As is customary, ahead of the official awards ceremony, the Musée International d’Horlogerie in La Chaux-de-Fonds has revealed the winners of the 2018 Prix Gaïa. These are distinctions given to the most eminent personalities in the world of time measurement, hence the announcement of a new crop of winners is always a highly anticipated moment. Some are towering figures; others are less familiar, and their prize an opportunity to learn more about their work; others still spark an outburst of enthusiastic applause and possibly even a cry of “finally!”. Maximilian Büsser clearly belongs to the latter category, for he is a well-deserved and long-awaited winner.
Credit where credit is due, Max Büsser is one of three winners. Taking the honours in the History-Research category is Reinhard Meis for his publications on complicated watches and his contribution to our understanding of the history of watchmaking techniques. Paul Clementi, technical director at Bovet, is distinguished with the Craftsmanship-Creation prize for his wide-ranging knowledge applied to innovative and inventive creations. Which leaves Maximilian Büsser, winner in the Entrepreneurship category for his “creative approach to watchmaking in both the design and marketing of products, and for the innovative way he manages his business.”
MB&F has broken the industry omerta with a "who does what" of every person who helps bring one of its machines to life.
His company, MB&F, needs no introduction. Established in 2005, it is the perfect incarnation of the creativity and values of watchmaking’s “new school”, as it’s often called. But that’s only half the story. MB&F is probably unique in contemporary watchmaking; the only one to have proven it is possible to follow your dreams and still keep your feet firmly on the ground. So: what, how and why? First the “what”, meaning the products. MB&F watches are like nothing else. They can be intergalactic phantom vessels, they can be classical in a crazy way, but they are always supremely technical and perfectly engineered. Then the “how”, i.e. the methods. MB&F has broken the industry omerta with a “who does what” of every person who helps bring one of its “machines” to life. This complete transparency applies to the entire company, including when times are hard (and it hasn’t always been plain sailing for a maverick brand with a business model that breaks all the rules). Lastly the “why” and communication. MB&F has worked wonders with next to nothing, throwing out such brilliant ideas as the MAD Gallery, a venue for steampunk kinetic art that fits the brand like a glove.
The result is watches that leave no-one indifferent. Love them or hate them, they are the product of passion. The same passion that has forged the community of MB&F’s fervent admirers. People love MB&F because it’s different, that’s for sure, but also because, in a way, it refuses to grow up. Figuratively and literally, given that Max Büsser isn’t interested in chasing after an expanding top line and bigger profits. His aim is that MB&F should be a healthy company, staffed by people who are happy to work there. Nor is he about to give up on those childhood dreams – the ones that fire his imagination to become horological machines, bound for the stars. For all these reasons, Max Büsser has been given the Prix Gaïa. We can only applaud.