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New Release with Hands-On: MB&F LM Split Escapement

by Peter Chong on October 10, 2017

The MB&F Legacy Machine series is a throwback design from the extremely creative mind of Max Büsser. While the Horological Machnine (HM) series is unbounded by its inspiration, the LM series is bound by a round case, and an inspiration which is derived from a radical thought experiment by Max, if he was born in a hundred years earlier, what kind of watches would he create? The result is the LM series, from the LM1, LM2, LM Perpetual, LM101 and now the LM Split Escapement (LM SE). We caught the watches for a hands-on session. Here is our report.

 

“What would have happened if I had been born in 1867 instead of 1967? In the early 1900s the first wristwatches appear and I would want to create three-dimensional machines for the wrist. There are no Grendizers, Star Wars or fighter jets for my inspiration, but I do have pocket watches, the Eiffel Tower and Jules Verne. So what might my early 20th-century machines look like? They had to be round (tradition) and three-dimensional (MB&F Machine): Legacy Machines are the answer.”

Max Büsser

 

The MB&F LM SE with a red gold frosted dial.

 

The MB&F LM Split Escapement

The LM series is an interesting collection ranging from the Dual Timezone LM1, to the Double Balance Wheel LM2, to the complicated LM Perpetual and the simplest LM101. And now the LM Split. And through the collection, one defining character remains – the suspended balance wheel (two in the case of the LM2) is literally and metaphorically above everything else. In the latest LM Split Escapement (LM SE), this feature is highlited and emphasized.

 

In yellow gold, the frosted dial looks very similar to the red gold version. Both looking regal.

 

The Split Escapement

Just below the domed crystal, the balance of the LM SE beats at the traditional 18,000 bph. And unlike the other suspended balances in the series, which show the escape wheel, pallet fork engaging in the dance with the balance wheel, in the LM SE, the balance seems to oscillate on its own, without taking in any power from the wheel train. Is this possible? Well, this is how it is designed to look. The suspended escapement takes its power from the driving impulse – the pallet fork and escape wheel, but the latter system is concealed on the below the dial, almost 12mm below. Hence the name Split Escapement.

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The escapement, seeming to be suspended without any driving mechanism.

 

We do note that MB&F have used this split technique before in the LM Perpetual, but then the attention was focused more on the innovative perpetual calendar system. In the LM SE, focus is on the split escapement, and the visual impact of the organically arched bridge with two arms and the suspended balance is very powerful, and very beautiful.

The technical challenge is in constructing the ultra balance staff which runs through the entire movement This staff measures 11.78mm, and traverses the movement and projects through the dial to support the oscillator. The long balance staff increases the probability of disruptions to the oscillator, and the potential of distorting effects of the long axle under torsion. The inertia of the balance and the rigidity of the arbour are key factors to ensure good chronometry. The longer staff also weighs more and absorbs more energy, thus the LM SE is powered by two parallel barrels to provide 72 hours of power reserve.

 

The arches of the balance bridge arches beautifully over the dial.

 

The balance is held in place by an organically arched balance bridge found in the LM Perpetual. Architecturally, this is a harmonious design, with the curved arches blending beautifully with the slightly domed sub-dials which also seem to float above the frosted finish of the dial.

 

Caseback of the ruthenium frosted dial version is similarly grey.

 

Examining the movement, we find the finishing details are very well addressed at the haute horlogerie level. The layout of the movement is quite beautiful, with sensuous curves of the bridges and mildly sharp inward and outward angles providing much visual attractiveness. The finnisage details like anglage are nicely executed, as are the details like the gold chatons holding the jewels.

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The movement of both gold frosted dial versions are also gold in hue. Detail in finishing is very good.
Viisible in the lower middle is the escape wheel, engaging with the wheel train, and above it the pallet fork transmitting the power to the balance wheel. The jewel in the middle of the photograph with the shock absorption system is the lower arbour of the balance staff which pierces the entire movement and projects into the dial proudly to the suspended balance.

 

The frosted dial in many colours

The rest of the dial side is the now standard LM signature of the time dial at 12, the power reserve indicator at 4 and the date at 8. The date is quick set by a push button on the side of the case, next to the date dial.

 

The blue frosted version may well be a favourite of many.

 

The dial background features a textured finish closely associated with antique pocket watches of the 18th and 19th century. This technique was first used by MB&F in the LM101 “Frost” Edition. This technique is done by manually burnishing the surface of the dial with a wire brush. A small wire brush is used to create indentations on the dial, and the technique is skill dependent, as the wire brush must meet the metal surface with exactly the same angle and same amount of pressure for the indentations to be evenly distributed over the entire surface.

