MB&F - Starfleet Machine – L’EPEE 1839 by MB&F
Luc Virginius / Chronopassion
MB&F - Starfleet Machine – L’EPEE 1839 by MB&F

Starfleet Machine – L’EPEE 1839 by MB&F

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Space Table Clock

See other pictures Luc Virginius / Chronopassion

Starfleet Machine – L’EPEE 1839 by MB&F

It’s nothing new to see one of L’Epée 1839’s high-end, Swiss-made timepieces flying over the Atlantic at twice the speed of sound: L’Epée’s beautifully-crafted wall clocks were chosen to furnish Concorde cabins when the supersonic aircraft entered commercial service in 1976. Unfortunately Concorde is no more. However, thanks to the aero-horological design team at MB&F, there is now another supersonically-themed L’Epée clock, which will not only traverse the stratosphere, but explore deep space and beyond: Starfleet Machine!

 

Starfleet Machine is engineered and crafted by L’Epée 1839, Switzerland's only remaining specialised high-end clock manufacture, founded in 1839. Starfleet Machine is an intergalactic spaceship-cum-table clock, featuring hours and minutes, double retrograde seconds and power reserve indicator. The highly visible, superlatively finished in-house movement boasts an exceptional power reserve of 40 days (you need a large fuel tank for long space voyages). Starfleet Machine has been designed by MB&F, the award-winning artistic and micro-engineering laboratory.

 

Hours and minutes are indicated on the central black dome by hand-polished hands that follow the dome’s curved contours. Behind that, a smaller rotating dome, accompanied by a revolving radar dish, provides an intuitive view of remaining energy: five bars indicates the movement is fully wound (40 days of power); one bar means Starfleet Machine is running low on propellant (eight days of remaining power) – it’s all relative – most table clocks have a maximum power reserve of only eight days.

 

Below 12 o’clock on the central hour-minute dome are the double retrograde seconds in the form of turret-mounted laser cannons. The cannons start in parallel and cross over one another before rapidly flying out again, an action marking off 20-second intervals. The red-tipped cannons provide eye-catching visual animation, and perhaps just as importantly, fend off enemy attacks against the core of the craft just underneath: the regulator, which has deliberately been placed in full view for all to admire.

 

One of the biggest challenges for L’Epée was respecting the movement configuration required by MB&F’s spacecraft design. L’Epée’s calibre – featuring five main spring barrels (in series for optimal performance) – usually equips vertically standing clocks, but here it is laid flat. The escapement platform also had to be set horizontally to be protected by the turret-mounted laser cannons. Naturally, the movement beats with a precision that Starfleet would be proud of, for an impressive accuracy of -2 to +2 minutes over 40 days!

 

Every component (except the 48 jewels) of the superlatively finished palladium-treated brass movement is designed and manufactured at L’Epée’s Swiss atelier. The gears and mainspring barrels are on full display thanks to the skeletonised mainplate and concentric C-shaped external structure in stainless steel. Starfleet Machine can rest on both ends of its vertical landing gear; useful for when you turn it over to wind the mainspring and set the time.

 

When conceiving Starfleet Machine, MB&F founder Maximilian Büsser set out to boldly go where no clock designer had gone before, and L’Epée has enthusiastically enjoyed the ride. CEO Arnaud Nicolas says: “MB&F’s idea for Starfleet Machine blew my mind. Like Max, I am a big sci-fi fan so when MB&F came to us with the design, we had to accept the challenge. Our team has been really inspired by this piece, and we think others will be too.”

 

Starfleet Machine is limited to 175 pieces and is available in ‘light’ or ‘dark’ editions, the latter with ruthenium-finished components.

 

Starfleet Machine: it's a table clock, Jim, but not as we know it!

In the image of Star Trek's Captain James T. Kirk, one of his childhood heroes, Maximilian Büsser set out to explore strange new (horological) worlds when he developed the concept for Starfleet Machine with ECAL design graduate Xin Wang. Büsser says: “We looked at one of L’Epée’s stunning, high-end clock movements and thought ‘Mmm, we could do something with that’, by giving it an MB&F twist. So we worked long and hard on a design that L’Epée has now brilliantly turned into a reality.”

