The mitotic checkpoint prevents mitotic exit until all chromosomes are attached to spindle microtubules. Aurora B kinase indirectly invokes this checkpoint by destabilizing incorrect attachments; however, a more direct role remains controversial. In contrast, activity of the kinase Mps1 is indispensible for the mitotic checkpoint. Here we show that Aurora B and Hec1 are needed for efficient Mps1 recruitment to unattached kinetochores, allowing rapid Mps1 activation at the onset of mitosis. Live monitoring of cyclin B degradation reveals that this is essential to establish the mitotic checkpoint quickly at the start of mitosis. Delayed Mps1 activation and checkpoint establishment upon Aurora B inhibition or Hec1 depletion are rescued by tethering Mps1 to kinetochores, demonstrating that Mps1 recruitment is the primary role of Aurora B and Hec1 in mitotic checkpoint signalling. These data demonstrate a direct role for Aurora B in initiating the mitotic checkpoint rapidly at the onset of mitosis.