Creative and innovative independent watchmaker MB&F was established in 2005 by Maximillian Büsser, who was already a prominent figure in the world of horology, all thanks to his daring projects with Harry Winston Rare Timepieces. A talent to make friends with exceptional watchmakers, combined with marketing genius and sheer creativity, is the key to practically all MB&F inventions. Max Büsser and Friends return with two new models in the Legacy Machines lineup this year. The Split Escapement EVO watches are a fine addition to the MB&F LM collection, so we are taking a closer look.
For the first six years, we all admired interesting incarnations of Büsser’s childhood memories and experiences in the Horological Machines (HM collection), designed to recall spaceships, aeroplanes, racecars, giant robots, and fauna. When the company launched the Legacy Machine collection in 2011, it was a rather radical and headlong experiment, something no one expected. It proved successful, and founder Maximilian Büsser admitted that it made him feel very sure and secure about MB&F’s future as a business.
Legacy Machine 1 was not just a departure from the Horological Machines for which MB&F was famous. The watch, created together with Jean-François Mojon, the “best independent master watchmaker” of 2010 as per the GPHG, and award-winning independent watchmaker Kari Voutilainen, established new aesthetic codes. It was a watch with the features of a classic timepiece, round case, and oversized 14mm balance wheel with four traditional regulating screws hovering above the movement and dial, tuned to 18,000vph. Yet, it was a marvel of very contemporary horological art.
MB&F presented the two-time-zone LM1 more than ten years ago. Since then, the LM collection has added several other series. The Legacy Machine 2, with its two “flying” balances and planetary differential on the dial side, appeared in 2013. The LM101, the quintessence of design of the Legacy Machine collection, came a year later, and it was powered by a calibre conceived and developed in-house by MB&F, with help from award-winning independent watchmaker Kari Voutilainen (remember, F is for friends!). The ultra-complicated Legacy Machine Perpetual arrived in 2015. In 2019, MB&F released the LM FlyingT with a flying tourbillon and the first MB&F watch for ladies. However, looking at the movement architecture and specifics of the LM Perpetual reveals the technical solution that was essential for the birth of the LM Split Escapement.
An overlooked part centre stage
Belfast-born watchmaker and movement prototyper Stephen McDonnell had to devise a way to place the LM’s signature flying balance wheel in the centre of the dial of the perpetual calendar system he developed. His QP was a revolutionary creation, designed to be user-friendly and trouble-free. It was built using an innovative mechanical processor, as MB&F calls it, consisting of discs sitting on each other and with a 28-day month as a default, constructed to avoid skipping dates or jamming gears, and with several other problem-solving feats. To keep up the appearance and to feature the balance wheel where it had to be, on top of the works, suspended from a beautifully executed bridge, McDonnell thought about separating the anchor and escape wheel from the balance. He split the escapement into two parts and connected them by a “balance column”, or the balance staff. This balance staff is 11.78 mm long and enjoys the world record status as the longest in the business. Since then, this technical innovation, conceived by McDonnell, has found its way into other creations in the MB&F collection, such as the Legacy Machine Split Escapement, where this often-overlooked feature steals the show.
MB&F released the first Split Escapement watch in 2017, with the LM SE movement based on the same calibre as the LM Perpetual but (naturally) without the perpetual calendar complication on the dial side. A simplification, but not all that simple. Some people would love to own an LM Split Escapement watch because of its great looks, without overthinking why it is the way it is. Still, for mechanical watch enthusiasts, this is a big deal – not only is the balance pinion the longest, but it is also the first experiment of a kind. I believe no brand or watchmaker has ever offered an escapement like this.
The escapement manages the release of power from the mainspring; as a vital part of any watch movement, so the execution of this regulating organ must be impeccable. One usually would seek to arrange the parts close to each other, with the driving escape wheel, the lever, and the balance wheel all placed together and in sequence to ensure everything couples together correctly and securely.
But MB&F would never pursue the ordinary, so Büsser and his friends must be praised for that. MB&F is also praised for making creative, wonderfully designed and technically impressive timepieces. The new members of the LM SE family with an “EVO” attached to their name are no exception.
The MB&F Legacy Machine Split Escapement EVO
EVO, for evolution, has to mean progress, and so progress it is. I can not quote anyone in particular, but the rumour was that clients and fans wanted MB&F to improve specific watch characteristics and make them more apt to withstand real-life conditions, whatever they meant by this. So the EVO line came to be, sporting some “sporty” design ideas, pun intended. The sporty look is all about the case with a no-bezel construction that moulds the domed sapphire crystal directly to the case, opening up the dial as though inviting us to take a closer look inside the dome.
The EVO line is water-resistant to 80 metres, has a screw-down crown, an integrated rubber strap, and a FlexRing, MB&F’s own shock-absorbing system (a dampener made of steel), which is placed between the case and the movement. All these make MB&F EVO watches very wearable and appealing to people with an active lifestyle. The first watch with an EVO spirit was released in 2020, and it was a Perpetual as if to point out that even a delicate, at first glance complication is, in fact, protected by MB&F technology.
Earlier this year, the company increased the EVO offer. It introduced the LM Sequential EVO, a fully integrated dual chronograph system model, and a 10-piece salmon dial limited-edition of LM Split Escapement EVO. The latter was at the request of Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons, a watch retailer in UAE, to commemorate 50 years since the United Arab Emirates was founded.
The recent editions of the MB&F Legacy Machine Split Escapement EVO are a step forward from the previous LE references. The entire movement was turned to a 30-degree angle, making a visually stunning watch even better and making the balance more visible. The new edition has a crown at 4:30, changing from 3 o’clock on the previous case. The calibre is manually wound, driven by two barrels that provide 72 hours of power reserve, and a total of 298 parts function as one to make it work. LM Perpetual offers some excellent user-friendly and fool-proof features, and the LM SE EVO has a fool-proof rapid date-changing system, which is done with a button next to the date dial.
One of the new editions, with an attractive “Icy Cool” dial and slate grey sub-dials, will become a serial production. The second, with a black base dial and dark blue sub-dials, is a limited edition of 25 pieces exclusive to the Beverly Hills MB&F LAB (managed by Westime Jewelers, hence the choice of Westime corporate colours). Both editions come in a grade 5 titanium case, with integrated rubber straps: light grey for the “Icy Cool” and white for the Beverly Hills, with a titanium folding buckle. MB&F LAB is a retail concept MB&F is building in some markets, a smaller version of the MAD Gallery, which is said soon to appear in Paris.
The MB&F Legacy Machine Split Escapement EVO “Icy Cool” Edition is priced at EUR 75,000 (excl. tax); the Beverly Hills edition will be sold in the USA only, so the price is USD 80,000. For more details, please visit www.mbandf.com.