“I was totally terrified. I thought nobody was ever going to buy this piece, and it was basically going to kill our company.” It turns out that Max Büsser’s fears about the MB&F HM4 (for Horological Machine) were unfounded.
In 2019, the New York Times cited the radical wristwatch as one of the 10 timepieces that have shaped modern watch design. The aviation-inspired HM4 was awarded Best Concept & Design Watch at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève when it debuted in 2010, and Büsser now hails the near-death experiment in watchmaking as the most important timepiece in his brand’s history.
Ever since, MB&F—which stands for Max Büsser & Friends— has been a cult favorite among fans of avant-garde watch design and innovation. “The HM4 case escapes any standard definition, matched inside by an engine that defies conventional watch movement construction,” the brand notes.
Due to its complexity, the “anarchistic” HM4, with its three-dimensional dual gauge-like dials, which took three years to develop, was limited to just 100 movements. All found their way into various editions starting with the Thunderbolt, long ago snapped up by enthusiasts and collectors.
However Büsser retained one of the original prototypes, which he has reimagined as a one-off “pièce unique” tribute to the HM4 on its 10th anniversary: the HM4 Kittyhawk.
In keeping with the watch’s aviation roots, it is named after the Curtiss P-40, one of the most important WWII aircraft in the Allied arsenal, which was given nicknames like Warhawk, Tomahawk and Kittyhawk during its six-year production run from 1938 to 1944. Most striking was the shark mouth and eyes motif that the fighter’s crews frequently painted on its fuselage.
This iconic example of WWII “nose art” adorns the HM4 Kittyhawk as well, painstakingly hand-applied to the watch’s gradefive titanium case by renowned French miniaturist painter Isabelle Villa. Its price of about $250,000 is basically meaningless as the single example was sold within minutes and no more will ever be made.
With MB&F, which specializes in collaborations with talented artists and designers who have time and again broken the “rules” of conventional watch design with eye-popping results, “Büsser has created some of the bravest and most provocative timepieces ever made.”
So says Phillips auction house, whose world-class watch department has sold MB&F creations alongside the likes of Richard Mille and Patek Philippe—“not that he cares if you disagree,” they point out.
As Büsser, who holds a master’s degree in micro-technology engineering and began his career working for Jaeger-LeCoultre declares, “It just gives me one more occasion to create something super-cool, and that really makes me happy.”