Editor’s note: This is a detailed hands-on review of the M.A.D.1 Red. For our shorter introductory article, please head here. For our other similar detailed hands-on reviews, please head to our dedicated reviews section here.
We have been exceedingly lucky in acquiring the new M.A.D.1 Red. After a few days of ogling at it, traveling with it for over a month, and spending a further few weeks with it recovering from Covid, we have finally managed to write about it.
My companion literature for this Singapore trip was David Morrell’s book version of Rambo 3. It masterfully incorporates the Four Noble Truths In Buddhism. Given the book became a joyful companion for the trip — even though I have read a fair bit of David Morrell’s work including the Rambo ‘First Blood’ series earlier as well — its Buddhist lessons became a sort of learning curve. Like everything else, it sparked a curiosity to learn, and consequently, the detailed hands-on review of the new M.A.D.1 Red ends up being a learning experience for me, and considering there are Four Truths, the feature is split up in four parts.
Suffering ends when non-lasting things are rejected
Let me start with three different ideologies from Buddhism: the third Truth that states “suffering ends when non-lasting things are rejected”; the second of the Seven Factors of Awakening that talks about the ‘investigation of the nature of reality’, and first of the Five Strengths in Buddhism, ‘faith’.
The reality of my situation was simple: I was on a much needed vacation with a brand new watch I was in love with, and I had caught Covid. The solution was evident too: have ‘faith’. But it’s easier said than done. The presence of a new watch, though technically a “non-lasting thing” provided the answers. It wasn’t as much about a new watch, but what the M.A.D.1 Red managed to be in essence.
Aesthetically, the M.A.D.1 Red is not your everyday timepiece. In its centre, as the dial, is a flipped Miyota 821A movement that uses Miyota 8215 as base. It is chosen especially because it features unidirectional winding, which comes in handy when paired with a rotor that spins both ways as it minimises friction. It is a 26mm diameter and 5.67mmm thick automatic movement which MB&F has mounted upside-down. The Miyota 821A traditionally features 21 jewels, beats at the lower rate of 3Hz, and usually provides a 42-hour power reserve. The MB&F M.A.D.1 Red, however, features an increased 60-hour power reserve. On the top one gets to play with a fidget spinner triple-blade top-mounted rotor, which spectacularly features Super LumiNova on each blade.
The ‘faith’ for me was born out of the symbolism that the fidget-spinner movement dial of the M.A.D.1 Red represented: an ever-eternal circle of spinning, a life of motion at just the flick of my wrist. While I am not Buddhist myself and my personal religious faith is separate, the ‘faith’ here ties in with the turning of the “wheel” signifying change or dharmachakra, a symbol of Buddhism, which is a spinning chakra or wheel connected to the Four Truths and the greater teachings of Gautam Buddha.
Where I couldn’t physically move without pain, the spinning dial comprised of a titanium and tungsten oscillating weight formed by joining three-battle-axes — an MB&F design feature as also seen on the likes of the brand’s MB&F HM3 FrogX (RRP 138’000 CHF + taxes as compared to 2’900 CHF + taxes) — could.
And in that motion I was able to reevaluate and ‘investigate the nature of reality’ and build my ‘faith’ that I too will recover, moving freely again just like the rotor, ‘ending my suffering’ by rejecting the non-lasting Covid symptoms.
Life Is Suffering
Rambo III starts with the first truth – “life is suffering”. Catching Covid wasn’t fun. Breaking my ribs coughing non-stop wasn’t exactly ideal as well. Hardly being able to breathe at times was no picnic either. But that’s life. Shit happens. And suffering follows.
As mentioned above, there are also Seven Factors of Awakening in Buddhism, the first being ‘Mindfulness’. My long road to recovery had to come from Mindfulness, from maintaining a sense of reality. I didn’t die. And was recovering. There was something to be thankful for.
Watches are trivial in the grand scheme of things. But in a perfect world, especially for those who collect them and genuinely love them for the time-telling devices they are — and not just as investment pieces — watches can be quite meaningful. The search for the next piece, and the acquisition of the right piece, can be quite fulfilling.
Any collector who is anguished by the search of another timepiece that will fill that void will agree that trying to have an ideal collection is suffering too. My watch collection, before this Singapore trip, didn’t have an outright fun and eclectic timepiece. I also didn’t have a bright red watch.
The colour red is sprinkled in high dosage everywhere on the M.A.D.1 Red: the movement, the time-telling minutes disc, on the case-back, and as the stitching on the thick rubber strap (with calf leather on the inside).
In addition to being a colour full of life, and complementing my love for Valentino’s signature red, there is also the importance of the colour red. In Buddhism, it represents the element of fire and symbolises love and compassion, and translates to an “ability to judge well”.
The joy that the timepiece brought me both in times of health and in the absence of it only helped grow my ‘love’ for this industry, and I was glad to note that in acquiring the M.A.D.1 Red I had made use of my “ability to judge well”.
