MB&F newest collaboration: M.A.D.Editions x Jean-Charles de Castelbajac

Legendary French artist and designer Jean-Charles de Castelbajac (JCDC) turns his hand to watchmaking, becoming the first creator to collaborate on a M.A.D.1.

“Jean-Charles de Castelbajac represents five decades of creativity. Very early on, he was able to create a unique voice and style, then over the years pivot, reinvent himself and challenge the status quo. Today, at the age of 74, his message of love and life is more than ever an example for the new generation.” Maximilian Büsser

The Man, The Myth, The Legend

As a young man in the 1980s, MB&F founder Maximilian Büsser adored the French artist and designer Jean-Charles de Castelbajac for his avant-gardist pop designs in primary colours. Over the years, his respect for JCDC continued to grow as he observed the artist from afar. Collaborations with artists such as Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Robert Mapplethorpe, Cindy Sherman, and Jean-Michel Basquiat further increased his awe.

JCDC has never been a conventional designer, always daring to disturb, disrupt, and promote artistic chaos. Where most Couture designers seek out the finest quality fabrics, JCDC made clothes out of unconventional materials like his old boarding school blanket, mops, sponges, and oil cloths, being the first to upcycle in the fashion world, before it was even a thing!

With a career spanning five decades, the French designer has always had a multidisciplinary approach to his work, connecting different worlds to further explore his art. He is perhaps best known for his audacious creations like the teddy bear coat, his “poncho for two”, his Barack Obama dresses, and the robes he created for Pope John Paul II and his Papal entourage for World Youth Day in 1997.

50 Years and Counting

JCDC’s artistic career started in 1968, when he founded the Ko & Co ready-to-wear fashion company along with his mother, Jeanne-Blanche de Castelbajac. Over the following years, numerous designers would call upon his talents as a freelance designer and in 1973, he held his debut fashion show, propelling him into the limelight. By the end of the decade, he had become a fashion phenomenon with boutiques in Paris, New York, and Tokyo.

The 1980s and 1990s would see JCDC branching out into the creation of costumes for films, stage costumes for musicians, and even furniture, while the early 2000s saw him return to the world of fashion with numerous collaborations. His innovative and avant-garde approach to design has enabled him to continuously reinvent himself decade after decade. He was the artistic director of United Colors of Benetton from 2018 to 2022.

His art is expressed through installations, performances, chalk street-art, drawings and collages. In 2021-2022, his artwork was the subject of an exhibition entitled “The People of Tomorrow” at the Centre Pompidou’s children’s gallery in Paris, which itinerated to Shanghai’s West Bund Museum in 2023 and the Centre Pompidou Malaga in February 2024.

In 2023, he created a collection of his drawings for the Gien earthenware factory. 

Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained 

The young Maximilian Büsser was a huge fan, saving up his pocket money for one of the designer’s bathing suits featuring pandas on it (could this have been the start of Max’s panda fascination)? Fast forward 40 some years and the idea came to Max to try and contact JCDC to see – if by any chance – he would be interested in co-designing a watch. After all, JCDC is an expert in what he likes to call “accidents”, the results of combining two worlds that usually have nothing to do with each other. Max decided to try his luck and reach out on Instagram, and from this one DM, an extraordinary collaboration has been born.

M.A.D.1 ‘Time to Love’

The initial thought was to collaborate on an MB&F Horological Machine, but it quickly became evident that the M.A.D.1 – from the brand’s parallel more accessible label, M.A.D.Editions – would be the perfect canvas for JCDC. Working with his three iconic colours – red for passion, blue for hope, and yellow for human warmth – he has adorned the M.A.D.1 rotor with his signature colourway that is produced in lacquer on a newly-engineered rotor, where one of the wings is slightly heavier than the other two to optimize spinning. A bright green is also present and featured on the piece’s hour disc – another colour close to Castelbajac’s heart and linked to childhood memories.

Other details include a quote from the artist in French on the dial’s base: “Ce trésor rare et précieux, c’est ta vie. Le temps vole de ses ailes blanches. Tu es le gardien de ton temps”. This translates into English as: “This rare and precious treasure is your life. Time flies with its white wings. You are the guardian of your time”. The numbers of the hour and minute rings are in his own handwriting, and the crown features an engraving of an angel talking to the moon, a recurring theme in his art creations. The strap is crafted in leather and is embroidered with the name of the watch, ‘Time to Love’, and each timepiece comes with two straps – one in black and the other in white.

JCDC’s work has never been about fashion, it has, and remains to be, all about style.

‘Time to Love’ is not just a catchy name but a genuine philosophy for the artist who uses his work to spread love, peace and spirituality– a message that couldn’t be more poignant today.

“My relationship with time is unique. I am often “before or after hours”: before in my vision, after in my satisfaction. But when it’s time to love, I am always on time”, says Jean-Charles de Castelbajac.

The M.A.D.1 ‘Time to Love’ will be limited to 999 pieces, which is a first, as previous editions were not limited, just produced in batches that were made available via raffles. Retail price (before taxes) is CHF 3,200 + VAT.