Recently, MB&F announced the final edition of their most successful watch in the “Legacy Machine” Collection, a sort of farewell version of the LM1, with a stainless steel case and a brown dial, to close a 6-year story. But this watch was not intended to be seen as the end of the road, because, as ever Max Büsser and his friends had something new in mind, a new watch that could possibly replace the LM1 in the heart of collectors (if ever this watch needed to be replaced)… Here is the new MB&F LM SE – Legacy Machine Split Escapement – straight on the market in 4 different versions, and with a movement that has some stories to tell.
The Legacy Machine family
From 2005 (inception of the brand) to 2011, most of the watches created by MB&F were radical, unusual, non-traditional watches, with complex shapes and displays like no other – the HM1, HM2, HM3 and HM4 were already on the market at that time. However, in 2011, Max Busser surprised friends and folks with something completely new, something that none of us could have expected: the Legacy Machine 1. It was traditional, classical… and round (well, relatively speaking, of course, we’re still talking MB&F). The LM collection played with a new concept: what would have happened if Max had been born in 1867 instead of 1967? In the early 1900s, when the first wristwatches appeared, if he had wanted to create three-dimensional machines for the wrist, but there were no Star Wars, Spaceships or fighter jets for his inspiration. But he did have pocket watches, the Eiffel Tower and Jules Verne. The answer was the LM1. It had to be round, it had to be gold and traditional in the execution, but, as MB&F obliges, it had to have 3D design codes.
The first Legacy Machine, the LM1, brought to life some codes that would later define the entire LM collection: a 3D concept with a large floating balance wheel, held by a skeletonized arch, with antique finishes, traditionally (and superbly) decorated movements, the use of traditional complications and a clear steampunk inspiration. Later would follow the LM2 (with double balance), the LM101 (the smaller, more elegant and more accessible version) and the LM Perpetual, which was made with a new friend of the brand, Stephen McDonnell. And guess what, this guy is back in the list of collabs, as he’s the one who developed the movement of this new Legacy Machine Split Escapement.
The new MB&F LM SE – Legacy Machine Split Escapement
With this new MB&F Legacy Machine Split Escapement, long-term collectors of the brand won’t feel disappointed, and the brand have done quite a conservative job – at least in terms of general style and design. The entire codes of the collection are still present and this LM SE will be immediately recognized as a member of the Legacy Machine line-up. However, there are many small details that have been updated and, wherever you’ll look, there are novelties to be seen. Dials, case, movement, display, decoration… In fact, almost everything is new or re-shaped – and the best part is that this Legacy Machine Split Escapement comes straight on the market in 4 different versions.
In terms of its overall shape, there’s no major evolution on this LM SE. The round case, with classical lugs, is still 44mm, and still features this highly domed sapphire crystal on top – a necessity considering the floating balance wheel, although the case itself feels relatively thin. All 4 editions share the same 18k white gold case, albeit with a slightly updated finishing compared to the rest of the LM family – a style introduced on the LM1 Final Edition. The case isn’t entirely brushed anymore but the bezel is polished, as well as the top of the lugs. The casebands are horizontally brushed and the sides of the lugs show a vertical brushed surface. Nothing big but an overall more luxurious feel.
Moving to the dial is where you can see the strongest evolution. First, the display is new, as not only are the time (at 12) and the power reserve (at 4) displayed, but also a date function, something very rational that lets us think that this MB&F Legacy Machine Split Escapement has to be seen as the “daily wearer” of the collection, a sort of mature, easy-going watch, combined with the usual bold design of the LM watches. This date-by-hand can be quickly and easily adjusted thanks to a push-button on the side of the case, next to the date dial.
The dial, which is actually the main plate of the movement, also introduces a different style of finishing than what has previously been used on the other LM watches: a micro-textured “frosted” finish that is closely associated with antique pocket watches of the 18th and 19th century. This traditional technique was presented by MB&F for the first time in the LM101 ‘Frost’ editions. Previously, acid baths were used to achieve this effect, but modern methods of replicating a frosted finish involve manually burnishing a metal surface with a wire brush.
The emblematic floating balance wheel of the LM Collection still takes pride of place in the centre of the dial, with the organically arched balance bridge found in the LM Perpetual, the LM101 or the LM1 Final Edition (although not the sharp, skeletonized version of the first LM watches, but a rounded, fully polished one). This balance still beats at a slow frequency of 2.5Hz (18,000vph) to let you contemplate its ballet in slow motion and it measures a huge 14mm diameter. However, if you look closely, you’ll notice that something is missing (more on that later – and you’ll understand why this “Split Escapement” name).
As already mentioned, there will be 4 versions of the MB&F Legacy Machine Split Escapement available right at the launch, and the best is that not only the dial is coloured, but also the entire set of plates and bridges of the movement.
- White gold with blue dial and rhodium plated movement
- White gold with ruthenium dial and movement
- White gold with yellow gold dial and movement
- White gold with pink gold dial and movement
Moving now to the pièce de resistance of the MB&F LM SE, and what in fact explains its name “Split Escapement”. First of all, the LM SE is based on the same base movement as the LM Perpetual, of course without the perpetual calendar module mounted on the dial side, which again has been developed by Stephen McDonnell. It means that seen from the back, we find again these nicely curved bridges, an interesting visual symmetry, various gold chatons, and a decoration inspired by antique pocket-watch movements (see the great anglages and the large jewels). This movement has two barrels, for a comfortable 3-day / 72-hour power reserve.
So why “Split Escapement”? When you look from the dial side, you can see the balance wheel but something is missing: the anchor and the escape wheel (usually, they were placed on the dial-side). Just like the LM perpetual, the escapement module (impulse jewel, anchor and escape wheel) are on the other side of the movement, visible through the transparent caseback – presenting quite a number of technical challenges. This necessitates an unusually long balance arbour (no less than 11.78mm), which runs through the centre of the movement.
A longer arbour increases the likelihood of disrupting influences on the oscillator, as well as the potential distorting effects of a long axle under continuous torsion. Also, because a longer balance arbour has a higher mass, which potentially detracts from the amount of energy ultimately transmitted to the oscillator, this explains why this MB&F Legacy Machine Split Escapement relies on a twin-barrel architecture.
If the MB&F Legacy Machine Split Escapement comes across as a mature and quite conservative offer at first – design that remains quite in line with the rest of the LM collection, use of a date indication, rather “simple” display – it is of course a watch that has both technical and visual marvels to reveal. Quite a good way to bring a smile back on our faces after the LM1 was removed from the collection. These 4 white gold “launch editions” of the MB&F LM SE are limited to 18 pieces each, and priced at CHF 79,000 before taxes (USD 79,000, before local taxes). More details on www.mbandf.com.
Technical Specifications – MB&F LM SE / Legacy Machine Split Escapement
- Case: 44mm diameter x 17.5mm height – 18k white gold, polished and brushed – sapphire crystal on both sides – 30m water resistant
- Versions: 4 editions available, with dial and movement coloured in blue, ruthenium, yellow gold or pink gold
- Movement: developed for MB&F by Stephen McDonnell – hand-wound – 2.5Hz frequency – 72h power reserve – Split escapement with the balance wheel suspended above the dial and the anchor under the movement – Bespoke 14mm balance wheel
- Indications: hours and minutes (at 12), date by hand (at 8) with quick-correction pusher, power reserve indicator (at 4)
- Strap: Black or brown hand-stitched alligator strap with white-gold folding buckle
- Limited to 18 pieces per edition
- Price: CHF 79,000 before taxes
- Availability: in stores in October 2017