MB&F - MB&F Moon Machine
Luc Virginius / Chronopassion
MB&F - MB&F Moon Machine

MB&F Moon Machine

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Be warned: If you kiss the Frog under a full moon, anything can happen!

See other pictures Luc Virginius / Chronopassion

Moon Machine

MOONMACHINE by Stepan Sarpaneva – Forged by a Giant Impact

 

MOONMACHINE by Finnish watchmaker Stepan Sarpaneva is both the first of the MB&F Performance Art pieces by a watchmaker and the first to endow a Machine with a new complication. With MOONMACHINE, Stepan has taken a specially configured HM3 Frog and transformed it with his iconic moon-face moon-phase indicator set in a scintillating firmament of northern stars. 

The MOON: Around 4.5 billion years ago when the young Earth was still forming, Theia, a proto-planet the size of Mars, is thought to have struck our planet and disintegrated in a ‘Giant Impact’. Some of the debris was attracted by the Earth’s gravity and the rest – consisting of material from both Earth and Theia – went into orbit around the Earth. Within 12 months this orbiting debris coalesced to form the Moon. 

Over the next 4.4 billion years, the Earth’s tilt in relation to the sun was stabilised by the gravitational pull of the Moon, which provided regular relatively mild seasons over much of the planet’s surface – ideal conditions for life to form and evolve. 

Without that cataclysmic event, we would not be here. You might say we are all Children of the Moon.

And no sooner did modern man start walking the earth than he stared up at the night sky in wonder and awe at the biggest and brightest orb in the heavens. Perhaps none more so than the inhabitants of Finland – including Stepan Sarpaneva – because the less romantic and less well-known counterpoise to the summertime Land of the Midnight Sun are extremely long nights in winter, which gives the population more time than most to study the moon and stars. 

MOONMACHINE: While considerably less cataclysmic than the formation of our Moon, MOONMACHINE was also forged from the creative collision of two worlds: MB&F's HM3 Frog and independent watchmaker Stepan Sarpaneva. 

Before launching his own brand Sarpaneva Watches in 2003, Stepan Sarpaneva worked with some of the most prestigious Swiss brands including Piaget, Parmigiani – where he worked alongside Kari Voutilainen – Vianney Halter and Christophe Claret. 

"Stepan has an incredible sense of design and a real sense of detail. His work and everything he surrounds himself with is extremely coherent." Maximilian Büsser

Stepan Sarpaneva: Stepan’s three signature themes are all celestial: his very distinctive moon face; the northern stars and constellations; and the crenellated form of his Korona case – the korona/corona is the plasma atmosphere of the Sun – and all three have been incorporated in MOONMACHINE. Sarpaneva's two moon faces indicate the phase of the moon through a Korona shaped aperture, while the mystery winding rotor is actually steel and 22k gold disc with laser-pierced stars forming stars and constellations visible in the northern sky. 

“The visible movement at the top of HM3 Frog added a technical aspect that provided a serious counterpoint to the playfulness of the bulging frog-eyed indications. In covering the movement, the moon phase and sky hides this and makes the timepiece more poetic. With MOONMACHINE, HM3 is transformed into a fairy tale.” Stepan Sarpaneva

HM3 Frog: The Frog was chosen as the MOONMACHINE platform because the large visible movement opening in the dial side provides space for the watchmaker to play and the bulbous indication domes of the Frog are reminiscent of how science fiction buffs have long imagined habitable domes on the Moon. The Frog differs substantially from HM3 in that it is the aluminium domes that rotate under the sapphire crystals in the Frog, whereas it is the hour and minute hands that rotate around their respective stationary cones on HM3. And this is no ordinary HM3 Frog – if such a thing can be said to exist – the domes of the MOONMACHINE are unique in that they are perpendicular, rather than parallel, to the wrist.

Rotating the large indicator domes posed a number of technical challenges. The domes are machined from solid aluminium to a paper-thin wall thickness of just 0.28 mm to reduce energy requirements to an absolute minimum. The semi-spherical sapphire crystal domes have to be meticulously machined and polished as the slightest imperfection might create disconcerting magnification effects. And the Frog's unusual method of indicating time necessitated the development of a new gear train for the HM3 engine as the aluminium hour dome of the Frog rotates in 12 hours compared to the 24-hour revolution of the HM3 hour hand. 

 

MOONMACHINE may portray the time in a playful manner, but there is nothing but serious and meticulous attention to detail and care regarding the fine hand-finishing of the high-tuned engine purring within.

Northern Sky Rotor: The multi-layered northern sky rotor adds a stunning background to the twin hand-finished moon faces.  It also both disguises the potentially distracting HM3 gold winding rotor and makes use of its motion to add vivacity to the moving stars. The stars are laser-pierced allowing light to reflect from the movement underneath and are not simply placed at random: They form the seven brightest stars in Ursa Major, more commonly known as the Big Dipper/Big Plough/Big Bear, plus the seven brightest stars of Ursa Minor, more commonly known as the Little Dipper/Little Bear, which includes Polaris, the North star.

And in a detail watchmakers will appreciate, one of the stars is strategically positioned to allow access for a servicing tool.

The turning star-filled night sky of the rotor not only brings metaphoric life to the MOONMACHINE, but also literally provides life as it generates the power for both the functioning of the moon complication and the movement. The iconic MB&F battle-axe sits in pride-of-place between the two moon faces at the axis of the rotor. 

