Just how does MB&F’s latest addition to its Legacy Machine collection advance the series without offering anything new?
by James Buttery
MB&F’s Legacy Machine watches inhabit an entirely different reality to Max Busser’s more outlandish Horological Machines. Instead of presupposing that Max’s childhood was filled with animated Japanese space opera or ridiculously powerful racing cars, the LM series reflects what might have happened had Max grown up a century previous.
In 2012 LM1 introduced us to the collection’s signature mainstay, a balance wheel suspended high above the dial by an elegantly arched balance bridge, and went on to win peer and public awards at that year’s GPHG. Since then the collection has introduced us to dual balance wheels and, of course, the sublime LM Perpetual, based around an entirely new perpetual calendar movement designed by Stephen McDonnell.
Back in April, MB&F announced the LM1 Final Edition; signalling not only that the LM1 was about to meet its demise, but more excitingly that something new was in the offing.
At first glance the new MB&F would seem to quite cleanly bring together a number of useful elements across its three dials; time, date (advanced using a dedicated pusher) and power reserve, with the signature balance suspended above it all, its balance bridge now in its third iteration and further softened.
But the name LM Split Escapement should be a clue that something else is afoot here. The suspended balances of all previous Legacy Machines have all been, as one might expect, visibly in contact with pallet fork and escape wheel, as they would be on any lever escapement movement.
However in the name of aesthetics and illusion, the LM Split Escapement hides these components beneath the dial, relegating them to the other side of the movement completely a full 11.78mm away, which in horological terms is in a different postcode entirely. While movement designers usually seek to minimise this distance as it can allow external influences to creep in and affect stability, MB&F has positively encouraged it as it allows the balance wheel to oscillate mysteriously at a sedate 18,000vph, giving no clue as to its impulse action.
The Split Escapement is not a new trick for MB&F, having first appeared in the LM Perpetual – although given the epic scope of that particular watch you’d be forgiven for not picking up on it. For the LM Split Escapement, MB&F once again drafted in the talents of Stephen McDonnell, who used an unusually long balance arbor through the centre of the movement to bring the balance wheel and pallet fork into range of each other.
To eliminate the effects of having such a long arbour under continuous torsion, the arbour is fitted at each end with an anti-shock jewel bearings and the bridge holding pallet and escape wheel is separately secured, allowing for fine adjustment. The greater mass of the same arbour is also negated by using two barrels in parallel, offering a power reserve of 72 hours.
Here MB&F also revives its frosted finish, first employed by the brand in the LM101 Frost editions, but opts for a more open, irregular texture.
Traditional frosting from the 18th and 19th century saw metal components heated over a naked flame and then plunged into a bath of concentrated nitric acid – almost certain to fall foul of modern health and safety rules. Today the effect has been replicated with a hand burnishing technique using wire brushes.
The LM Split Escapement is not a watch of firsts, there’s nothing here being seen for the first time, but through a series of small changes (both mechanical and aesthetic) it does represent a new look for the Legacy Machine series, an incremental advancement that is softer, more sleek and sparse. In short the Legacy Machine collection has cut loose its gutsy steampunk feel in favour of something altogether more refined.
Four white gold editions are being produced in runs of 18 pieces with blue, ruthenium, red gold and yellow gold dials. Prices have yet to be announced.
MB&F is bringing the Legacy Machine Split Escapement to Salon QP (November 2-4), reserve your tickets here now to be one of the first to see it.