When MB&F launched its first watch – the Horological Machine 1 – in 2007, it changed the way we view watches. Here, we have a new independent watch brand that came up with a timepiece that is highly original and bold – and unlike any others. 14 years on, Maximilian Büsser continues to perform his magic.
It was interesting to know that sometime in the mid-2021, word was out on the street that Max had launched a new timepiece. But this one, even by Max’s own standards, is rather extraordinary. Here, we have a timepiece that was introduced with almost no fanfare, and it costs a fraction of what Max’s watches are typically retailing at.
Of course, we got really interested. This is potentially another groundbreaking piece by the genius himself, and one that perhaps might be more significant than most of his other creations. When we knew a collector friend had managed to pick up one of these for his collection, we simply had to grab the opportunity to cover this piece. And so, here we are, with the new M.A.D Edition M.A.D 1.
Review: M.A.D Edition M.A.D 1
The M.A.D Edition M.A.D 1 is priced at CHF 1,900 (approximately S$2,820).
The M.A.D 1 is the debut piece from Max Büsser’s new brand: M.A.D Edition. The name, which is in reference to Max’s other project named the M.A.D Gallery, stands for Mechanical Art Devices. It is not difficult to see what Max is trying to achieve here, with the M.A.D 1.
According to Max himself, the M.A.D 1 is a culmination of his ideas and concepts ever since the brand was born 16 years ago. Back then, he had the idea of producing a parallel brand (termed “Green Dog”) with the flagship MB&F to offer interesting watches to the masses. The idea did not come to fruition as there was no funding back then.
Then, in 2014, the notion of now-M.A.D 1 came to mind. It took quite a while for the M.A.D 1 to be launched, as this is a side project and MB&F is a relatively small operation with manpower constraints. According to Max, the M.A.D 1 “should not put MB&F’s operations in danger”. Even though these watches are nowhere as complicated as the usual watches that MB&F crafts, but putting out a substantial amount of watches from an operation that produces just over 200 pieces a year is surely a huge challenge. After all, there are many things that need to be done to bring the M.A.D 1 to life, which includes modification of the movements, assembly, and final testing. It is definitely not a walk in the park.
Now, in 2021, Max has finally decided that it is time for the M.A.D 1 to come to fruition. But here is the kicker – the watch is not available to the masses. As this is a special watch, it is only offered to two groups of individuals: (i) Friends of MB&F, which include suppliers and partners, as well as (ii) the existing owners of MB&F watches. Given the constraints that were mentioned above, Max felt that this is perhaps the most equitable way to allocate the watches.
Before we begin the review, it must be emphasised that this is not an MB&F watch. Hence, we should not be critiquing the watch with the same level of rigour or expectations. Notwithstanding that fact, we will still hold the watch to certain standards, as we expect nothing less from Max himself.
And now, presenting the M.A.D 1.
The Case, Dial and Hands
The M.A.D 1 is a 42mm timepiece, with contemporary design cues that should not be unfamiliar to people who are familiar with MB&F watches.
At the initial glance, we have possibly one of the most conspicuous elements of the watch: The Winding-Rotor. The triple-blade winding rotor is fixed on the face of the watch, where the dial typically lies. Being the showpiece of the watch, the winding-rotor has certainly got some party tricks up its sleeves. Firstly, it is constructed in a way where the rotor can spin freely on its axis – akin to that of a fidget spinner. Next, the rotor features an interesting triple-blade design which sort of pays homage to MB&F’s “battle-axe” rotor. Lastly, the edge of the blades are filled with luminescence. The watch really comes to live in the dark, especially when the rotor is spinning rapidly.
Since the face of the watch has been occupied by the rotor, the dial must naturally move elsewhere. For the M.A.D 1, the dial is shifted to the side of the case. The watch employs a lateral time display, with two different cylinders telling the hour (blue) and minute (black). There is a small triangle at the six o’clock position, which helps to indicate the time. To top it all off, both the numerals and the indicator are filled with luminescence to ensure that they are visible in the dark as well.
The idea of using this kind of time display is certainly uncommon, but it is not completely unheard of (think the sublime Andersen Genève Montre à Tact). It actually plays very well to the concept that time-telling is perhaps secondary here. The emphasis perhaps lies more on the design, as well as the story that Max is trying to narrate through this timepiece. This makes the M.A.D 1 rather mysterious and fascinating indeed.
Lastly, we move on to the crown and the lugs respectively.
The crown of the M.A.D 1 is placed at the 12 o’clock position of the case. We believe its placement is to give the watch a more symmetrical appearance, which works rather well in this case. Notably, the crown is pretty unusual as it is affixed with a mini handle. While we are not too sure if there are any reasons behind its aesthetics, but functionality-wise, it certainly does it job well.
Completing the package of the M.A.D 1 is its lugs, which are an extension to an intriguing x-shaped cradle that also holds the rest of the watch. On any typical case, the shape of the lugs does look rather ordinary. However, on the M.A.D 1, the gap between the lugs and the sapphire crystal case make it appear as though these lugs as “floating”. This adds a nice touch to the overall design of the watch.