Acquiring the M.A.D.1 Red meant I developed an appreciation for the timepiece’s uniqueness. I became mindful of its necessary existence in my collection.
But more importantly, it also distracted me from my physical suffering. Just like the second of the Five Strengths in Buddhism, it gave me the ‘energy’ to make the effort to show persistence to recover and continue my watch collecting journey.
Welcome at the time, it ironically also led on to the second Truth: ‘suffering is caused by the wish for nonpermanent things”.
Suffering is caused by the wish for nonpermanent things
As any watch collector or enthusiast would attest, usually the desire to acquire a new timepiece starts very soon after having acquired a new watch. The honeymoon phase can vary, but the desire to get another watch doesn’t really cease. I, like many others, also used to be quite insufferable when it came to this. Watch collecting is a rather M.A.D hobby, and once you fall down the rabbit hole, there is no turning back.
But the most curious thing happened; from the moment I strapped the M.A.D.1 Red, I knew it wasn’t coming off my wrist. One week of wearing it straight, and on my first day of trial without it, I kept on flicking my wrist constantly to check the time and see the rotating rotor on my other ‘ordinary Swiss timepieces’. The wearing magic that the M.A.D.1 Red has, doesn’t get replicated easily. I am also someone who is not a double-wrister, but I remember attending a Breguet event recently wearing this and my Breguet Marine 5817ST to it. The M.A.D.1 Red is simply not coming off the wrist.
This then beckons the question: am I done with buying more watches? I am going to be realistic and say, definitely not. But the new M.A.D.1 Red has definitely put a pause on the process; I guess the suffering I faced for nonpermanent things like another watch I wanted to buy is somewhat on standby.
And it is thanks to the M.A.D.1 Red’s many standout features that I can find solace in this acquisition for a while.
As an architect and someone researching Buddhism, in the design of the watch, I can see many references (whether intentional or purely coincidental).
The first design feature that sets the M.A.D.1 Red apart is the case architecture, that’s almost UFO-esque courtesy those four metal claw-like lugs. Metaphorically, one could say that the actual timepiece with a circular design rotating endlessly is held together firmly by the four — highly polished and no, they don’t catch on the sleeves — lugs or the Four Noble Truths.
Like the dharmachakra mentioned earlier, the Triratna is another symbol of Buddhism that usually represents the three Jewels of Buddhism: the Buddha (founder), the dharma (ideology of righteousness), and the Sangha (concept of community). The Triratna can be represented as a trident, and the use of three-axe design of the rotor instead of say just two as that seen in the HM3 FrogX to me also further harked of Buddhist representation in the M.A.D.1 Red.
Yet another symbolism I see is the use of the turtle-esque design on the crown; the crown is large and easy to operate, and features the MB&F battle-axe logo again, this time almost reminiscent of a turtle. Turtle design in Buddhism can stand for wish, hope and good luck – all elements I felt I needed when I was recovering.
Even though it is 42mm in diameter, 18.8mm thick and 50.4mm lug-to-lug, courtesy its design the M.A.D.1 Red sits rather well on my ~16cm wrist. The combination of steel, sapphire, and aluminium also makes the watch not too heavy. It surprisingly is also one of the most comfortable watches I own, something also talked about by David Bredon over at ablogtowatch in his review. At first the twin-trigger release butterfly deployant clasp was a bit fidgety for me to operate, but once the strap got the right fit, boom; it’s as if I am not really wearing a watch, despite the overall sizing.
I also read comments online stating that the M.A.D.1 Red is a ‘gimmick’ that will lose its sheen after a week or so. I would beg to differ. Sure, on paper for about the same moolah as a Tudor BB58 it seems expensive and gimmicky, but strap it on your wrist, and the wearing experience is simply divine. That’s where it scores the most; wearing experience.
Talking about the thickness, the extra domed sapphire crystal is not only an MB&F design feature, but again ties in with another Buddhist symbol. The stupa. A stupa is a domed-shaped buddhist shrine.
Design wise, I also appreciate the symmetry created by the steel marker to indicate the time at 6 and the crown at 12. It’s also quite ironic how the crown at 12’o look is resonant of a pocket watch of yore, but now is included as a design future on a timepiece certainly way futuristic than the design ideals of the present times.
Last but not the least, lume plays a big part in the design and appreciation of the M.A.D.1 Red. I of course wouldn’t dare to equate the lume on this watch with the concepts of illumination and nirvana in Buddhism, but the overarching concept of the importance of ‘light’ does offer a common bridge for the sake of this review.
Often watches just throw in lume on the hands of the dial just for the sake of it; it’s like ticking a design box. But the M.A.D.1 Red takes the concept of lume to heart, lighting up the timepiece in times of darkness. There is dollops of lume present on the top of the dial within the rotating battle-axes, in the hour and minute numerals, and also on the marker to tell the time.
Coming back to the Truth of “suffering is caused by the wish for nonpermanent things”, my dilemma, and I must admit it’s a good dilemma to be in, is how do I top the M.A.D.1 Red in my collection?
