After a few years of « new watchmaking », called « independent », certain concepts, or rather certain creators are at the end of their creative breath.
Some product lines spin in circles, the aficionados remain unsatisfied.
If the marketing fire power of the great brands enables them to sell despite their weak creativity, the small independent brands cannot hide their lack of inspiration behind a successful marketing campaign, or a puppet distribution network.
Creativity is more than a motor for the « new watchmaking »; it is a fuel, a magic potion.
Max Busser integrated these stakes since the creation of MB&F and the everlasting buzz strategy proved worthwhile.
MB&F started as an outsider in the independents’ micro niche-market, but progressively imposed itself as a main actor.
When some ran out of steam, Max and the Friends managed to strive in a big way, after the too sober « Horologic Machines » 1 & 2, the HM 3 & 4 bolted upwards by revolutionizing the volume and display concepts, and in some measure the overall horologic paradigm which originated from the watchmaking industry from the 50’s.
Max’s postulate wasn’t « thinking watch » anymore, but to go back to the origins to produce « time telling machines ».
The beneficial and unexpected side effect of the 70’s quartz crisis is to have promoted a return to elite watchmaking, a luxury watchmaking where price is not the key factor anymore.
Nowadays, one sometimes witnesses a return to the period of horology’s founding fathers, when concept and excellence were the catchwords of pocket-watches with complications.
Out with the functionalist, industrial and mass-market watchmaking from the 50’s-60’s, enough with some horology enthusiasts’ founding myths.
Until now, MB&F’s machines were designated as futuristic objects, at least after 60’s-70’s-80’s science-fiction standards.
How not to think about Space-Operas, Flash Gordon with the rose gold HM3, Star Wars with the HM4 « Panda » « Pod racer », about Cyberpunk with the HM3 « Rebel » or the HM2 « Silberstein », etc. One stayed resolutely in futuristic styles.
Today, Max presents the LM1, which stands for « Legacy Machine 1 », a machine which seems to come from a Jules Verne novel.
A machine created by some «MB&F by Gaslight», a machine which may seem to lean towards the «Steam punk» trend.
Seen from a distance, the « Legacy Machine 1 » looks almost classic, circular, 44mm (it is the smallest of the MB&F), in rose or grey gold, the short lugs enable the watch to adapt itself to any wrist.
Quickly, the domed sapphire unveils expected volumes (keep in mind it is a MB&F).
An imposing V shaped double-bridge (a reminder of the HM’s « Goldorakian » look), supports an enormous balance, yes, right in the center of the dial!
Obviously, this double curved bridge unmistakably reminds us of engineering structures.
The bridge is hollowed in order to lighten the look. But the detrimental side-effect of this openwork is that the structure reminds us more of ultramodern bridges than of Gustave Eiffel’s buildings.
Rivets or more classical finishes such as bevels or engravings would have reinforced the piece’s vintage feel.
Here, this bridge whose fundamental concept is excellent, has an execution a bit too sophisticated (and costly!), which just shows that sometimes, less is more.
MB&F’s bet is to choose an « Eiffelian » style with manufacturing criteria from 2011, and not some phony Steam punk « vintage color ».
The bridge bears a colossal balance, whose imposing size is emphasized even further by the staging!
After the central balance watch, the culminating balance watch! 14mm big central balance set at 18.000 v/h, its low frequency, typical of classic high quality watchmaking, enables us to admire its work.
The escapement wheel sits between the bridge’s arms; its path is even more hypnotic on the rose gold version, since as it is blued, it reinforces the contrast with the dial.
The watch revisits the HM’s double dials, which are made of cambered lacquer.
The domed effect is reached through multiple thinner and thinner layers of lacquer, while viscosity takes care of the smoothing.
The two dials feature two different time zones, totally independently adjustable; hence the right dial can be set at 10:10 while the other is set at 11:22.
The hands look like the HM’s, but with a vintage touch, the watch is ridden with winks at HMs, DNA, did you just say DNA?
The fine work on the escapement complication was performed by Jean-Francois Mojon, a display complications specialist, this layout is actually a first.
The other surprise, visual and technical, stands with the Power reserve, after the moon in 3D, the PR in 3D (hence, the watch keeps the 3D aspect of the HM).
It sits a 6 o’clock and looks like a quarter of a circle rail on which the 40-hour PR’s reserve cursor moves.
The indicator balances the watch’s tridimensional look, so that the volumes do not flatten at 6 o’clock.
For that matter, if one looks into the details, there are no really flat surfaces on this watch, even the dial’s bottom is sunray-brushed.
The watch’s back is quite surprising, since until now the HMs favored flamingly adorned case finishes.
Here, on the contrary, the case is rather classic, in the finishes as well as in the design.
The MB&F added value was provided by Kari Voutilainen on the inside finishes, the movement’s bridges are magnificently finished, from the « Legacy Machine » engraving, to the bevels, via the rare gold settings, Kari’s style is unmistakable.
For about 85k Chf, the watch proposes a very high level of finishes, which sits between a Philippe Dufour and a Philippe Patek, with a neo-classical look that gives preponderance to retro-futurism, to « Uchronism ».
The watch could have gone further towards a Steam punk look and feel, by featuring rivets or sanded plates for example, akin to collection pocket watches. Geeks (like me) will be somewhat frustrated by the fact that MB&F managed to avoid the potential « Romain Jerome » trap and its « rusty » watches; But the fine watchmaking enthusiasts will be reassured.
Because one has to put this LM1 back into its context, it is the first of a new line, akin to the HM1 when it was released, it is still a little sober, but the creative explosion is ready to go…
So much so that the brand’s codes are more than observed, they are confirmed, at the aesthetical level as well as through the machine’s science-fiction spirit.
The moral is that even if I tend to drivel about the subject, Max Busser & Friends once again demonstrate their ability to manage projects, to clear the path to some « Terra incognita horlogica », to surprise us!!