In moments of delusional grandeur, I like to think of myself as a Renaissance man. I can write, take a halfway decent photograph and I can remember most of the notes to Elton John’s Rocket Man when sat in front of a piano. Yet despite my best efforts, I can’t dance and I can’t draw. So when I found out that the dial of the MB&F Horological Machine No.8 Only Watch was designed by a 15 year old ballet dancer, my two left feet and ten thumbs felt woefully inadequate.
The doodle was drawn by Cassandra Legendre, a 15 year old student from Madrid who is friends with MB&F founder, Maximilian Busser. Max was a fan of Cassie’s drawings and she even gave him a custom doodle that incorporated the MB&F robots, Sherman and Melchior. It is this doodle that made its way onto the sapphire crystal dial of the Horological Machine No. 8 Only Watch. Not bad for a 15 year old.
If any other brand had done this then it would have been all too easy to write it off as an attempt of forced whimsy. Swiss brands, with the notable exception of H.Moser, aren’t known for their sense of humour but MB&F are different and always have been. Founded in 2005 by Maximilian Busser, MB&F was a way for Max to rebel against the rules of corporate watchmaking. He describes MB&F as ” an artistic concept laboratory based around the idea of assembling a collection of independent watchmaking professionals to develop radical horological masterpieces”. Looking at their creations, they have succeeded in doing just that. Each horological or legacy machine has a personality and charm unique to them and is nothing like what a corporate brand would do.
No other brand could take the doodles of a 15 year old ballet dancer, engrave them onto a sapphire crystal dial and say the piece is about “A child creating something to help children who have been denied many of the dreams and opportunities of childhood”. It would seem twee but with MB&F it feels totally sincere. They have a long history of indulging their inner child with timepieces like the Sherman table clock or the H.M 4 for Only Watch, which featured an engraved Panda riding the watch like a sleigh. All 34 creations from MB&F have set the precedent that they can create whatever the hell they want.
The Horological Machine No. 8 Only Watch is based on the production HM8 from 2016. The watch is made from white gold and Grade 5 Titanium and measures 49mm x 51.5mm x 19mm. It’s not a svelte or discrete size, but when a watch has a bright purple rotor then discrete isn’t what it’s setting out to be. The movement itself has been heavily customized by MB&F from a Girard-Perregaux base. The design of the HM8 was inspired by the Can-Am race cars which drove in a handful of racers from 1966 to 1987. I’m not an car fan so I can’t judge how faithful or direct the inspiration is, but I do love the long, sleek lines of the watch case.
The time is readable through a window at the top of the watch. Instead of traditional hands, MB&F chose to use two discs to display the time which are viewed through an optical prism that magnifies the discs beneath by 20%. Beautiful? Absolutely. Impractical? Probably. But when you’re purchasing a work of art (and make no mistake, this is a work of art) then practicality shouldn’t factor into it. At the risk of overloading the potential wearer with whimsy, MB&F engraved a small elephant, based of Cassie’s designs, to sit between the two time discs.
With an estimate of 83,000 to 103,000 CHF, the MB&F Horological Machine No. 8 Only Watch might be the most expensive doodle ever sold at auction.