I can’t possibly afford an MB&F Bulldog (my other grail). The built quality and the feeling of ‘Joy’ — the fourth of the Seven Factors of Awakening in Buddhism — when wearing this is usually not even found in timepieces twice its price point. Now do I just buy another ‘boring’ traditional timepiece? After all, seeing the new Rolex Oyster Perpetual GMT-Master II LHD in person had somewhat convinced me that I needed that purely because I wear watches on my right wrist. But then, nothing ‘joyfully’ fun happens on it. The dial is just stationary.
This dilemma slowly paved the way for ‘Equanimity’, the last of the Seven Factors of Awakening. For the time being, I have — or at least I believe I have — accepted reality as-it-is. I have told myself that I have no craving for other new watches. As long as I show ‘Persistence’, second of the Five Strengths, I may find my wallet happier.
Of course how long I can hold on to this state is anybody’s guess.
Seek the eternal
‘Equanimity’ is quite close to the principle of “Seeking the eternal” or aiming for a state of nirvana. The latter is also the last of the Four Noble Truths In Buddhism.
The key thing with my journey over the last couple of months has been the ability to fortunately recover, humbly gain some ‘Wisdom’ — last of the Five Strengths — by researching Buddhism, and enjoy my time with the M.A.D.1 Red.
M.A.D.1 Red really is the epitome of cool.
Peek into the whispers of your childhood, and you might remember a funny trope; there was a running gag I remember from my youth, where a stranger asks a person drinking coffee for time. And the person with the hot cup in their hand almost absent-mindedly rotates his wrist to check the time, and in the process, spills the hot liquid on their shirt. It always made me smile, and left a memory of associating watches with that moment. But over-time, I had forgotten about it. Fast-forward to present day, and MB&F made me revisit the memory; one of the Raffles Hospital ER doctors asked me for the time while I was wearing the M.A.D.1 Red, and I realised I didn’t have to rotate my wrist or even check the time specifically. This was also handy given my body and ribs hurt, so twisting my arm wasn’t welcome. Like a cool bad-ass move, I simply have to slide my glance on the wrist, and voila, the time is always looking at me. I kinda felt like a cowboy in that moment, shooting the time straight from the hip where my hand almost lifelessly lay.
I may have been suffering, but the time on my wrist was maintaining a sense of ‘reality’, coming full circle to the second of the Seven Factors of Awakening I spoke about in the beginning of the review.
The conversation with the doctor also mimicked those I had with the air-hostesses, friends, and several others we met whether it be while walking on the wonderfully sweltering streets of Singapore or at the various watch shops. People were naturally curious about this wrist device. Despite the world getting more aloof courtesy Covid and rise of social media, I realised that the M.A.D.1 Red held the power to connect us in an unconnected world.
The sheer ‘Joy’ of interactions with people, starting conversations is something worth its weight in gold in itself. This ‘joy’ in turn leads on to the fifth the Seven Factors of Awakening, ‘tranquility’ (at least there is a sense of the ‘reality’ of ‘tranquility’ given the duality of the “concept of unreality of ‘reality’” is confusing enough for scholars, let alone me).
But that’s not it; the entire design of the M.A.D.1 Red is also too cool for school; it appears that MB&F takes — quite unsurprisingly in fact — the well conceived notion of how a timepiece should work and behave, flip that concept on its head, and present with a watch that’s simply beckons the question to be asked: why hasn’t in centuries old traditions of watchmaking a timepiece like the new M.A.D.1 Red has not existed at this price point before from a well-respected independent watchmaker?
Like everything groundbreaking — it really is at its price point — the M.A.D.1 Red has also met with some criticism online, mainly the use of a Miyota movement vs the price and the low 30m water-resistance. Some have even said that you can’t tell the time, or it is a secondary function. I would beg to differ; having worn the watch both in a normal state of excitement and business of life, and in a state of despair and sickness, time reading has never been a problem.
Due to that ‘driver’s style’ lateral display of two aluminium discs — one in black for hours and one in red for minutes — the time is always handy. The rotor may be the primary calling card, but is never a distraction loud enough to not be able to tell the time.
I also appreciate that the steel marker to indicate the time is fixed with the case-back design and protrudes slightly forward. It’s bold and fortunately not cheapened by the use of simply a painted on line on the crystal. It’s also lume filled and works well in cahoots with the rest of the watch design language.
I have said this earlier, and will say it again; simply put, the M.A.D.1 Red is masterminded by the genius behind MB&F, a masterclass in marketing, a masterstroke in watchmaking, and an important chapter in the master’s legacy to its many followers.
The brand has brought the ethos of independent watchmaking to a wider audience waiting to somehow find a way of entry into the esteemed corridors where a rather accessible price-point greets them with hope. The cherry on top for me was that it also taught me some crucial lessons in life.
A watch that looks good and does good; now that’s purely priceless.
To find out more about the new MB&F M.A.D.1 Red and their other watches, please head to their website here. All images unless otherwise stated are courtesy are © Watch Ya Gonna Do About It. All rights reserved.