"With MOONMACHINE, HM3 doesn't just look like it travels through space, it is now a part of space. It becomes a participant not just an observer." Stepan Sarpaneva.

While a man’s face formed by craters on the Moon’s surface is the result of over-active imaginations, Stepan Sarpaneva has based MOONMACHINE’s moon faces on his own. It doesn’t get much more personal than that! 

MOONMACHINE is available in three limited editions of 18 pieces each: titanium case with white gold moon faces in a light blue sky, black titanium case with white gold moon faces in a dark blue sky and red gold case with red gold moon faces in an anthracite sky.

Technical specifications

Movement: 
  • Three-dimensional horological engine designed by Jean-Marc Wiederrecht/Agenhor; 
  • Powered by a Sowind base, modified by Stepan Sarpaneva
  • Balance oscillating at 28,800 bph.
  • DLC coated and star-pieced steel and 22k gold automatic winding rotor 
  • Hour and minutes information transmitted via ceramic ball bearings to rotating domes.
  • Number of jewels: 36 (all functional)
  • Number of components: 319

 

Functions:
  • Hour on one dome (aluminium dome rotating in 12 hours)
  • Minutes on second dome (aluminium dome rotating in 60 minutes)
  • Moon phase displayed by dual moons rotating under a Korona ring

 

Case:
  • titanium case, white gold moon faces, dark blue sky, limited edition of 18 pieces
  • Indication domes configured perpendicular to wrist.
  • Screwed-down crown
  • Dimensions (exclusive of crown and lugs): 47mm x 50mm x 19mm
  • Number of case components: 55
Sapphire crystals:
  • Domes and both display backs with anti-reflective treatment on both faces. 
Dials:
  • Rotating aluminium domes – 0.58g,

 

Strap & Buckle:
  • Black hand-stitched alligator with 18K gold & titanium custom designed deployment buckle

Who's who

“Amazing. Maximilian Büsser is definitely an amazing person.” If you ask Laurent Picciotto to go over the main points of his history with the big man at MB&F, you’ll initially be met by a long silence and a pensive look. Where to begin? What about the first meeting, when “Max” was on a work placement at Jaeger-LeCoultre? When he was head of Harry Winston Watchmakers? When he transitioned to become a designer, bringing together the greatest watchmaking talent at MB&F? These are all stages in Max Büsser’s career; yet the person who passed through them has been so different in each role that it can sometimes be difficult to see the continuity. Be that as it may, the link between the two men was indeed first forged in Paris, twenty years ago. Laurent Picciotto had opened Chronopassion three years previously, laying the foundations for a brand that was to become a benchmark, but which at that time was pretty much a complete unknown beyond a tiny number of top watchmaking connoisseurs. Meanwhile the young Maximilian Büsser had just graduated from the Lausanne Federal Polytechnic School and joined Jaeger-LeCoultre. Büsser was enamoured with watchmaking mechanics. When he was in Paris, he went to see Chronopassion in rue Saint Honoré. “He stayed over three hours,” recalls Laurent Picciotto. “He was enthusiastic and inquisitive. He asked thousands of questions – he was an unusual young man and already knew a lot more about watchmaking culture than he was letting on.” Max Büsser worked in Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Marketing department for seven years. He left in 1991 to move to Harry Winston. The 5th Avenue jewellers in New York City had already made some inroads into the watchmaking world, but without any major breakthroughs. The first timepieces dated back to 1989, but had failed to find much success. Output remained tiny, as the young Max Büsser sowed the seeds of high-class watchmaking at the jewellers. He was soon promoted to the position of Managing Director of the Rare Timepieces department. That was when the paths of the two men crossed again. “I was out for a walk in Geneva,” says Laurent Picciotto, “when a man in a car stopped next to me. He was no longer the young apprentice from Jaeger, but the CEO of Harry Winston Watchmakers. I didn’t recognise him – he’d completely changed, even physically! He really had taken on the stature of CEO. It was amazing.” The two men then saw each other every year during the course of Harry Winston business. The watchmaking part of the brand, driven by Max Büsser, gradually took shape, “but I was interested only in the Opuses,” says Laurent Picciotto with a smile. A friendship developed and when Max Büsser left Harry Winston in July 2005, a new chapter in it began. “Max told me about his new project, MB&F, standing for Maximilian Büsser & Friends. I said just three words to him: ‘I’ll follow you.’ He was a little surprised, as he didn’t have any immediate plans to establish the brand in France and he hadn’t even got the slightest prototype anywhere near ready!” Picciotto’s instinct was right, though. The first Horological Machine, HM1, came into being two years later in 2007. “This timepiece is difficult to apprehend – you need to put it on your wrist and wait a good quarter of an hour before being able make up your mind,” remembers Laurent Picciotto. The next part of the adventure is better known: four HMs and an LM, standing for Legacy Machine, a piece that pays tribute to watchmaking inventors. It is more aesthetically accessible but no less technically complicated for all that. Each MB&F item is the fruit of the greatest talents in top watchmaking, in terms of both watchmaking technology itself and design: Jean-François Mojon, Kari Voutilainen, Peter Speake-Marin, Laurent Besse, Jean-Marc Wiederrecht, Eric Giroud, and so on. “At the end of the day, MB&F timepieces really do need to be adopted by their owners. Max adds a touch of humour, born out of his uninhibited approach to watchmaking. It’s definitely a brand that brings a breath of fresh air to the watchmaking landscape, shaking it up to just the right degree,” concludes Laurent Picciotto.
 
Journaliste : Olivier Müller
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