Meet the Man Who Makes $180,000 Spaceship Watches


Max Büsser, the founder of the watch brand Maximilian Büsser & Friends, typically produces fewer than 300 watches a year.

His M.A.D. Gallery is no bigger than an average New York apartment but is stuffed with whirring machines. Büsser, who founded MB&F in 2005, curates these objects from disparate makers and sells them here. He shows me some of his favorites, including a dancing chandelier and an accordion–fan sculpture that appears to breathe on its own. “Actually, the price is stupidly low,” Büsser says while admiring the contraption. “$30,000.” He is fascinated by these objects, which far outnumber the store’s watches that sit inside vitrines at the center of the shop.

“I deconstruct traditional watchmaking and reconstruct it into a 3D kinetic art piece,” he says. “Inspired by a bulldog, inspired by a jellyfish, inspired by a spaceship.” He removes a few watches from their display cases for me to play with. He brings my attention to the $105,000 HM10 Bulldog. (MB&F divides its watches into two sections: HMs, or Horological Machines, and LMs, Legacy Machines.) Büsser holds the piece up so I’m looking at it straight on. Where the typical watch is flat, and round or square, MB&F’s stand proudly off the wrist like figurines. Büsser points out the Bulldog’s oscillating brain, two bulbous red eyes, and four legs. He starts to wind the watch and a row of sharp titanium teeth slowly unclench, signifying that the watch is fully powered.

From left: Büsser designed the jellyfish-inspired HM7 after a pack of them attacked his wife on vacation. The HM10 is modeled after a bulldog, with a “jaw” that opens to bare its teeth.

Courtesy of MB&F

Courtesy of MB&F

Büsser’s unique creations have made him one of the industry’s biggest rock stars. His designs are completely distinctive and controversial in the watch world—something the 56-year-old takes as a point of pride. “I discovered the word fugly when we launched the HM6,” he tells me as we tour the gallery. Now, he knows a watch is a failure if “we don’t have a ton of fugly on Instagram.” It would mean he committed the ultimate sin: selling out. Which is why his acolytes see him as an artist, and his watches as masterpieces that represent his very idiosyncratic and individual genius.

For collectors of MB&F, the personal touch is the sell. Paul Blandford, an MB&F superfan I met at the gallery, says that by buying his HM10 he became part of the tribe. He lists off a series of watch-industry titans who don’t provide him with that sense of a relationship. MB&F offers Blandford a “connection with the artist,” he says. Büsser’s unlikely celebrity is fueled by these types of folks who want to get closer to his genius. They’re not just buying a bulldog-inspired watch, they’re buying Büsser. “The fact that you’ve got a piece of art on the wrist that just so happens to tell the time is the coolest thing in the world,” says Blandford.

Büsser balances his iconoclastic style with an energetic hobbyist’s enthusiasm and can’t wait to play with the objects hung on the walls of his own shop, even describing his oddball designs as his “psychotherapy.” He’s also something incredibly rare for a watch-brand leader: accessible. He takes time to meet with fans and isn’t shy about sharing his personal phone number.

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Meet the Man Who Makes $180,000 Spaceship Watches

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