There is something magical about professionals being playful — that spark when a musician jams with friends or a league captain kicks a football around for the fun of it. And sometimes, great things are born from such uninhibited moments, like the LM101 and Endeavour Cylindrical Tourbillon.
Edouard Meylan and Maximilian Büsser are long-time friends and heads of independent Swiss watchmakers H. Moser & Cie and MB&F respectively. Put them together in a room and talk will likely turn to the watchmaking universe in which they both play God, constructing miniature mechanical worlds dedicated to observing time in unorthodox expressions. Between the two of them, they have experimented with Vantablack (an ultra-black material made from carbon nanotubes); highly complex technical ideas such as the world’s first projected moonphase display and fastest triple-axis regulator; and kinetic sculptures inspired by rockets and jellyfish alike.
A collaboration seemed inevitable with their parallel sensibilities and kindred spirits, and the day finally arrived when Büsser rang Meylan about joining forces on a timepiece, a common practice at MB&F, whose last initial stands for “friends”. This was not the first branch of their professional relationship — H. Moser’s sister company, Precision Engineering AG, supplies MB&F with its balance springs — but it would mark their first meeting of minds.
“When I called Edouard, I mentioned that I really liked the double balance-spring, the Moser fumé dials and the Concept watch series,” says Büsser in a media statement. “Edouard immediately told me that he would let me borrow these features, but on the condition that he could also reinterpret one of my machines. After an initial moment of surprise, I gave it some thought. I am firmly convinced that mixing DNA creates interesting results, so why not try the experiment in watchmaking? I therefore agreed and suggested the FlyingT model, which is particularly dear to my heart.”
In short, rather than working together on a single timepiece, each brand riffed off favoured features from the other — a reciprocal duet, with inspiration flowing both ways. Meylan and Büsser then co-signed the pair of creations whose blended DNA would induce double takes among fans. While it is easy to see where one brand ends and the other begins, it is — like the best marriages — a harmonious pairing of shared values and ambitions.
In the MB&F x H. Moser Legacy Machine 101 (LM101), MB&F revisits its original LM101, which distils mechanical watchmaking to its very quintessence by showcasing only the balance wheel, power reserve and time itself. This expression of purity is reinterpreted with the recognisable flair of H. Moser through its renowned fumé dial, where the colour — red, cosmic green, aqua blue or funky blue in this case — starts as solid in the middle and fade to black-ish in the rim. The ombré effect infuses depth and highlights the key feature — the large suspended balance wheel, redesigned and fitted with a double balance spring by Precision Engineering AG that not only improves performance and accuracy but also creates a mesmerising movement. The original floating domed subdials for the 45-hour power display and hour and minutes were discarded and the relevant hands placed directly on the dial in the quest for minimalism. Just 15 pieces of each colourway were created to celebrate the 15th anniversary of MB&F.
H. Moser, meanwhile, adopted the three-dimensional movements that elevate its collaborator’s creations from timekeeping devices to animated artworks. The H. Moser x MB&F Endeavour Cylindrical Tourbillon derives its name from the one-minute flying tourbillon that hovers above the dial at 12 o’clock, an MB&F reference protected by a sapphire dome. A cylindrical balance spring, popularly used in 18th-century marine chronometers, rises perpendicularly like a corkscrew around the upper rod of the balance staff. Using its own fumé dial as a podium, H. Moser appropriates the secretive time-telling design of the MB&F FlyingT, setting the hour and minute subdial at a 40° incline, so that time is revealed only to the wearer. The model is also limited to 15 pieces in funky blue, cosmic green, burgundy, off-white and ice blue.
“This was the first time we launched a watch with three-dimensional elements on the dial,” says Meylan in a Zoom interview coordinated by Cortina Watch. “Moser is very minimalistic and I was always afraid venturing beyond that would dilute our identity, but it turns out this could be Moser too. It opens new horizons and we’re discussing how to capitalise on that in the future.”
Affirmation of this leap of faith flooded in after the launch. Customers were putting down deposits on timepieces they had only seen online — and these novelties do not come cheap, with the LM101 priced at CHF53,000 (about RM239,000) and the Endeavour Cylindrical Tourbillon at CHF79,000. Such action is testament to the trust and credibility H. Moser and MB&F have cultivated over the years.
“The response was overwhelming,” laughs Meylan. “I miss the four or five days at the Baselworld watch fair where we could interact with customers directly, but people were buying the watches without even seeing them in person. They would tell us, ‘I’m crazy, buying it like this, but I’m sure it will be incredible.’ And then they would return and say, ‘I’m not crazy after all, this is beautiful.’ It’s gratifying to know we have achieved such a high level of trust, not just through the quality and originality of our products but also in our service, how we engage with customers and address their concerns.”
Meylan describes the collaborative process as a smooth one, saying, “I enjoyed the creative discussions best. That is always fun and having someone like Max present was great — he’s extremely energetic and challenging, always forging ahead.”
That creative synergy thrums throughout both timepieces. These fraternal twins share enough similarities for the novice to conclude they are related, yet proudly wear their individuality. And while their technical specs and immaculate design speak of their sophistication, they are undeniably, gratifyingly fun with their striking, smoky hues and kinetic movements. Sure, this was a strategic partnership that raised the profile of both brands, but more than that, they evoke the unadulterated joy that comes from doing what you love with someone who feels the same way.
This article first appeared on June 22, 2020 in The Edge Malaysia.