Hands-On With The New MB&F Legacy Machine Split-Escapement
Last month, we introduced you to the stunning new MB&F Legacy Machine Split-Escapement. A successor of sorts to the highly popular Legacy Machine 1, which was officially retired by MB&F earlier this year after six years of faithful service, the Legacy Machine SE serves as yet another reminder that even when Geneva’s top Creative Lab is trying to be conservative, they’re still full of surprises. Luckily for us, MB&F were exhibiting at SalonQP last week, giving us the opportunity to spend a bit of hands-on time with this incredible new timepiece.
By now, everyone knows the story behind the Legacy Machine series. Launched back in 2011, the idea was to pay homage to the Grand Masters of watchmaking of 18th and 19th century horology with traditional designs that feature a distinctive MB&F twist (or two!) Fast-forward six years, and there are now five Legacy Machines to choose from (well, technically four given the recent retirement of the LM1), plus two special edition versions (including the super quirky LM1 Silberstein.)
An early edition of the MB&F LM1 in Red Gold
For me personally, MB&F and the Legacy Machines have always held a special place. When I was just starting out writing about watches – over a decade ago now – and no one was paying much attention to me (particularly because I was based far, far away in Australia), Max Büsser was one of the first (and only) people in the industry to respond to my emails. He fanned my passion for independent watchmakers and welcomed me to visit MB&F in Geneva. Back then, the Legacy Machine hadn’t been created yet and the focus was entirely on the ground-breaking Horological Machines, which I thought were some of the coolest watches I’d ever seen. The only problem was I couldn’t imagine myself wearing one (not that I could afford one anyway, but that’s a different matter entirely).
Two examples of the MB&F LM1 – Silberstein Edition on the left – Regular edition on the right
Then came the Legacy Machine 1, MB&F’s first-ever round watch. Suddenly, there was an MB&F watch I could actually see myself wearing (sadly, I still couldn’t afford it though.) More than that, it was a legitimately interesting and creative timepiece, as all models from the brand are, and demonstrated MB&F’s depth of understanding and ability in the world of high-end mechanical watches. Sure, they could make outrageous-looking “machines” that would literally stop traffic, but they could also create more traditional-looking timepieces that would garner almost as much attention. For me, it was a revelation.
The MB&F LM1 Final Edition in steel
What is perhaps most impressive, however, is the fact that Max and MB&F have been able to keep up their famously high standard of creativity, both aesthetically and technically, throughout the years. Sure, there are common threads that tie all the Legacy Machines together, just like there are common threads that tie the Horological Machines together (if you look closely enough), but each model can also stand alone and be considered a separate timepiece from its siblings. In fact, most MB&F owners I’ve met own more than one watch from the brand for precisely this reason.
The MB&F LM Split Escapement
The latest model to join this exceptional line-up is, of course, the new LM Split Escapement. As the name indicates, it features a split-escapement, which is an interesting arrangement that MB&F has adapted from the significantly more complicated (and expensive) LM Perpetual. In fact, the LM SE is based on the same base movement as the LM Perpetual, but without the perpetual-calendar module mounted on the dial side that was developed by Irish watchmaker Stephen McDonnell. In layman’s terms, this means that when you look at the dial side, you can see the balance wheel floating across the top, suspended from a beautifully arched balance bridge, however, there is no anchor or escape wheel. Rather, these two elements of the escapement are on the other side of the movement, hence, the name “split-escapement”.
In person, the effect is quite stunning. Although we’ve already seen this style of split-escapement before on the LM Perpetual, there’s so much more happening on that dial that it’s hard to really appreciate. The LM SE is a different story altogether. The dial is clean and simple, placing the emphasis much more on the oscillating balance wheel and the white lacquered dials, which almost look like enamel in the right light. Don’t think for a second that means the watches look boring, however. There’s no such thing as a boring looking MB&F timepiece.
The stunning, micro-textured “frosted” finish on the main plate of the movement makes sure of that. This traditional technique was presented by MB&F for the first time in the LM101 ‘Frost’ editions. Created by manually burnishing a metal surface with a wire brush, we first saw this type of dial from MB&F on the LM101 ‘Frost’ editions.
On the wrist, the LM SE looks great, and while I wouldn’t necessarily say the 44mm 18k white gold case wears small, it is very comfortable thanks to the curved lugs. I particularly like how the bezel and the top of the lugs are now polished, in contrast to the rest of the case, which is brushed. It’s a subtle touch but one that makes this watch feel just that little bit more luxurious. The three dials meanwhile are very easy to read, with the time displayed at 12 o’clock, the date at 7 o’clock and the power reserve at 4 o’clock. I actually feel like this might be the first MB&F watch I could consider using as an everyday watch, although keep in mind the frost dial definitely makes a statement on the wrist, which may not be suitable for more conservative office environments.
On the back side, a sapphire caseback reveals the stunning, manually-wound movement, complete with its two barrels that work together to offer a healthy 72-hour power reserve. Like the LM Perpetual, it features nicely curved bridges, an interesting visual symmetry, various gold chatons, and a decoration inspired by antique pocket-watch movements. It really is quite stunning to look at and devilishly difficult to photograph, at least for an amateur like me.
In total, there are 4 white gold “launch editions” of the MB&F LM SE, each limited to 18 pieces, 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
If I could ever hope to afford it, I’d wear this daily in a heartbeat. Then again, I’d wear ANY of the LMs daily!