MB&F released today their latest collaboration – this time with the super talented Eddy Jaquet. Based on the Legacy Machine Spit Escapement, the eight pieces limited series depicts eight stories ispired by Jules Verne’s Voyages extraordinaires. The MB&F x Eddy Jaquet LM Split Escapement collection is one of the most exquisite art for the wrist not only for MB&F but also in the modern horological scene. Please have a look at the official press release below and some live pictures done with two of the watches (the ones available at the end of August) and some personal comments.
MB&F x Eddy Jaquet LM Split Escapement
In the course of its 15-year history, MB&F has partnered with some of the most talented watchmakers of our generation — Kari Voutilainen, Eric Coudray, Stephen McDonnell, Jean-Marc Wiederrecht and Stepan Sarpaneva, to name a handful. Designers and artists as well, from long-time collaborator Eric Giroud and the iconoclastic Alain Silberstein to sculptor Xia Hang and contemporary painter Sage Vaughn. Now, for the first time, MB&F is putting the work of a traditional artisan in the spotlight, with the LM Split Escapement ‘Eddy Jaquet’ Limited Edition: a series of eight unique pieces featuring the extraordinary imagination and skill of the well-known engraver in depicting the novels of Jules Verne.
Eddy Jaquet is recognised throughout the rarefied circles of independent watchmaking aficionados as the man whose transformative touch can turn a watch into a rich storytelling tapestry. Those who have followed MB&F for a long time will already be familiar with his work. The flowing script you see on the Legacy Machine engines is made in Eddy Jaquet’s hand; it is the merest hint of his true artistic talent. MB&F founder Maximilian Büsser says, “We’ve worked with Eddy for years, but getting Eddy Jaquet to engrave names on movements is like playing Für Elise on a Stradivarius violin — you couldn’t imagine a more modest use of such an amazing gift.”
The most memorable work of the Neuchatel-based Jaquet is characterised by the depth of its scope and ambition; it is classical in style and heroic in its execution of human figures. In a way, the uniting theme of the LM Split Escapement Eddy Jaquet Limited Edition was inevitable. Says Büsser, “We’re brainstorming around the table, and a theme that comes immediately to mind is the writing of Jules Verne, because I’m so into science fiction, and because the Legacy Machine collection that Eddy has been working on is basically the watch that I would have created if MB&F was founded 150 years ago.”
Because of its wide expanse of surface available for engraving, the Legacy Machine Split Escapement (LM SE) was a natural choice for this unprecedented collaboration. In his preliminary research for the series, Eddy Jaquet devoured the books of Jules Verne, reading up to 60 novels and short stories by the prolific 19th-century French author. The eight stories that were finally selected to be illustrated in the limited edition include some of his best-loved work such as Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea but also some of the lesser-known stories such as The Adventures Of Captain Hatteras.
Highly notable is the fact that none of these illustrations are drawn from an existing piece of art. They are conceived by Jaquet after reading the source books by Jules Verne and viewing any other secondary films or creative work based on the books. Each engraving is an intricate tableau of scenes and key moments from the stories, synthesised in the imagination of Jaquet and expressly designed to be interpreted through the medium of the LM SE engine.
Not only did Jaquet have to exercise his creativity and engraving skill to the utmost, he was also obliged to practise his craft within the exigencies and limitations set by the MB&F LM SE engine. The designated engraving space was the dial plate, which presents a flat upper surface in the main LM SE series, but is actually of variable thickness on its reverse side in order to accommodate the different components of the engine. Engraving the dial plate as if it was uniformly thick throughout was not possible — careful consideration had to be made as to where the thinner areas were, so as not to inadvertently puncture the artistic canvas if a particular section required deep-relief engraving.
From the side of production as well, several adjustments were made to the original MB&F LM Split Escapement so as to maximise the available engraving space and allow Jaquet to exhibit his savoir-faire to the fullest. New, openworked date and power-reserve subdials were created, along with wider dial plates. The bezel was redesigned to be slimmer, and the case dimensions reworked, in order to make space for the wider dial plate. Because the bezel and case dimensions were changed, a new dial crystal had to be produced, with a less pronounced curve to the dome, since its diameter was now increased.
To fully bring out each illustrated scene, Jaquet applied a dark rhodium alloy by hand, adjusting the shading of each detail according to the exigencies of the scene. The smoke of the fire on the Michel Strogoff dial, for example, required an attenuated touch, while the underground sea depicted on the Journey To The Centre Of The Earth dial incorporated gradient-shading techniques. Between the redesign of a number of components and the actual execution of the engraved dial itself, over 300 hours of additional labour were required for each unique piece of the MB&F LM SE Eddy Jaquet Limited Edition.
