May 23, 20248 min Read

Cédric Roussel – His Pilot Watch Flies Under the Radar

By Niclas Berglund

“When we meet tomorrow, perhaps you could bring a watch that means something extra to you? I know you like vintage watches…”

I’m in the car on my way to Geneva to meet Cédric Roussel, a watch collector and Client Relationship Manager for the watch brand MB&F. We are going to meet the day after.

The reply comes after a while.

– Unfortunately, I do not have a vintage watch in my collection. However, I do have this one which means a lot to me, writes Cédric Roussel in his response.

Soon, an image accompanies the text he has just written. It’s an IWC with two cartoon characters on the dial. I’ve never seen anything like it from IWC, which makes me happy and curious.

I respond promptly. “Perfect, bring it! See you tomorrow”.

A unique IWC Mark 15, personalized with a distinctive black PVD coating and a hand-paited dial by Isabelle Villa.

The gallery represents artists from all over the world

The door handle slams shut as I let go of it a bit too hastily. I’m on my way into MB&F’s M.A.D.Gallery in downtown Geneva. I have a tripod in one hand and a camera in the other. Cédric Roussel laughs and runs to the door to help me inside.

I try to extend my hand to greet him but realize how comical it must look. I give up and lay all the equipment on the floor.

Cédric Roussel is casually dressed and moves easily, telling me not to worry about the equipment blocking the entrance.

– Come in, would you like a coffee?

I reply that I would love a coffee. He asks me to sit down, but I am completely taken by everything happening around me and remain standing. He notices my fascination with the gallery’s art.

– Impressive, isn’t it?

Without waiting for my response, he continues to explain that the gallery is a meeting place for those interested in watches and art.

– Here, the two worlds meet; it’s an exciting meeting place. This symbolizes what MB&F stands for – “Maximillian Büsser and Friends.” The gallery represents artists from all over the world, says Cédric Roussel.

Cédric Roussel engages with a customer at the M.A.D.Gallery, showcasing his deep knowledge and passion for the unique timepieces that define the space.

At MB&F, you are encouraged to break norms

He suggests that we go out for lunch at a nearby place. The district in downtown Geneva is charming with its narrow streets. We slow down to avoid bumping into a couple wanting to pass by us. Arriving at the restaurant, the spring sun warmly caresses our faces as we wait for a table to become available. Cédric Roussel is friendly and in a disarming manner, our conversation touches on the beauty of being a father and the sacrifices it entails, including having to give up parts of what one loves to put the family first. This idea of sacrifice and dedication seamlessly leads us into another topic of great personal importance to him—his first encounter with Maximillian Büsser, the founder of MB&F. Cédric vividly recalls how their shared values and perspectives on innovation and creativity in the watchmaking industry sparked an immediate connection.

Maximillian Büsser is a genius; it’s an honor to work for him. I remember the first time I met him. It was a two-hour conversation unlike any job interview I had been to before. I was completely exhausted after that meeting. Maximillian Büsser is a very kind and warm person. At the same time, he demands a lot from you and expects you to participate. If we are in a meeting, he wants everyone to contribute with thoughts and ideas. Many watch manufacturers want their employees to do what the brand does, to stay “within the lines.” At MB&F, it’s the opposite; here, you are encouraged to break norms, to find other ways to a result. To constantly challenge to see if it can be done better, says Cédric Roussel.

Originally in stainless steel, transformed with a sleek black PVD coating for a personal touch. But what truly makes it special are the miniature paintings by Isabelle Villa on the dial.

"My fascination with watches began early"

The waiter comes over and shows us to our table, patting Cédric Roussel on the shoulder. Cédric Roussel knows the menu well, so the order is placed quickly. I ask him how it all started for him as we settle in.

– My fascination with watches began early, and it was probably largely thanks to my uncle Oliver. He was a watch collector and always wore an intriguing watch. Whenever we met at gatherings, I would always run up to him and ask what watch he was wearing. I distinctly remember one time when I approached him to ask about his watch, and he said to me, “You know what, today you’re going to borrow my watch”.

Uncle Oliver took off his watch, which was a Breguet. Cédric Roussel talks about when he got it in his hand and he turned the watch over, which had an automatic movement with a display caseback. He then asked what was buzzing inside there. His uncle explained that it was a rotor that spins when you move your wrist, and thus the rotor ensures that the watch gets energy and continues to work and can show the time.

– I said to my uncle; I understand – but where is the battery? He laughed and explained that there was no battery. I was completely amazed and at the same time fascinated by the fact that the watch didn’t have a battery, but could still show the time, says Cédric Roussel, smiling at the memory.

Cédric Roussel has a degree in law but realized after graduating that the law “didn’t like him, and he didn’t like the law.” His passion for watches had taken up more and more space during his law studies, and after a few successful watch deals from his own collection, he began to see it more clearly. He wanted to work with watches.

