Felix Baumgartner of Urwerk, Maximilian Büsser of MB&F and Alessandro Zanetta of De Bethune reveal that they share a lot in common despite being competitors.

Alessandro Zanetta, Felix Baumgartner, and Maximilian Büsser

At first impression, these three men seem like a mismatched group.

Maximilian Büsser of MB&F is charming and seems to particularly enjoy teasing Felix Baumgartner from Urwerk.

In turn, Baumgartner has a larger-than-life aura to him that is intensified by his deep, booming voice and towering height. In contrast, the sales director of De Bethune, Alessandro Zanetta emits a quieter presence in comparison.

In conjunction to their stopover visit in KL to grace a private event hosted by The Hour Glass, these three friendly gentlemen share with Malaysia Tatler about what it’s like to be rebels of the watchmaking world. 

Alessandro Zanetta, Felix Baumgartner, and Maximilian Büsser

On being rebels

Felix Baumgartner (FB): I don’t think Urwerk or any of us here are rebelling against anything. We are just crazy people going for our passion and our love. We do what we do with as little compromises as possible. 

Alessandra Zanetta (AZ): I really don’t understand why people see us as rebels. Probably from a design point of view, yes, we can go against norms. But technically, I think we are doing watchmakers in the past are doing. The great watchmakers they did the best for the time. In that way we are not any different. We are designing and creating watches for our time and times are changing. For example, I love a classic car but I would buy a Ferrari or Lamborghini because it reflects what today’s taste is.

Maximilian Büsser (MB): At first, I didn’t see myself as a rebel. I saw what I do at MB&F as a way to express myself.  Then I realised, after taking a step back, that it is actually a rebellious thing to do. In a world where everybody conforms, we are the few who says no…we are going to do what we want.


On independence

MB: I think independence is a state of mind. It is about being free creatively with no shareholder value or other corporate issues standing in your way in building the best product you can make. It is important to be free because it gives you a way to express yourself instead of trying to please others. 

AZ: I agree completely. The idea of De Bethune from the beginning was to do what they wanted from an aesthetic point of view, from a technical point of view. This means they want to be free completely.

FB: The size of the company impacts the independence of watchmakers. When you have a company of 1,000 staff, you have this focus of paying them their salaries first and foremost. That takes away from your freedom. So keeping things small is vital towards independence.


On the rise of the Internet and social media

MB: The challenge for us in our work is to communicate, because all of us can create – all of us have more ideas than the time, energy and money to create. But communicating the fact that we have this crazy piece and it exists—it’s hard due to our budgets. Luckily for us, there is social media…it has made a great equaliser. 

FB: I would say, without the Internet, our brands wouldn’t have existed. It is as simple as that. 

AZ: It will become much harder, that’s for sure.


Hear more from watch industry leaders: Bulgari senior director of watch design Fabrizio Buonomassa on the art of simplicity 

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