“Welcome To My World”: A Conversation with Maximilian Büsser about the Watch Industry, Change, and the Life Lessons We Teach our Children
You may or may not recall that my brief one-time run-in with Max Büsser happened in Basel, Switzerland this past March. As I wrote in an earlier blog entry, this is how the initial meeting went down:
Heading toward the back of The Palace at Baselworld, I could see Max strolling in my direction. His swagger is unique and undeniably his and he walks as if he were eight feet tall (he is not). He saw me and smiled a very Max smile and I’m sure I turned six shades of chartreuse as a result, but when we reached one another it was if we’d been schoolmates for decades. “Finally!” I said, going in for a hug, to which he replied, “We see you later today, yes?” Then off we both went to our intended destinations, thankfully without my passing out from sheer fangirl glee.
This second encounter wasn’t quite so short-lived thanks to the kind and thoughtful partners at Provident Jewelry in South Florida. I wandered in to the Jupiter location after a two-hour flight and a hotel restaurant lunch to find an already magnificent store filled with caterers setting up tables, a granite bar being stocked with Dom Pérignon, florists delivering holiday arrangements, and staff members scurrying about like army ants. The energy was electric and yet through all of the chaos and excitement my eye was drawn to three calm figures deep in manly conversation: Nick Linca (one of the hilarious partners at Provident); Phil Ogle (MB&F’s Caribbean and North American president and owner of two fantastically buff biceps); and the man himself, Maxy Max.
It has taken since March for me not to practically pass out when in Max’s presence, but thankfully I am able to state with all sincerity that my fangirl fainting days are behind me… mostly. Max is indeed a mortal; one who has had the rare bad hair moment and may occasionally wear a wrinkled shirt, but this is also part of the reason why people are so drawn to Max. He has been described by many in both the press and the watch industry in a single word. Words like “genius,” “brilliant,” “madman,” and “anomaly,” and while I, myself have likely used those same terms in passing to describe him, there is one word in the lexicon of my existence that sums up Max Büsser better than any adjective some fashion magazine editor could conjure:
Max, to me, is the most approachable man in the watch world. He has never balked at any of my questions (whether via email, in person, or otherwise) and has not once made me feel like what I am doing isn’t just as important as what he is (which honestly is a trait some folks in the business should try learning). Max is interested in people. He is interested in stories. He is interested in what he doesn’t know and he is neither too proud nor too afraid to admit that he doesn’t know it.
I remember having a conversation with James Thompson early on when I first started focusing on watches and his telling me about his primary encounter with Max. “Black Badger,” as James is known, is the artist who collaborated with MB&F on the HMX Black Badger “Performance Art” edition. In an email, James told me about his first ever meeting with Max, which happened at Salon QP in London in 2013.
“I wasn’t campaigning for a job or anything; I really just wanted to meet him and tell him how much I liked his stuff!” James said. “But, we had a really nice, genuine chat. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting anything more than that, but when he emailed me a few weeks later and we started bouncing around ideas… I mean, seriously? That’s like Sinatra asking you what you thought of his new tune.”
But James isn’t the only one who has had that type of experience. Shortly after posting my review of the new HMX Black Badger and sharing my personal tale about MB&F at Baselworld, I was contacted by Charris Yadigaroglou (or as Max reminded me this week, the man I refer to as the “prettiest man in watches”), who is Chief Communications Officer at MB&F. To make a long story short (too late!), keep an eye out for the next issue of MB&F’s Parallel Worlds, as you might recognize the author of one of the articles.
After a quick tour of the Provident Jupiter store, its brands, its Dream Factory cigar lounge (more about that in an upcoming post over on Adornmentality.com), and its bar, I finally had Max Büsser to myself, which I smartly took advantage of as I knew the moment wouldn’t last forever.
Me: “You know, this is the first time we’ve really had the chance to talk. Basel was a two-minute blip on a screen and all of our other conversations have been via email or social media, so I want to take this opportunity to really tell you what it is that I’m doing.”
Me: “This isn’t just about women, this blog. I mean, clearly I am trying to reach a customer that is largely under marketed to and vastly overlooked in the watch industry.”