Generally, the M.A.D 1 is an engaging piece. It is not an ordinary watch for sure, with bold and unusual touches that are not typically seen for a watch at this price level. The extensive use of sapphire crystal on the case also adds an interesting dimension to this watch, not to mention the increased level of difficulty in doing so. Taking every little detail into account, this is rather actually a rather interesting package indeed. Bravo!
The Movement: Miyota 821A
Powering the M.A.D 1 is the humble and reliable Miyota 821A. This is a self-winding movement, with a power reserve of around 42 hours. The movement for this watch is fitted the other way round, in order for the winding-rotor to be placed on the front of the watch – as seen in the picture above.
The choice of using the movement, according to Max, is that “[it is]the only movement [available]at that price point”. Crucially, the Miyota also ticks another important factor, which is its unidirectional winding system that allows the rotor to spin at a great speed. Having its own in-house movement, or opting for an alternative movement, might not have allowed M.A.D Edition to launch this watch at its current price level.
Accordingly, while the movement was sourced outside, Max had shared that the team had also done additional modifications to the caliber. This enables the watch to have its revolving rings for its time display, as well as its signature triple-blade winding rotor. In other words, while they have used an external base movement, there is still additional work done to ensure that the M.A.D 1 is not just using another run-off-the-mill caliber.
Finishing-wise, the Miyota 821A is pretty much what one would expect. The titanium and tungsten winding-rotor, incidentally, appears to have some work done to it. Beveling and circular-brushed finishing are some of the touches that we have observed. After all, the winding-rotor is one of the main highlights for the piece, and we definitely welcome the extra work that goes into it.
Overall, we find the movement acceptable considering its accessible price point. It is not mind-blowing for sure, but frankly, it is as good as what you can get at this level.
The Competitive Landscape
The M.A.D Edition M.A.D 1 is priced at CHF 1,900 (approximately S$2,820). However, while its price point is highly accessible, especially for a piece by Max Büsser, it is not readily available to the public. As mentioned, this watch is only offered to the friends of MB&F (which includes suppliers and partners), as well as “The Tribe” (who are the members within the MB&F owners’ club).
At this price point, the M.A.D 1 definitely offers tremendous value. It is just beyond what the watch offers physically, but also the intangibles such as the brand’s equity (with this being Max’s work). Again, how else can you own a piece of art by Max at less than CHF 2,000?
When it comes to competition, we are also hard pressed to find anything that is remotely similar as well. This is the thing with Max (and MB&F, although we have to know that M.A.D Edition is a separate entity altogether) – their works are mostly original, with great ideas and execution.
The first watch that we can think of is the Kurono Classic. Yes, the watches are worlds apart when it comes to the design language, but the concept behind it is similar: Both are parallel brands by independent watchmakers, who aim to create accessible timepieces. Kurono had actually went a step further by making the watches accessible to the public, albeit with limited quantity. The Kurono is priced at approximately S$2,998.
Next, we have the True Square Tej Chauhan by Rado. We selected the Rado purely for the fact that it is also another interesting watch, with bold and unique touches to it. The commonality here is the emphasis on design, and the Rado is also aided by the fact that it is designed by an award-winning industrial designer. Retailing at S$2,710, the Rado also offers great value especially if one is looking for a fun and exciting watch to add into their collection.
Lastly, we have the Le Régulateur Louis Erard x Alain Silberstein II. This piece is the second collaboration between Louis Erard and Alain Silberstein – with a total of three watches being presented in this collection. Our pick is the Regulator, which offers a nice blend of style and quirkiness. We particularly like the design (especially the interesting lug concept), as well as the use of bright colours (in which the red, yellow, and blue are a signature of Alain’s). The recommended retail price is CHF 3,500 (approximately S$5,200).
Max always has a way with watches. Starting with the elusive early Harry Winston Opus pieces, to MB&F’s Horological and Legacy Machines, Max does seem to have the Midas touch. Despite the fact that the M.A.D 1 is nowhere close to the league of those watches that we have mentioned, it is still a rather desirable and attractive piece.
There are definitely polarising views for sure, and especially so for most of Max’s works. For purists, the M.A.D 1 is probably a little too loud and audacious. I will personally admit that it is not an easy watch to pull off as well, given its unusual and unconventional take overall. But that is also what makes this watch so enthralling. It is such a conversational piece, and one that is so unlike any others. And given its price point, it is really difficult to fault it.
Now, for the best part: Max is contemplating to continue this concept (albeit with some tweaks, for sure) and making it available to the wider public. For those who have been drooling over the M.A.D 1, perhaps your dream might be eventually fulfilled in the not so distant future after all…
The watch was a kind loan from Deployant friend Nicholas Tan. We photographed it in our studio. Hasselblad H3D-39 with HC 4/120 and HC 2.8/80 with H28 extension tube. Profoto strobes.