When Max Busser originally founded his eponymous brand MB&F, he made it clear that the brand was not just producing conventional watches. Rather, MB&F was all about “horological machines,” wearable mechanical art. This philosophy of making attractive, intriguing, yet still useful wearables has persisted throughout the evolution and development of the brand. Most watch enthusiasts would strongly argue that despite their artistic merits, MB&F timepieces are still true items of horology in the most classic sense.
I say all this to help explain the purpose of the Split Escapement movement in the newly released Legacy Machine. The innovation, which was previously developed by talented Irish watchmaker Stephen McDonnell for the top of the line Legacy Machine Perpetual Calendar, lengthens the traditional regulator by using an unusually long arbor to connect the balance wheel and the anchor. The two are typically placed on the same plane (for efficiency’s sake) in ordinary watches, but the Legacy Machine Split Escapement puts the balance wheel and hairspring front and center on the face of the watch, while the rest of the regulation system is on the rear of the watch.
With a cleaner yet classical look, the Split Escapement is all about visual pleasure, while being able to both effectively read the information on the watch dial. Wearing the watch is to enjoy the mesmerizing perpetual motion of the large-diameter balance wheel as its oscillations pleases the eye with its rhythmic motion.
In addition to the entire watch being novel, MB&F is proud of the visual refinements learned from earlier Legacy Machines. Such improvements include a thinner case, the more attractive decoration to the balance wheel bridge as referenced above, as well as a polished versus brushed bezel.
18k white gold is the preferred case material for this debut set of Legacy Machine Split Escapement, which come in four different frosted dial finishes – blue, ruthenium as well as red and yellow gold. The frosted finish is created by a specialized artisan, using a wire brush to beat the dial surface by hand, another way MB&F blends tradition with modern design.
At 44mm wide, the imposing Legacy Machine case is prominent in its tall stature on the wrist. The high dome of the sapphire crystal acts as a window to the detail of the dial, which emphasizes classic lines and symmetry. Sub-dials for the time, date, and power reserve are positioned in a triangular orientation around the balance wheel that is held in place by a carefully hand-polished bride.
The view from the back is just as impressive, with the caliber modeled on vintage pocket watch movements. The flowing, curved bridges with prominent chamfered edges are a detail aficionados of classical watchmaking will appreciate.
One of the most interesting directions taken over the last several years by brands like MB&F is the effort to make exotic, super luxury watches suitable for daily wear. There was a period of prolific and spirited design that typified ultra-luxury watches a few years ago that excelled in visual distinctiveness, but in many instances failed when it came to practicality or ergonomic comfort. More recently, brands like MB&F have found that its customers, despite wishing for lavish luxuries on their wrist, are increasingly interested in products they can comfortably wear on a regular basis. The Legacy Machine Split Escapement, a retro-futuristic watch that still has a practical date and power reserve, is conceived as just such a watch.
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