One of the most innovative figures in the world of watchmaking is Maximilian Büsser, a former executive at Jaeger-LeCoultre who left the conservative brand to tilt at horological windmills of his own devising. To call Büsser a watchmaker is to do him a disservice. His work not only transcends the traditional wristwatch, it blows the concept away. In fact, he doesn’t even call his creations “watches”, but “horological machines” — a term you might find pompous until you see the results.
Büsser’s brand is called MB&F, which stands for “Maximilian Büsser and Friends”, and the “Friends” part is the key. You see, it’s not Mr. Büsser toiling away in a workshop alone in the Alps on a timepiece, but a group effort, in which the leader brings together different innovative and independent watchmakers to shepherd his vision to reality. And the resulting products are as fantastical from without as from within. Cartoon frogs, cassette tapes, fighter jets: at first glance, MB&F’s Horological Machines 1 through 5 resemble anything but watches.
But MB&F’s latest creation, in collaboration with L’Epée 1839, Switzerland’s last remaining clockmaker, goes beyond anything it’s done before. The Starfleet/Machine is a massive table clock that bears more than a passing resemblance to an orbiting satellite or sci-fi spacecraft. This should come as no surprise to those who know of Max Büsser’s keen interest in science fiction.
The clock components sit suspended in the middle of a rounded carriage of stainless steel. Time is told on a central rotating display incorporating hours and minutes, while seconds are indicated by two turret-mounted “laser cannons” that tick towards one another and snap outward every 20 seconds. The clock’s extraordinary 40-day power reserve, which is wound and set from below using a double-sided key, is on full display.
To try to explain the functioning of the Starfleet/Machine in words is futile; it’s better to see it in action. But there will only be 175 built, so, unless you’re one of the lucky buyers or find yourself in Geneva at Büsser’s own MAD Gallery, the next best way to see it is this video. Call it horological science non-fiction.