What even is this? — This is probably the first question you’ll hear when introducing the MB&F Horological Machine No. 2 (HM2) to anyone that isn’t especially knowledgeable about watches. Some will be highly intrigued, while others will likely be downright confused. Regardless of where one falls in that spectrum, the HM2 is most assuredly an example of high horology, and beyond that, it is a mechanical marvel.
To know the background of this watch, one must first understand the history of Maximilian Büsser — Max for short, the brand’s visionary founder and CEO. Max comes from the watch industry, beginning at Jaeger-LeCoultre on their senior management team before being appointed as managing director of Harry Winston Rare Timepieces. The Opus collection from Harry Winston was Max’s vision of collaborating with his watchmaker friends, and giving those up-and-coming watchmakers a platform to showcase their talents. Taking this idea and expanding upon it, Max founded his own company named Max Büsser and Friends (MB&F) in 2005. Max and his friends work together to make these incredible pieces of machinery that are inspired by Max’s personal interests and visions. Collaborating with the likes of Jean-Marc Wiederrecht and others to help create this particular timepiece, the HM2 was the brand’s second-ever piece and in many respects it was the piece that established the brand as more than just a one-off peculiarity. HM2 debuted in 2008, one year after the initial HM1 launched in 2007. Since then, there have been several iterations of the HM2, with the final edition released in 2011.
The cassette tape-like rectangular case of the HM2 is an incredibly unorthodox choice, and one we’ve not really seen either before, nor after its creation. The whole watch, according to Max, was inspired by the glass-domed space colonies found in sci-fi comics of the ’50s and ’60s. When looking at the case in profile — its cylindrical bezels surrounding each time display and bolted down buttresses, in particular — it becomes easier to see these influences shining through. The MB&F logo is engraved between the two crystals, acting almost like a billboard announcing to the space station to transient visitors. Though it’s quite the complex case, comprised of over 100 parts, it is designed to be easily disassembled and refurbished long into the piece’s future, much like how a space station needs to be infinitely repairable.
This machine as a watch is just as interesting. All the HM2’s information can be seen via the two dials, with the date and moon phase to the left side, and the timekeeping to the right. The layout is perfectly crafted for those who wear their timepieces on the left hand, as one wouldn’t need the watch to come entirely out from under a cuff to read the time. At a thickness of 13mm, one might be hard-pressed to find a dress cuff to fit over this piece. That said, thanks to its modest 38mm lug-to-lug width and its wide strap, the 59mm length case wears comfortably on most wrists.
One notable aspect of MB&F as a brand is how they give appropriate credit to any parties involved in the creation of their watches. The base movement started as a self-winding Sowind base caliber. It is then heavily modified with the help of Jean-Marc Wiederrecht at Agenhor (A Swiss company dedicated to creating complex watch mechanisms). Once completed, the complex movement houses a bidirectional jumping hours indication, meaning it can be set forward or backward. At the time of its creation it was a world’s first, as any and all other jumping complications could not be reversed. Surrounding the jumping hour is a concentric retrograde minutes indicator. The other side of the movement houses the bi-hemisphere moon phase, symmetrically balanced by the surrounding retrograde date. Flipping this movement over, one can see the brand’s distinctive double battle-axe rotor, which brilliantly hides that one side weighs more even though it looks identical.
Versus The Competition
Even with the HM2’s distinct design, several comparable timepieces are on the market today. First is the Urwerk UR-110V T-Rex. They both have a bizarre case design with complicated methods of displaying time. Dinosaur scales inspire the T-Rex’s case, and then it uses a series of rotating disks and a retrograde minutes indicator to tell time. Other similarities include the crown at the top of the case and the feel of how this piece sits on the wrist.
The second comparison would be to another small independent watchmaker, De Bethune, with the DB28 Black Zirconium. While this timepiece is slightly more traditional, it also feels very space-inspired. The crown at the top of the case and how the floating lugs fit the strap feel very reminiscent of the MB&F design language. If one did not know any better, De Bethune timepieces could unmistakably fit in the MB&F catalog.
When one has an opportunity to grab one of these rare pieces, one has to be quick — they are in short supply, and there are droves of faithful fans. The collectors of this timepiece typically feel as though they are true friends of the brand. These fans adore the works of Max Büsser, and seek out these watches that capture their imaginations and share this futuristic vision with the real world. Some collectors might be a bit eccentric, but being different makes these collectors happy. For some, the HM2 will be one of many MB&F watches in their collection, and for others MB&F enters a collection as the one “statement piece” amidst a more conservative assortment. One thing is for sure, it is not someone’s first or only pieces.
These pieces are always worth a great conversation. Even if one is not a fan themselves, most can appreciate the passion of this collector base and the imagination of Max Büsser. It is always a treat to view the excitement of those who own such a unique machine. Even those who do not invoke those same emotions will most likely not soon forget seeing the rare MB&F Horological Machine No. 2.