Me: “But I don’t write it just for women. I know that collectors aren’t reading what I write; they’re reading Hodinkee, and Analog Shift, and A Blog to Watch, and I get that. That’s not the reader I’m trying to reach. I want the new buyer. I want the person who doesn’t normally read blogs, or read anything for that matter. I want the guy or the girl who maybe owns a watch that was given to them and nothing more. I want the novices and the newbies. I want the retailers. I want those who were like I was; the green people. And I want them turned on to watches in the same way that I was… by reading something that stuck with them. Something that was fun and funny and interesting and I don’t want them to even realize that they’re learning something in the process. I want to entertain a new breed of watch enthusiast because the industry takes itself way too seriously. It’s not fun enough, and this next generation – the millennials and hell, these generation Z kids – they don’t give a shit about celebrity endorsements. They want a story. They want to laugh. They want something with meaning and they want it to be unfiltered and honest. Mostly though, they want it to be fun. That’s what I’m trying to bring to watches. Unfiltered fun.”
Max: “Welcome to my world.”
The conversation consisted of our opinions regarding certain genres, entities, and conglomerates (off the record) but eventually delved into our childhoods and the types of parents we currently are and wish to continue to be.
Max: “My father worked a lot. I didn’t see him during the day. I was an only child and had to entertain myself. This is probably why I am who I am today.”
Me: “I feel the same way. We only allow our kids thirty minutes per day (except weekends) on technology in any form, which they are allowed to choose. Could be fifteen minutes of television and fifteen on the computer or all thirty on a tablet. They get the choice, but no more than that.”
Max: “My wife and I do something similar. But how do you feel about peer pressure? Do you think they’ll be taunted by the kids who are always on technology?”
Me: “We look at it like this: they’re going to be inundated with technology for the rest of their lives.”
Max: “That’s true. I know. You… you’re always on social media. You post so much. You’re always in my feed.”
Me: “Yes, but part of my job is getting my name out there. You know that you can unfollow me, right?”
Max: “No! It’s great! You make me laugh. Sometimes I send your stuff to my wife and I say ‘you have to read this’… not many people make me laugh. You do.”
Me: “Well, that makes me feel good, thanks. But on that topic, see what I mean? My whole world is technology-ridden. They’re kids, and they only get one shot at that. I love seeing my kids make up games or draw or ride their bikes.”
Max: “I know. I love to play with my child. I love when they ask me to play. Our parents didn’t do that with us. That wasn’t their generation. We go outside as much as we can. I really love it and can’t wait to get back home to do it again.”
And throughout the rest of my time with Max Büsser, whether I was speaking directly to him or not, I could feel his inner child come out to play in the Florida sun. When he proudly showed off his award-winning reverse-engineered perpetual calendar – the Legacy Machine Perpetual – I imagined a spritely young Max showing his friends a creation he made of sticks, rubber bands, and plastic spoons and explaining to them how it worked. When a customer approached him to ask about Astrograph – the writing tool collaboration between MB&F and Maison Caran d’Ache – I watched Max’s face light up as he spun the tiny magnetic astronaut and explained how, as a kid, he loved switchblade knives. And there was a moment while all of this was going on when I realized that I was exactly where I was supposed to be and that despite the doubters, it was where I was going to stay.
I get why people get Maximilian Büsser. I get why stores like Provident want to be a part of the MB&F story. I relate to this man who was once a child who then turned into the man who still embraces that child, and I feel deeply connected to his story and his outlook and can relate to his reasons for being who he is. MB&F was one of the first brands I researched thoroughly when I began writing about watches. I don’t quite know why or how that came to be at the beginning, honestly. Maybe it was because Max seemed so debonair and so charming to those of us who watched his interviews via YouTube. He was a celebrity of sorts, I guess. At least, to an outsider. At least, back then.
But today, he’s less of a celebrity. Today he’s just my friend. My friend, Max Büsser. You know Max… he’s the guy who makes watches fun. He’s the handsome guy. The guy with the good hair and the great smile. You know who he is… the guy with all the “friends”…
…and man, oh man, I’m so grateful he’s that guy.