MB&F - Starfleet Machine – L’EPEE 1839 by MB&F
MB&F - Starfleet Machine – L’EPEE 1839 by MB&F

Starfleet Machine – L’EPEE 1839 by MB&F

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Starfleet Machine – L’EPEE 1839 by MB&F

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 mainspring 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.

Technical specifications

Starfleet Machine: Technical Specifications



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





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





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.


Journalist : Olivier Müller


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