For most regular, sane folks, watches are viewed as simply jewelry or tools. However, for those of us who are passionate about watches as a hobby, they’re tiny totems of art, history, and innovative engineering all rolled into one, and this is why the value of a watch is often very disconnected from the cost of its parts and labor. Case in point, this M.A.D.1 from Max Büssers new brand M.A.D. Edition. This is a watch with an MSRP of around $2,820, but because of its unique aesthetic, origin, and exclusivity, it’s valued at upwards of ten times that amount. If you’re still scratching your head about what could account for such a drastic value increase, read on.
The M.A.D. 1 is the first timepiece from Max Büsser’s new brand M.A.D. Editions. You may know Büsser as the founder of the high-end, avant-garde watch brand MB&F but M.A.D. Editions is a totally separate venture. Why two different brands? As I stated, MB&F makes extremely high-end watches built primarily to challenge the status quo, and pricing them affordably isn’t on the priority list. While Büsser loves creating the out-of-this-world timepieces that come from MB&F, he’s always had aspirations to develop more accessible pieces for the masses. But due to many different constraints, he’s never had the time or resources to create such a watch until very recently.
This past year Büsser finally got to introduce an affordable timepiece that offered an exciting and original design like only he could with this M.A.D.1, but there’s a catch. M.A.D. Editions while a separate company still shares resources with MB&F, which is already a very small independent brand. MB&F and, by extension M.A.D. Editions simply don’t have the infrastructure to mass-produce a watch to their standards. To say “introduce” might even be a stretch. There was no press release, and no formal announcement — here’s why.
Büsser’s idea for this watch from day one was that this watch was made for friends of the brand, suppliers, partners, and existing customers of MB&F—a watch offered to them as thanks for their support over the years. It’s a fitting token of gratitude offered to people whom, without their support, neither brand would exist. However, that meant for anyone else, getting their hands on this new Büsser creation bordered on impossible (until now). This ironically led to the watch—one of modest construction and price—to become a highly exclusive timepiece.
Not only was the watch produced in limited supply, but it was also given directly to an audience who thoroughly understands and appreciates it, meaning it’s much less likely to be sold. I imagine most of the people who were offered this watch would rather have the watch than the cash they could get on the second-hand market. So when one pops up, you should jump on it fast. However, there is a sliver of light at the end of the tunnel as Büsser has stated that while this is the first M.A.D. Editions timepiece, he doesn’t plan on it being the last. Fingers crossed, future editions are more readily available, but for now, this M.A.D.1 is the one and only.
Like any timepiece concocted in the mind of Maximilian Büsser, the M.A.D.1 is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. On the dial, you’ll notice that, well, there’s nothing that displays the time, and instead, what’s front and center is a very handsomely finished winding rotor that looks like it’s right off of Batman’s utility belt. Behind that, you’ll see the modified Miyota 821A movement with a royal blue surround—also reminiscent of Batman—with “M.A.D.1” written at six o’clock. It’s a beautiful view of the movement, which provides some excellent horological theater, but what if I need to know when to leave for lunch?
Don’t worry, this is most definitely a watch, and reading the time on it is easier than you might think. Around the caseband are two disks that rotate and display the time between the cradle-style lugs at six o’clock. I’ve seen some watches—particularly driving-oriented watches—that put the time display in this area but never quite like this. A small triangle points up to the center of the caseband to denote the numerals which represent the current time. In the lower black disk, in five-minute increments, you’ll see the minutes displayed, and above that, in the royal blue, the hours. While this location is highly unusual, I think it actually might be more convenient than the standard format. I know that sounds a bit crazy but stay with me. To prove my point try this experiment; without adjusting your arm from its current position, whatever that may be, look at your wrist. I’ll bet it’s in a position that would allow you to more easily read the time on this watch than on a traditional one. Unconventional, but still practical.
Moving on to the case, things get really interesting. The M.A.D.1 is almost like an inside-out watch with the time display in the middle and the case cradling it from the outside. The caseback is integrated with the lugs, and together, they form a sort of claw that’s gripping the rest of the watch and holding it in place. Another interesting design choice is the crown. The crown is located at twelve like a pocket watch, and it has a free-moving handle on it like a zipper. I’m sure this makes for an easier turning crown, but I think it’s probably mostly for looks, which, let’s be honest, can also be said about the watch as a whole.
Inside the watch is the reliable and affordable Miyota 821A, albeit a heavily modified version. The reason Büsser chose this movement was because of its reputation as a workhorse and because it has a bi-rotational winding rotor. The rotor is arguably the main attraction of this watch, and its ability to be bi-directional allows it to spin freely in either direction, making it visually more entertaining. A quick flick of the wrist and the rotor takes off, spinning rapidly, showing its nicely beveled edges playing with the light. The finishing on this movement stands out right away despite being a humble Miyota, and that’s because along with modifying the movement to display the time in a novel way, the finishing, regulating, and mounting of the movement was done by MB&F watchmakers. This is one of the main reasons supply was limited. I love this detail because this shows that even a “value” piece from Büsser isn’t going to cut any corners, sure use more affordable materials, but there’s no reason to half-ass it.
Versus The Competition
The M.A.D.1 has a very eccentric design, but it’s also something I think many Max Büsser fans would recognize as his work. If you’re looking at the M.A.D.1—especially considering its price of $29,000—I think you also have to consider other Büsser creations like this MB&F Horological Machine No. 2. For just $10k more, you get a precious metal, complicated timepiece with a unique retro-futuristic aesthetic. The Horological Machine No. 2 has a retrograde date, bi-hemisphere moon phase, and a jumping hour and retrograde minute complication. It’s bringing some serious avant-garde heat from all angles, oh, and this is one of just 125 pieces. Rare, interesting, and from Max Büsser, this has to be on your radar.
Another watch with a design that challenges the status quo is this Ressence Type 3B. This is one of my favorite independent brands, and I think it’s one of the best modern takes on a mechanical wristwatch out there. The round bubble-like crystal is filled with oil which makes the time display underneath appear as if it’s right up against the glass as if there is no gap between the crystal and dial. This allows you to read the dial from any angle extremely easily, and it looks incredibly cool. The watch displays the time, day, date, oil temperature and is made almost entirely of titanium and sapphire. The Ressence Type 3B costs about the same as the M.A.D.1, so it’s all going to come down to your desire for complications and which design you prefer.
This famously exclusive watch is a true original that makes its presence known. This is not a watch you seek out or wear if you want to fly under the radar. This watch is for someone who loves hunting down unattainable pieces and wants to show them off a bit.
Looking at this watch I’m reminded of an analogy I saw in an old Audemars Piguet advertisement, the value of a Rembrandt is much more than the cost of the paint and canvas. That perfectly describes the M.A.D.1. What started as humble materials was transformed into a timepiece that challenges all your assumptions about the wrist watch and looks amazing while doing it. It illustrates very clearly that it’s not about the paint, but rather the painter.