The eight Jules Verne stories illustrated in the series are:
- Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea
- From The Earth To The Moon
- Around The World In Eighty Days
- Five Weeks In A Balloon
- The Adventures Of Captain Hatteras
- Journey To The Centre Of The Earth
- Michael Strogoff
- Robur The Conqueror
Each of the eight unique pieces comes in an 18K red-gold case.
About the engravings
The engraved dial plates of the MB&F LM SE Eddy Jaquet Limited Edition are inspired by the stories of Jules Verne, the 19th-century French writer widely acknowledged to be the foremost pioneer of science fiction. For each unique piece, famed engraver Eddy Jaquet read (or re-read, in some cases) the original work by Jules Verne and viewed any significant secondary creative works based on the books, such as the original published illustrations (which would have been approved by Jules Verne) or films. He then created his own original sketches on templates of the dial plate, depicting key scenes from each story, sometimes combining several tableaux in a single dial plate as a graphic tapestry of storytelling.
The dial plate of the piece inspired by the book Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea, for example, shows the submarine Nautilus drifting in the depths of the ocean in an unspecified location; a pair of ruined pillars just above the power-reserve dial hints that this is the scene where Captain Nemo and his crew explore the lost city of Atlantis. The dial plate of the piece inspired by Journey To The Centre Of The Earth, by contrast, brings together scenes of the protagonists descending into the planet’s interior, the subterranean ocean teeming with prehistoric life, and, far off in the distance — spoiler alert! — the erupting volcano that returns them to the surface in the novel’s denouement.
Creating these rich scenes on the limited diameter of the dial plates posed its own particular challenges, some of which Jaquet was able to foresee and plan around, and some that he was obliged to invent solutions for, mid-engraving. While working on the first dial plate to be engraved, the piece inspired by Five Weeks In A Balloon, his detailed project notes include observations about the variable thickness of the dial plate. Although flat on the upper side, the dial plate was highly irregular on its reverse, hollowed out in different places to accommodate the different components of the MB&F LM Split Escapement engine.
In certain parts, the dial plate had a thickness of 1.15mm, which allowed Jaquet ample space to engrave even in deep relief. In three particularly vulnerable areas, the dial plate measured only 0.35mm thick, requiring him to work with an extremely light touch in those places while making sure that the overall aesthetic of the engraving, which is intricately detailed, was not compromised.
In the same project notes on this particular dial plate, Jaquet refers to the trio of zebras visible at the date dial, quietly refreshing themselves at a watering hole on the African savannah. These animals were not part of his initial concept sketch, but were added late in the engraving process for a key point of aesthetic balance. This, however, required Jaquet to adjust the placement of two nearby hippopotami, highlighting the agility and adaptive skills essential to this delicate project.
Jaquet frequently uses darkening treatments as a means to draw the eye to certain elements in his dials and to enhance the dramatic rendering of a scene. Instead of the more commonly seen technique of uniformly applying a dark coating, which is then removed in parts to create the necessary contrast, Jaquet opted for a far more labour-intensive (and ultimately more aesthetically impactful) method for MB&F Legacy Machine Split Escapement. Using a jeweller’s electroplating pen, Jaquet painstakingly applied a solution containing ions of a dark rhodium alloy to each dial plate. In this technique, the normally silver-white rhodium is alloyed with a secret mix of other metals to impart a lustrous dark-grey coating.
Using the electroplating pen like an artist’s brush, layering the solution in multiple applications and working with the natural tendency of the rhodium electroplating solution to draw itself along the grooves and surfaces of the dial, Jaquet was able to create a wide range of grey tones to suggest different textures and levels of light. This mastery of chiaroscuro technique is demonstrated in the smoky fire depicted on the Michel Strogoff dial — ink-dark in some areas and pierced by light in others, billowing around a church steeple as Jules Verne described in his tale. The sleek dark sheen of hippopotamus skin in the Five Weeks In A Balloon dial is brought out with subtle highlights using a more painterly approach, while the gradient shading of space and sea in From The Earth To The Moon and Journey To The Centre Of The Earth called for rigorous technique, intense focus and complex layering of the rhodium solution to obtain a moiré effect in some parts.
About the Legacy Machine Split Escapement engine
Apart from the large area of space available for engraving on the dial plate, the Legacy Machine Split Escapement is also a singularly appropriate choice for this project with Eddy Jaquet, one of the most talented artisans in contemporary watchmaking. Featuring the proprietary escapement developed for MB&F by master watchmaker Stephen McDonnell and first introduced in the Legacy Machine Perpetual, the LM Split Escapement is the perfect MB&F creation to bear the engravings inspired by Jules Verne — whose stories are nothing if not sheer escapist delight. Furthermore, the Legacy Machine collection was initially the result of an audacious thought experiment by MB&F founder Maximilian Büsser: what watch would he have created if he had been born in 1867 instead of 1967? The Jules Verne connection brings the story full circle.
