The big event of the last few weeks is undoubtedly the discovery of the MAD Edition 1, a watch sold by the MAD Gallery exclusively to MB&F clients who have registered as members of the "Tribe" and Friends (people who have collaborated on projects for the brand). In other words, the MAD Edition 1 is not available to the general public and it is the reason why I use the term "discovery" and not "presentation". Because there was no official presentation with fanfare, except for the direct communication to the targeted people. A real exclusivity that contributes to the success of this watch and I want to say, to its aura. As far as I'm concerned, I discovered its existence via pictures on Instagram posted by the first Friends who had received it.
I had the chance to see this rare piece a few days ago, having had the opportunity to spend some time with one of MB&F's famous Friends, the founder of Loupe System. After examining the MAD Edition 1 from every angle, I thought that Max Büsser really had it all figured out, especially the psychology of his clientele.
We tend to forget this when we see the successes of today, but creating a brand as audacious as this, whether it be through the pieces proposed or in its way of proceeding, was far from being obvious in 2005. I think that the project-based approach, which involves new Friends each time, has enabled Max Büsser to retain all the energy, dynamism, creativity and boldness of the beginning, more than 15 years later. MB&F has now become a brand that counts in the collector's watch segment without falling into the autopilot syndrome of certain established brands.
The time reading is done on the case middle of the watch:
No matter how many reasons for success are given, in the end it is the customers who decide the fate of a company. And Max Büsser has been able to count on committed collectors since the HM1, who have also acted as influencers in later years. When you are a small company, every customer counts and Max Büsser has never forgotten that. This is the reason for the MAD Edition 1: to thank all the people who, at one time or another, have contributed to the success and continuity of MB&F by offering an affordable watch (the price is CHF 1,900 excluding tax).
Affordable watch does not mean cheap watch... especially in such an objective of expression of gratitude. The MAD Edition 1 obviously does not have the same watchmaking content, the same finishing, the same finesse as an MB&F watch and this is logical. We are absolutely not in the same price segment and it would not make any sense from the point of view of the brand's conduct. On the other hand, it totally shares the same spirit as a Horological Machine: the MAD Edition 1 is fun, exciting, surprising, it offers an alternative time display and plunges us into the "Goldorak" atmosphere that had inspired Max so much since the HM1.
The clasp is nicely designed:
Let's remember the HM1... its central tourbillon, its exploded displays, its volume... and its Astero Axe winding masst! This winding mass allowed us to discover the impact of this culture in Max Büsser's creative approach. 16 years later, the MAD Edition 1 pays tribute to this rotor. The rotor now has 3 blades with luminescent segments (Goldorak (the French name of Grendizer) would have loved to have such a weapon!) and above all, its size is oversized as it is much larger than the diameter of the movement. When we put the MAD Edition 1 on our wrists, we are in fact wearing an imposing Astero Axe in quasi-permanent revolution. The time reading becomes almost anecdotal, being on the caseside of the watch. But since the watch is very well designed and takes advantage of the interaction with its owner... by moving the wrist to read the time, we create the imbalance that makes the rotor move. In other words, we think we are Actarus setting Goldorak in motion (without the pilot seat that turns on itself!).
The watch is thus structured around the movement. The titanium and tungsten winding mass covers it and two cylinders (blue and grey) turn around it to allow the lateral display of the time thanks to a fixed index located at the bottom of the case, between the lugs at 6 o'clock.
What is very surprising for a watch of this price is the coherence of the whole and the absence of concessions from the aesthetic point of view. For example, the X-shaped base that supports the central part of the steel case and defines the lugs is complex and allows the watch to be held effectively on the wrist. The size of the watch is admittedly imposing. It is not so much its diameter that reinforces this feeling but its volume. This cylindrical design gives a lot of presence. The size of the lugs and the huge rotor also contribute to this feeling. An amusing detail, like a wink to traditional watchmaking: the crown is similar to a pocket watch hook.
The movement that drives the MAD Edition 1 is the Miyota calibre 821A (which has a power reserve of 42 hours for a 3hz frequency). I think the choice of such a calibre is judicious. It is simple, reliable and widespread, which is a guarantee of durability. It has moreover a good winding efficiency. It has two additional assets to think about. As it is a common calibre, it creates a clear distance from the exclusive and exceptional Machine calibres, what is positive for MB&F. And as it is a Japanese calibre, I find that it has its place right behind the Astero Axe. Its finishing is basic and my only regret concerning this watch is the very sober and unadorned presentation of the main bridge. But there is also an aesthetic bias behind this choice. By showing the crown stem, the casing ring, Max Büsser deliberately adopts a basic aesthetic which, paradoxically, emphasizes the winding mass and the mechanical rendering of the whole. In short... a real robot from the 70s!
The amazing case back:
The watch is finally associated with a light grey strap with blue stitching that closes with a folding clasp. The bracelet works very well with the watch from a design point of view.
So I loved this watch, which in my opinion fulfils the task assigned to it perfectly: customers and Friends can only feel privileged and honoured to have access to such a piece that offers a lot for its price. It is a real invitation to go back to MB&F's roots thanks to the various winks it offers and its special atmosphere. By making the rotor play the leading role, it reminds us that a watch is much more than a simple instrument that tells the time. It is an object that I would describe as intimate because it conveys the emotions of its creator and creates emotions in the person who puts it on his or her wrist. And Max Büsser understands this better than anyone.
The quality of the slightly domed sapphire crystal allows one to enjoy the spectacle offered by the winding mass:
Such an exercise was not without consequences: it carried the risk of devaluing MB&F, the risk of creating a lot of frustration among people who do not have access to it, and even the risk of surprising retail partners. And this is where I think Max Büsser makes the difference. Risks create opportunities, not obstacles. In crisis times, customers want to have fun and are more attentive than ever to what creative watchmaking has to offer if the content is consistent with the price. The MAD Edition 1 is a success because it demonstrates that with a reasonable price, it is possible to create a daring, offbeat and exciting piece. It's not a problem of means or price: it's more an attitude and a state of mind to have. The MAD Edition 1 is a personal, committed watch that is the antithesis of the consensual watches produced by the product committees that are the real plague of watchmaking today. Carrying emotions and symbols and transpiring the signature of its creator, the MAD Edition 1 is bound to strike a chord with the customers and friends to whom it is addressed.
Max Büsser knows very well that the very favourable welcome of the watch has also generated great expectations on the part of amateurs who do not have access to the piece. It will be very interesting to see how he manages this situation. But it's better to have problems like that than to wonder how to get rid of unsold pieces.