MB&F M.A.D. 1 GMT Milano

Dropped quietly in mid-2021, the M.A.D.1 was a project initiated by MB&F founder Max Büsser, to thank the brand’s suppliers and customers. The fun and quirky M.A.D.1 was far more affordable than their typical offerings, which is why it was branded as a M.A.D Edition, a new label created to indicate the difference between the two brands in terms of price and level of execution.

But the M.A.D.1 was so desirable that it was eventually made available to the public, and there was also a one-off version that hammered for USD172,000 at a charity auction. Now the M.A.D.1 has just welcomed its latest and fourth iteration, the MB&F GMT Milano Edition.First things first, despite the name, the newest is not a watch with a second time zone indicator. Functionally it is identical to earlier M.A.D.1 editions, which is time only and displayed with vertical cylinders visible between the lugs at six o’clock.
GMT, instead, refers to Great Masters of Time, a series of boutiques or “concept” stores in Italy consisting (mostly) of high-end independent brands. The GMT was created by the Corvo family, who are friends of Mr Büsser even before he founded MB&F. In fact, the relationship dates back to 1992 when Mr Büsser was the product manager at Jaeger-LeCoultre, where he consulted Giorgio and Michele Corvo, the distributor of JLC in Italy, for future development. The Corvo family later sold Harry Winston Opus watches initiated by Max, and of course the MB&F pieces starting 2007, the year the HM1 was launched.

This year marks the 30th year since the beginning of the friendship between Mr Büsser and the Corvo family, and to celebrate that, the watchmaker has introduced a special M.A.D.1 that’s limited to 30 pieces. The GMT Milano Edition is identical to the red, and pink versions save for its livery. Instead of contemporary colours, the MB&F GMT Milano Edition gets a classic “salmon” dial achieved via gold plating. It’s unusual to have traditional colours on a futuristic watch, but here it just works.
Though the M.A.D.1 is arguably an accessory that tells time, which is why it’s closely related to the M.A.D. Galleries, it is a good initiative. It’s meant to be interesting, affordable, and created to extend thanks to the community, which is exactly what the latest GMT Milano Edition does. I appreciate the consistency in philosophy and style across the editions, and I look forward to more in future.

While the brand value of MB&F and the low production of M.A.D.1 helps with its desirability, the watch is intrinsically cool. The most attractive feature is certainly the triple-blade rotor inspired by the “battle-axe” rotor of the HM3, which can spin freely thanks to the unidirectional winding system, where the rotor experiences low resistance in the non-winding direction.
And the M.A.D.1 is also notable for its time display, which is not found on the dial but along the case. The hours and minutes hands are replaced by large wheels that originate from the centre but have cylindrical flanks. It’s a simple trick but impressive, given that the cylinders are far heavier than conventional hands, and the running time remains at the standard 42 hours

Finally, the case construction and movement finishing is worth a mention as they echo the philosophy of MB&F despite the low-cost execution. The case is smartly made of mineral glass with steel bezel and back, a straightforward construction that allows for a striking visual effect at an affordable price, while the movement is finished with clean striping and mirrored beveling that’s unusual at this price.
Designed and assembled by MB&F, the M.A.D. 1 was initially conceived as a limited-edition thank-you for the brand’s longstanding collectors known as the “Tribe” and its suppliers. It then became a standard production model, allowing the wider public access to the most affordable creation ever released by the independent watchmaker. Now MB&F has created a limited edition for GMT Italia, the retailer owned by the Corvo family, the M.A.D. 1 “ MB&F GMT Milano Edition ”.
If you speak with anyone working in the watch game for more than a couple of decades, you’ll likely find the reason they’ve been around so long is less about the watches themselves and more about the people making the watches. The new M.A.D.1 GMT Milano Edition is a perfect example of this, created by MB&F founder Maximilian Büsser to celebrate his 30-year friendship with the Corvo family who owns the “Great Masters of Time” boutiques in Italy.

The M.A.D.1 edition was originally born as a project to thank Büsser’s long-term friends and associates in the watch industry but was met with such voracious reception from the collecting community, that further editions were created to broaden the access to the unusual timepiece. Now on its fourth edition, the M.A.D.1 is back in a copper tone as a 30-piece limited edition.

If you’ve not seen a M.A.D.1 before and you’re (rightly) wondering how you actually tell the time, the time is displayed between the lugs at 6 o’clock via a set of rotating rings. Instead of the dial telling you the information you’re after, it instead features a “battle-axe” winding rotor that not only serves up a neat party trick when it disappears in a rotating blur but also delivers a taste of MB&F’s wild designs at a fraction of the brand’s typical six-figure price.