 

An out-of-this-world display

Next to even contemporary table clocks, Starfleet Machine stands out like a Vulcan at a terrestrial dinner party... Suffice to say this is the first creation bearing the distinguished L’Epée name to feature cosmically sleek, domed indicators and laser-cannon retrograde seconds. The central hour and minutes dome bears MB&F’s signature numerals, while the bars on the power reserve indicator are framed by the dome’s supporting dark, hand-finished arc. As the massive 40 days of power runs down, the dome slowly rotates 270°, and rotates back the other way when the clock is wound up. The accompanying radar dish rotates at the same speed as the power reserve indicator.

 

Table clocks – just like big watches?

Starfleet Machine is an ultra-exclusive table clock, featuring essentially the same mechanisms as a wristwatch, only larger: gear train, mainspring barrel (well, five in series), balance wheel, escape wheel and anchor. L’Epée’s regulator also features an Incabloc shock protection system, something generally only seen in wristwatches, which minimises the risk of damage when the clock is being transported.

 

Larger components, however, make finely finishing the movement much more challenging than finishing a wristwatch, because of the bigger surface areas. L’Epée CEO Arnaud Nicolas explains: “It’s not just a case of double the size of the components, double the time it takes to finish them. The complexity increases exponentially. For polishing you need to apply the same pressure as you would finishing a watch movement, but on a bigger surface, and that’s more challenging. It’s thanks to the experience and dexterity of our clockmakers that Starfleet Machine can feature such superlative fine-finishing.”

 

Form follows function

The details of the polished movement can be fully appreciated by the naked eye, thanks in large part to Starfleet Machine’s unobtrusive concentric C-shaped external structure, to which the mainplate is attached. The outermost C-shape has triangular notches next to, and in between, the three vertical arcs. These graceful supports are a stunning design feature, but also have a very practical application: to enable Starfleet Machine to be placed upside down for time-setting and rewinding. A special double-ended key fits into a cleverly designed tube in the back of the movement: one end of the key enters far enough to wind the movement; the other end penetrates the tube more deeply and allows time-setting.

 

Transparent ‘biosphere’ dome

Starfleet Machine comes with its own transparent biosphere dome, fitting over the top and following the contours of the vessel’s three graceful arcs. In intergalactic missions, the dome creates a life-supporting habitat for the vessel and its crew on inhospitable planets. Here on earth, it protects Starfleet Machine from potential environmental hazards incompatible with high-end clocks: dust and curious fingers! The dome is made in polished glass which, given its smooth profile and handle-free form, makes it light and easily removable when turning the clock over for time setting and winding.

 

Technical specifications

 

 

Starfleet Machine is limited to 175 pieces and is available in ‘light’ or ‘dark’ editions, the latter with ruthenium-finished components.

 

 

 

Display

 

  • Hours and minutes: Curved, hand-polished hands rotate to indicating hours and minutes on a polished, central dome. The dome features MB&F's signature numerals.
  • Retrograde seconds: 20-second intervals indicated by double retrograde fly-out cannons emanating from central dome.
  • Power reserve indicator: a dome indicator, framed by a hand finished arc, provides an intuitive view of remaining energy as it turns 270°: 5 bars, 4 bars, 3 bars, 2 bars, 1 bar (1 bar = 8 days). Complemented by a 'radar dish' that also revolves 270°.

 

 

Main structure

 

  • Height: approx. 21cm
  • Diameter: approx. 29cm
  • ‘Light’ version: Inner C-shaped structure, external C-shaped structure, support arcs and screws: all in stainless steel
  • ‘Dark’ version: Inner C-shaped structure, external C-shaped structure and support arcs: ruthenium-treated stainless steel
  • Screws in stainless steel

 

 

Movement

 

  • L’EPÉE in-house designed and manufactured movement
  • Balance frequency: 18,000 vph / 2.5Hz
  • Barrels: 5 in series
  • Power reserve: 40 days
  • Jewels: 48
  • Incabloc shock protection system
  • Manual-winding: Double-ended key to set time and wind movement
  • ‘Light’ version: : Mechanism and main plate in palladium-treated brass
  • ‘Dark’ version: : Mechanism in palladium-treated brass
  • Main plate in ruthenium-treated brass

 

 

Transparent ‘biosphere' dome

 

  • Material: polished glass
  • Height: 27cm
  • Maximum diameter: 31.5cm
 

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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