 

But we prefer the rather more sedate ruthenium frosted dial.

 

The traditional technique is to achieve the frosted finish is done with a procedure involving heating metal over an open flame and dipping it into concentrated nitric acid. This technique is understandably very hazardous, and no longer in practice.

Four versions of the LM Split Escapement

The launch edition will be represented by 4 versions, all in white gold. Each is limited to 18 pieces, and distinguished by the frosting and movement finishing.

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The four dial versions.

 

– Blue frosted finish paired with rhodium-plated movement for the most classically elegant version;
– Ruthenium frosting with similarly darkened movement evoking new-millennial functionality and putting the focus on the white lacquer dials;
– Red gold frosting and movement conveying warmth and accessibility, its subtle roseate sheen emphasising the intense hue of the blued hands;
– Yellow-gold frosting and movement finish: the strongest aesthetic affinity with the era inspiring the Legacy Machine collection, an era that defined the precepts of modern watchmaking.

The same burnishing technique is used for all the versions. After the frosting is complete, the surfaces are PVD treated to colour them — blue, ruthenium, red gold or yellow gold.

 

On the wrist, it feels very comfortable on the author’s 7″ wrist, with a slight heft due to the white gold case, but keeping steady on the wrist.

 

MB&F LM Split Escapement Technical Specifications

4 white gold launch editions limited to 18 pieces each, with a frosted dial plate in blue, ruthenium, red gold or yellow gold.

Engine
Movement developed for MB&F by Stephen McDonnell.
Split escapement with the balance wheel suspended above the dial and the anchor under the movement.
Manual winding with double mainspring barrels.
Bespoke 14mm balance wheel with traditional regulating screws visible on top of the movement.
Superlative hand finishing throughout respecting 19th-century style; bevelled internal angles highlighting hand craft; polished bevels; Geneva waves; hand-made frost and engravings.
Power reserve: 72 hours
Balance frequency: 2.5Hz / 18,000bph
Number of components: 314
Number of jewels: 35

Functions & indications
Hours, minutes, date and power-reserve indicators.
Push-button next to the date dial for quick adjustment of the date.

Case
Material: launch editions in 18K white gold
Dimensions: 44mm x 17.5mm
Number of components: 49
Water resistance: 30m / 90′ / 3ATM

Sapphire crystals
Sapphire crystals on top and display back treated with anti-reflective coating on both faces.

Strap & buckle
Black or brown hand-stitched alligator strap with white-gold folding buckle.

‘FRIENDS’ RESPONSIBLE FOR LM SPLIT ESCAPEMENT

Concept: Maximilian Büsser / MB&F
Product design: Eric Giroud / Through the Looking Glass
Technical and production management: Serge Kriknoff / MB&F
Movement design and finish specifications: Stephen McDonnell and MB&F
Movement development: Stephen McDonnell and Ruben Martinez / MB&F
R&D: Guillaume Thévenin and Ruben Martinez / MB&F

Wheels, pinions, movement components: Dominique Guye / DMP
Balance wheel bridge and plates: Benjamin Signoud / AMECAP
Balance wheel: Dominique Lauper / Precision Engineering
Balance spring: Stefan Schwab / Schwab-Feller
Bridges: Rodrigue Baume / Damatec, Georges Auer / Mecawatch
Movement components: Alain Pellet / Elefil
Hand-finishing of movement components: Jacques-Adrien Rochat / C-L Rochat and José Labarga / Labarga
PVD-treatment: Pierre-Albert Steinmann / Positive Coating
Movement assemblage: Didier Dumas, Georges Veisy, Anne Guiter, Emmanuel Maître, and Henri Porteboeuf / MB&F
After-sales service: Thomas Imberti / MB&F
In-house machining: Alain Lemarchand and Jean-Baptiste Prétot / MB&F
Quality control: Cyril Fallet / MB&F
Case: Pascal Queloz / Oréade
Dial: Hassan Chaïba and Virginie Duval / Les Ateliers d’Hermès Horloger
Buckle: Dominique Mainier
Hands: Pierre Chillier, Isabelle Chillier and Marcos Zamora / Fiedler
Sapphire crystals: Martin Stettler / Stettler
Strap: Olivier Purnot / Camille Fournet
Presentation box: Olivier Berthon / ATS Atelier Luxe
Production logistics: David Lamy and Isabel Ortega / MB&F

 

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