Since it was founded in 2005, MB&F has cultivated partnerships with watchmakers, clockmakers, artists and designers. The latest collaboration involves Eddy Jaquet, a master engraver whose incredibly detailed engravings bring to life scenes from Jules Verne’s novels. Eight unique pieces in red gold, each with a remarkable tale to tell, embark on their next adventure aboard the LM Split Escapement.
MB&F launched its Legacy Machine collection in 2011, a radical departure from its more standard fare of interstellar spaceships and wild case designs. Here was the brand’s first watch in a round case with a more traditional personality designed as a tribute to some of the great horological innovations and master watchmakers of the 19th century, with a twist. Founder Max Büsser was obsessed with an idea: “What would have happened,” he mused, “if I was born in 1867, one hundred years before my actual year of birth? What watch would I have conceived with the help of my friends?”
The answer materialised in the Legacy Machine 1, a watch that made history as the first piece to win two prizes in the same year at the 2012 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (Public Choice Prize and Best Men’s Watch). Over the years, we’ve seen the Legacy Machine Split Escapement, the mind-blowing Legacy Machine Perpetual developed with Northern Irish watchmaker Stephen McDonnell who invented a “mechanical processor” for the QP, a stunning LM Flying Tourbillon designed for women and even an LM101 with a Moser fumé dial.
MB& Friend Eddy Jaquet
An integral part of the MB&F equation corresponds to the ‘F’ in the brand’s name, which stands for friends. Co-creations play a huge role at MB&F, and even the more traditional Legacy Machine has benefitted from a bit of help from its friends. This time the “friend” in question is Eddy Jaquet, a talented master engraver who has been collaborating behind the scenes with the brand for ten years. Jaquet is the hand behind the flowing script on the Legacy Machines and, wait for it, an expert in Jules Verne. Born just outside Neuchâtel in 1965, Jaquet trained at the École d’Arts Appliqués in nearby La Chaux-de-Fonds and upon graduation pursued his lifelong dream of becoming an engraver.
Storytelling with engravings
Max Büsser’s desire to go travel back one hundred years in time would surely have resulted in an encounter with the French novelist Jules Gabriel Verne (1828-1905). Often referred to as the “Father of Science Fiction” and an influential figure in avant-garde and surrealist literature, Verne is famous for his Voyages Extraordinaires, a 54-volume masterpiece with countless illustrations. Published from 1863 until the end of his life, Verne’s goal was to “conclude in story form my whole survey of the world’s surface and the heavens”.
The eight stories selected for these unique watches were taken from Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, From the Earth to the Moon, Around the World in Eighty Days, Five Weeks in a Balloon, The Adventures of Captain Hatteras, Journey to the Centre of the Earth, Michael Strogff and Robur the Conqueror. What is unusual here is that Eddy Jaquet didn’t copy existing engravings to depict the different scenes; he read and reread the books over and over again and came up with his own vision of these key moments. Engraving on the reduced surface area of a dial is one thing: engraving on the surface of a dial that is not uniformly thick quite another. In some places, the white gold dial plate had a thickness of 1.15mm, in others of just 0.35mm thick complicating the task of engraving enormously and requiring an extremely light touch in certain danger zones.
For different details in the scenery to stand out, Jaquet hand-applied a dark rhodium alloy and as you can see, the level of detail is extraordinary. Using a jeweller’s electroplating pen like an artist’s brush, Jaquet was able to create a wide range of grey tones to suggest different textures and light conditions. Similar to the technique of chiaroscuro, you can see his deft hand at work in the astonishing details of the dial of Journey to the Centre of the Earth depicting two prehistoric marine creatures, one engaged in biting the other’s tail, a skeleton lurking under the power reserve indicator or the erupting volcano in the background.
The choice of the LM Split Escapement made a lot of sense for this collaborative project. The star of the LM is the balance wheel. Placed smack in the centre of the dial, the balance is suspended from an arched balance bridge and hovers magically above the dial with no trace of the anchor or escapement wheel. The beauty of the LM Split Escapement is its symmetry and effortless motion – all the action is concealed below deck. Incidentally, the movement is based on the same movement as the LM Perpetual developed with Stephen McDonnell, sans the perpetual calendar module.
To assist Jaquet, watchmakers at MB&F maximised available engraving space by creating new openworked date and power reserve sub-dials on the 18k white gold dial. The bezel was slimmed down and the case dimensions reworked to create more space for the wider dial plate. Fiddling with case dimensions has consequences and a new crystal had to be produced with a less pronounced curve to the dome.
The 5N red gold case measures 44.5mm and has a thickness of 18.2mm (slightly larger than ‘regular’ LM Split Second models). The movement is manual-winding and offers an autonomy of 72 hours. As with other LM Split Seconds, the movement is superlatively hand-finished with bevelled internal angles, polished bevels, Geneva waves and the name of Stephen McDonnell featured on a bridge. Naturally, Eddy Jaquet’s name is also engraved on the reverse side along with the words Pièce Unique.
Availability and price
All eight unique pieces are presented on a dark brown hand-stitched alligator leather strap with a 5N red gold folding buckle. The retail price is CHF 148,000 (excl. taxes), but according to our good friend Charris (the brand’s CCO), they are selling like hotcakes!
More information at www.mbandf.com.