The heart of every MB&F machine is twofold. There is a metaphorical aspect, which is its story and inspiration; and there is a literal aspect, which is a mechanical oscillator. These two aspects work together in perfect synchronicity in Legacy Machine Split Escapement to reveal its essential purpose.
The first MB&F Legacy Machine drew on the atmosphere of wonder and optimism that characterised the World’s Fair expositions of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The eponymous mechanism in the LM Split Escapement channels this heady mix of emotions, an effect achieved by its sharp departure from established watchmaking tradition. By transporting the impulse jewel, anchor and escape wheel to the opposite end of the engine, LM Split Escapement magnifies the impact of its enigmatic balance, akin to an illusionist meticulously hiding all traces of the mechanisms that drive his latest show-stopping opus.
The sensitivity of the balance and the paramount role that it plays in chronometric precision are usually reason enough for watchmakers to avoid straying too far from convention when it comes to escapements. Pure mechanical theory dictates that the point of impulse should be as close as possible to the oscillator, which explains why balance assemblies look very much as they do now — compact components of limited height, with the impulse jewel positioned right beneath the balance wheel and hairspring.
However, the distance between the balance wheel and the impulse jewel is a full 11.78mm, the length of the arbour that traverses the movement and projects through the dial to support the oscillator. A longer arbour increases the likelihood of disrupting influences on the oscillator, as well as the potential distorting effects of a long axle under continuous torsion. The inertia of the balance and the rigidity of the arbour are key factors in this delicate equation, and the LM SE engine is precisely engineered to ensure its chronometric integrity.
Despite the technical challenges of creating the split escapement, the LM SE engine is still designed with aesthetics and classicism in mind — beautifully symmetrical, with bridges that frame their underlying components and curve smoothly around gold chatons and countersunk jewels. And just like in any perfectly executed action, none of the effort is visible to the audience. Only grace and simplicity can be seen. In their quest to channel the breathtaking inventiveness, creative coherence and audacity of Jules Verne, MB&F and Eddy Jaquet could have chosen no other piece than the MB&F Legacy Machine Split Escapement.
About Eddy Jaquet
Watchmaking has its fair share of rock stars, names that immediately evoke admiration and respect when associated with a timepiece. The small tribe of international watchmaking aficionados has long been familiar with the work of movement makers such as Jean-François Mojon, Kari Voutilainen, Jean-Marc Wiederrecht, Stepan Sarpaneva, Eric Coudray and Stephen McDonnell. Designers such as Eric Giroud and Alain Silberstein inspire cult-like devotion in their most dedicated followers. But only a tiny handful of connoisseurs would know the name Eddy Jaquet, one of the most gifted artists of his generation and the best storyteller working through the medium of dial engraving.
Eddy Jaquet was born in 1965, in a small village on the outskirts of Neuchâtel. Having learned his trade at the École d’Arts Appliqués in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Jaquet went straight on to pursue his lifelong vocation of engraver after graduation, in a career that has continued uninterrupted from 1987 to this day. Since 1994 he has enjoyed complete professional independence, which has allowed him to create some of the most exquisite works of art ever to grace a watch dial.
His work is often based on existing stories and cultural narratives, but nevertheless possesses a rich vein of mythopoeia. This is amply demonstrated by the Legacy Machine Split Escapement Eddy Jaquet Limited Edition, a series of eight unique hand-engraved pieces based on the novels of Jules Verne, which are interpreted anew through Jaquet’s imagination. Eddy Jaquet has been a Friend of MB&F since 2011, when the first Legacy Machine featured his skills in the names of Kari Voutilainen and Jean-François Mojon engraved on a movement bridge.
MB&F x Eddy Jaquet LM Split Escapement Gallery
MB&F x Eddy Jaquet LM Split Escapement Technical Specification and Price
Limited edition of 8 unique pieces, with dial plates engraved by Eddy Jaquet, inspired by 8 novels written by Jules Verne:
- Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
- From the Earth to the Moon
- Around the World in Eighty Days
- Five Weeks in a Balloon
- The Adventures of Captain Hatteras
- Journey to the Center of the Earth
- Michael Strogoff
- Robur the Conqueror
- LM SE movement developed for MB&F by Stephen McDonnell.
- Split escapement with the balance wheel suspended above the dial and the anchor and escapement wheel under the movement.
- Manual winding with double mainspring barrels.
- Power reserve: 72 hours
- 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 engravings.
- Balance frequency: 2.5Hz / 18,000bph
- Number of components: 296
- 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.
- Material: 5N+ red gold
- Dimensions: 44.5 mm x 18.2 mm
- Number of components: 50
- Water resistance: 30m / 100ft / 3ATM
- Sapphire crystals on top and display back treated with anti-reflective coating on both faces.
Strap & buckle
- Dark brown hand-stitched alligator strap with 5N+ red gold folding buckle matching the case.
- CHF 148,000 + VAT (USD 162,000 + tax)