice that it is there. I love everything about this watch and the way it wears. And I wear it a lot. To me, it is the perfect expression of MB&F’s design ethos and execution. It feels like a sculpture that I can take with me wherever I go and appreciate every time I look at my wrist. I never hesitate to grin when I see it on my wrist. I often joke with friends that this is my favourite weekend watch and it is hard for me to argue that there is a more outgoing weekend watch than the AquaPod.
All in all, I am a complete and total convert to Max’s thinking. I think Max has been successful in completing his vision of deconstructing traditional watchmaking, rebuilding it into three-dimensional mechanical art, and exposing the watchmaking within for everyone to appreciate. I can’t thank Max enough for getting started with MB&F and for bringing such a unique, well thought out, and amazingly well-executed product to market.
What are the reactions you get while wearing the HM7?
I get interesting reactions from collectors and friends. Many view it as a statement piece and while I don’t disagree, I feel that everyone can appreciate the depth and beauty of this watch. Some watch collectors immediately know what this watch is and have a strong reaction to it. Collectors often remark that they love the watch, but they couldn’t wear the piece due to its size. Friends comment that it is so different from other watches. They want to understand how to tell time with it and understand the story behind the watch. I love telling the inspiration story for the watch. Most of the time, I wear watches for myself, but this feels like a watch that allows me to be an ambassador to both watch enthusiasts and novices alike and share why watches are such a special and wonderful hobby.
How about the rest of your collection, will it be expanded with other watches?
As for the future, there are plenty more watches that I am interested in from MB&F. I love the idea of adding a Legacy Machine to my collection. I often think about the Legacy Machine One, again, created for a very practical purpose of being able to tell the time in two different time zones where one time zone includes a half-hour shift. I also love the Legacy Machine Perpetual. Stephen McDonell designed an ingenious movement that prevents damage to the watch and does not use a stylus to have to set any of the functions of the watch. The completely open-worked movement feels like the machine comes alive on the wrist and I personally love it. The LM Perpetual YG yellow gold and blue base plate combination is my favourite of the current offerings.
I would still love to add a Horological Machine No. 5 in CarbonMacrolon to my collection – this watch just feels fast and I love the jump hour format of this watch. It feels like a watch that would be special to wear and would feel intuitive to me to turn my wrist a little to read the time after spending so much time with my HM7.
Could you share some tips from your experience in collecting MB&F with other collectors who are considering this brand?
As for adding such a watch to your collection, I sincerely recommend thinking about the type of collection you want to have. It’s hard to identify where to begin with a company like MB&F for a collector who is used to a more traditional watch – often the watches just seem too “out there.” That is certainly where I found myself when I began my collecting journey. I would advise any collector to consider their current collection and look to see if there is a particular gap they are looking to fill in their collection. Are you looking for a more traditional watch? Perfect, consider the Legacy Machine series. Are you looking to branch out and get a little crazy? Fantastic. Dive into the world of the Horological Machine and do not look back. For me, these watches are all fantastic.
And in general, any tips for other collectors (-to-be)?
This question is always so hard to answer. The reason is that one needs to simply start collecting watches before you can begin to determine and discern your taste for watches. I think everyone should start with a piece they absolutely love. If the piece doesn’t speak to you emotionally, it will never be an important part of your collection. Collecting isn’t about other people and their tastes, it’s about your taste and watches that make you happy. The issue arises, however, that once you wear a watch as out of the normal as the HM7 Aquapod, it is hard to go back to a more traditional watch, they just feel rather boring and flat. Adding the HM7 to my collection has really opened my eyes to other non-traditionally shaped brands like Urwerk, Greubel Forsey, and DeBethune, and to the MB&F design philosophy and brand ethos.
I would tell anyone who is starting their collecting journey, or who is deep in their collecting journey, to simply buy what you love. Don’t chase other’s grail watches. Instead, think deeply and often about the type of collection you would like to build and pursue those watches. Read everything you can on them, watch every YouTube video, and try them on in the metal when you have the chance. Keep soaking up knowledge and chasing your perfect collection.
More details about the HM7 at www.mbandf.com.