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Out of this world – the M.A.D.House that Max built

The story behind the new location for this growing independent watchmaker is as fascinating as their creations.

By debbie-hathway

A 116-year-old townhouse – a protected building under the Swiss Heritage Society (Patrimoine Suisse) – with a hidden passageway in Carouge, known as the Greenwich Village of Geneva is the new M.A.D.House, the headquarters of esteemed independent watchmaker MB&F.

Carouge proved to be the perfect spot for the M.A.D.Gallery and the MB&F main workshop, as they had previously operated separately and outgrown their respective locations in Geneva. The Mediterranean-style hamlet where artisans and craftsmen of every ilk ply their trade is just beyond the southern city limits of Geneva.

Founder Maximilian Büsser had to see past the four-storey clutter of the previous occupants to visualise the new space and wait a year and a half to complete a full roof restoration and extensive interior refurbishment before the MB&F team could move in.

Originally conceived by the well-known architect Edmond Fatio (1871–1959) of Geneva and Charles Meysson (1869–1947) of Lyon as the private home of wealthy industrial entrepreneurs, the building won an architectural prize in 1908, the year of its completion. The structure, crafted in the Heimatstil style, embodies a romanticised approach to historical architecture – a nod to its future inhabitants who ingeniously reinterpret and reimagine traditional horology to suit the contemporary era. The half-timbered facade, adorned with rustic stone walls, evokes the charm of castles and structures depicted in folklore illustrations – a perfect dwelling for a company whose innovative designs were initially sparked by the mythologies of science fiction and fantasy.

Similar to the timepieces crafted by MB&F, the M.A.D.House seamlessly bridges the realms of the past, present, and future. Within its walls, an array of objects narrates the tale of contemporary horological art, while its inhabitants, a team with a steadfast gaze toward the future, infuse the space with dynamic energy.

Most days witness a bustling hive of activity within the house, a natural outcome of over 40 individuals united in the shared mission of building and advancing the legacy of MB&F. Multiple entrances lead to a central staircase and atrium, forming a convergence point pulsating with constant motion. In this lively hub, people come and go. A hidden passageway behind the stairs, a charming relic of the house’s original design, caters to those in a rush and hints at a scene where one might encounter a white rabbit consulting a pocket watch.

On the ground floor, watchmakers meticulously assemble movements at specially crafted workbenches, surrounded by natural light, wood panelling, and hand-painted ceramic tiles dating back to the house’s inception. The reception area, mirroring the M.A.D.Gallery’s aesthetic opens onto the central stairwell adorned with wooden newels retaining engravings from 1908. Departmental offices occupy the upper floors, with the product creation team stationed on the top floor, creating a seamless flow of activity throughout the multi-storey structure.

Light and space abound, thanks to its expansive three-hectare parkland location. Throughout the house, objects and artefacts from the MB&F universe are scattered, including the Jean Kazès clock and photography prints by artists like Marc Ninghetto and Ulysse Fréchelin.

The central stairwell serves as an evolving installation, with various artists taking turns transforming its white walls. The inaugural artist, Maxime Schertenleib, renowned for his intricate urban landscapes, lends his vision to the space. Outside, a wind sculpture by American kinetic sculptor Anthony Howe greets visitors, its dynamic interplay of geometry and fluid dynamics foreshadowing the mesmerising creations housed within.

The house came under the full stewardship of MB&F in 2022 when they entered the premises and inaugurated the M.A.D.House as their new home. There is now a standing invitation for friends of MB&F and fellow enthusiasts to visit and share the journey of the madly inventive world within.

SOURCES: Images: Supplied
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