The vibrant blue offers a captivating backdrop for the intricate movement, making it a standout piece for those who appreciate the fine art of watchmaking.

This movement, crafted by Kari Voutilainen, blends traditional horological craftsmanship with contemporary design.

The LM101 features a prominent flying balance wheel, showcasing the elegant mechanics of motion in watchmaking.

"It felt scary to go to a brand like MB&F"

I ask how he ended up at a brand like MB&F, given its very unique design language.

– I often tell my friends: if you buy an MB&F as your first watch, there’s probably something wrong with you, says Cédric Roussel with a laugh.

He continues:

– MB&F is very special in its expression, and most of our customers have been through a lot before they come to us.

Cédric Roussel has worked at several watch brands over the years, including IWC in Dubai, and it was at IWC where he met his friend Thibault Verdonckt, who later went on to MB&F to become their Head of Sales.

– I had a lot of contact with Thibault Verdonckt, who one day asked me if I would be interested in coming to MB&F to work as a Client Relationship Manager. My wife and I were expecting our twins at the time, and we longed to return home. When he offered me the position, we saw it as a good opportunity to move back to Europe. As the watch enthusiast I am, I was familiar with MB&F. It was a big step for me and it felt scary to go to a brand that was so special with its three-dimensional expression.

The HM4 Kittyhawk’s shark mouth is inspired by the P-40 fighter planes from WW2, blending aviation history with horological innovation to create a timepiece that is as daring as it is unique.

The HM4 Kittyhawk, hand-painted by miniature artist Isabelle Villa, showcases a fusion of art and horology, where meticulous craftsmanship brings to life a piece that is as much a work of art as it is a timekeeper.

The brand’s popularity has surged in recent years, and with it, the customer base has grown. Today, Cédric Roussel finds himself dedicating a lot of time to customers.

– It’s important to be available to them, and I’m always 100% transparent. I want to treat our customers as I would like to be treated by the brands I like. I’m a collector and enthusiast myself, so I know how frustrating it can be to wait for a watch without knowing anything about the watch’s availability. We are a small brand that produces around 420 watches each year. It’s difficult to make all our customers happy even though we work hard to do so.

"to buy a watch to show that you have money"

We are interrupted when our food arrives; I look up and see that the outdoor seating area has become full since we sat down. The buzz from the lunch rush makes me lean forward when I ask Cédric Roussel what watches mean to him.

– Watches reveal a part of who you are – the watch tells something beyond time. You can choose to say something about yourself with a watch. The simplest is to buy a watch to show you have money and are successful. I don’t see anything wrong with that, but it’s not something I would do myself. For example – look at my wrist, what do you see?

Cédric Roussel with his unique pilot watch, the IWC Mark XV. The figures on the dial are hand-painted by Isabelle Villa, blending personalized artistry with the precision of horological craftsmanship to create a timepiece that tells a story beyond time.

Sometimes a watch is more than just a timepiece. For Cédric Roussel, this IWC Mark 15 is a canvas of his heart. Coated in black PVD and adorned with miniature paintings representing his children, it carries the names and birthdates of his twins on the back of the dial.

"Watches are emotions for me"

I recognize the watch from the picture he sent me the day before.

“I see an IWC, but that’s really all I can say,” I respond.

– Exactly, that’s what I love about this watch. It flies under the radar, yet it’s so significant to me. This is an IWC Mark 15. When I bought it, it was in stainless steel, which I then sent in for a black PVD coating. It’s like a kind of lacquer that is applied to the watch. But I felt I wanted to take it a step further to make it even more personal. When my twins came to us, I asked Isabelle Villa, who is an amazing miniature artist and has painted for MB&F, if she would help me paint two paintings on my dial. A pilot cat for my daughter and a pilot dog for my son. She immediately responded that she wanted to help me. And on the back of the dial are my children’s names and their birth dates, says Cédric Roussel.

I understand what he means – now, a few minutes later, I see so much more when I look at the watch. Most of all, I see his love for his children.

Cédric Roussel explains that he loves to make his watches more personal by altering their original design. He also shows a picture of his Tudor Black Bay 58, where he replaced the original black bezel with a blue one.

Cédric Roussel’s custom-made Tudor Black Bay 58 with a blue bezel and black dial. Photo: Cédric Roussel

– Watches are more than just timepieces to me; they are a profound emotional expression and hold a significant place in my life. Recently, when my wife and I bought a house here in Geneva, I faced the difficult decision to sell large parts of my cherished watch collection to finance our new home. Letting go of my Aquanaut, Submariner, and Daytona Zenith was particularly tough; each piece had its own story and connection to me. Despite these sacrifices, my passion for watches continues unabated. Just last week, I added a new member to my collection—a green G-Shock. It’s modest but spirited, perfect for wearing in the garden of our new home. This new chapter, while different, still finds me surrounded by the world of watches, each one marking a point in my journey, says Cédric Roussel, smiling ⏱

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🎥 See the trailer with Cédric and his unique pilot watch.