MB&F’s LM1 brings avowed historical perspective to the brand’s avant-garde style of watchmaking.
By Laurie Kahle, October 04, 2011
What’s this? Has Max Büsser gone conventional on us? Today’s launch of the LM1, the first MB&F Legacy Machine, took the watch world by surprise not with its radical timekeeping vision, but rather with its traditional, round case. Following the sci-fi HM4 and HM3, expectations were no doubt pinned on yet an even more fantastical contraption. Not this time, responded Büsser, who decided to directly reference watchmaking history instead of conjuring up another futuristic machine. His impetus for the new piece arose from thinking more about time travel à la Jules Verne rather than space travel à la Battlestar Galactica. He asked himself what kind of watch would he create if he were born 100 years earlier in 1867 rather than in 1967. Naturally, a round pocket watch was the inspirational starting point. But, while the LM1 pays tribute to watchmaking’s golden age of invention from 1780 to 1870, it still breaks some rules so as not to disappoint MB&F’s renegade fans.
In late 2007, Max started drawing his vision for the LM1, which exudes a cool steampunk edge. “I sketched this round movement with an enormous balance wheel taken from under the movement where it usually is and completely suspended it on top of the movement,” he explains in a video about the making of the piece (watch it below). “Why? What was the most important thing to the great masters of the 19th and 18th centuries? It was the regulating system.”
Büsser recruited Jean-François Mojon, who is known for creating the Harry Winston Opus X, and Kari Voutilainen, a revered independent virtuoso of classical watchmaking. When presented with Büsser’s first sketch three years ago, both signed on to the project and started building an original movement that honors their ancestors without going old school. “The design Kari did on the movement is so amazing,” says Büsser, “that when you turn it around and look at the bridges, you virtually do not realize there is no balance wheel.”
Naturally, when looking at the front of the watch, the first thing you do notice is that oversize floating balance wheel, hovering over twin dials under a dome of glistening sapphire crystal. The balance is suspended from a bridge inspired by the Eiffel Tower. Another twist is the independent dual-time-zone system that allows you to set any second time you wish, instead of limiting you to hour or half hour intervals. And arcing up from the 6 o’clock position is a vertical power reserve shaped like a sextant.
MB&F’s Legacy Machines collection will evolve as a historic alter ego to the audacious Horological Machines. Though Büsser’s take on traditional watchmaking remains progressive, he admits the LM1 will, for the first time, invite comparison with what has been accomplished over the centuries by the world’s most established and illustrious brands. Of course, this prospect does not daunt watchmaking’s master of surprise.