February 23, 2017
by Ariel Adams
At SIHH 2017, Geneva-based MB&F released a new limited-edition version of the Legacy Machine No. 2 watch with a fascinating greenish-blue dial and a titanium case. It was back in 2013 that MB&F released its second iteration of the then still fresh Legacy Machine collection which eschewed the very modern design sensibilities of the brand for something more classic and traditional. I reviewed the MB&F LM2 watch here, playfully calling it the “watch playmate of the year” given its dazzling good looks and visual mechanical spectacle.
The 2017 MB&F Legacy Machine No. 2 Titanium will be a rare product given that fewer than 20 of this version will be produced. With that said, MB&F wanted to further improve the LM2 by offering continuous refinements and experimenting with aesthetic styles. The former refinement can be seen in the fact that the new titanium case is 1mm thinner than the previous 18k gold cases, which according to MB&F, has been shaved off the bezel. That brings the total case thickness down to a “mere” 19mm. That is thick, but much of it is due to the dramatically domed sapphire crystal.
It takes a careful eye to notice that the bezel of this Grade 5 titanium case is polished, whereas on previous versions of the MB&F LM2 the bezel along with much of the rest of the case were given a brushed finishing. This polished area helps frame the otherwise shiny elements of the dial which are glorious and aplenty on the MB&F LM2 watch’s face. Finishing of the movement (which includes elements of the movement which are visible on the dial) are designed by independent watchmaker Kari Voutilainen, along with the technique used by the craftsmen to apply the decoration. Finishing is actually performed by excellent company C-L Rochat.
Jean-Francois Mojon was the original designer of the beautiful movement inside of the Legacy Machine 2. Even though it is about twice as expensive as the original Legacy Machine watch, the MB&F LM2 offered less functionality. Despite being pretty, this type of high-luxury timepiece is for dedicated gearheads. The purpose of the “engine” inside of the watch is to pay homage to a long legacy of dual escapement watches. Such “dual regulator” watches, as MB&F puts it, have existed for literally hundreds of years. The goal of each was to average out (in one way or another) the rate results of the balance wheels which are naturally prone to error. The theory being that the two balance wheels during oscillation will not have errors at the same time, and the average rate result between the two of them will lead to a more accurate timepiece.
While a beautiful concept, I’ve never read or heard that dual balance wheel systems do in fact lead to more accurate timekeeping. Moreover, even if it is more accurate, then the result would still be effort-overkill given that if accuracy is what you are seeking, there are more consistent and cheaper ways of implementing that in mechanical watches. Thus, offering dual regulation system movements such as this lovely one inside of the MB&F Legacy Machine No. 2 is purely emotional and a pursuit of mechanical art. MB&F employs a differential with a planetary gear system inside of the MB&F LM2 to combine the rate results of the two balance wheels. This is a technique distinct from, say, “resonance” which is a separate means of attempting to establish balance wheel rate result parity. We last saw a watch incorporate a resonance effect between two balance wheels in the Armin Strom Mirrored Force Resonance.
Since MB&F released the original MB&F LM2 models, they also released the Legacy Machine Perpetual watch (hands-on here). These are two very different watches, but I bring it up because from a price perspective they are quite similar, and I think it merits a short discussion about their distinct appeals. The least expensive version of the MB&F Legacy Machine Perpetual is about $5,000 more than this version of the MB&F Legacy Machine 2, but the former would be in a precious metal case while this 2017 MB&F LM2 has a titanium case. Is MB&F offering a tough choice for its consumers? Are people who buy watches at this level so price insensitive they can buy both, or do the watches have a distinct appeal?
I’ll personally say that I would have an awful lot of trouble selecting between the MB&F LM2 and the Legacy Machine Perpetual if I needed to choose. The Perpetual is more straightforward in its complexity given that about anyone can understand the functionality of a perpetual calendar system. Each of the watches offers its own take on displaying a stunning view of a lavishly hand-finished movement. The downside to the Legacy Machine Perpetual is that if you don’t wear it all the time you’ll need to adjust a lot of settings in order for it to correctly display all its data (it is a perpetual calendar, after all). The MB&F LM2 has the exact opposite problem in that it only tells the time. At least the LM1 tells the time… twice. Thus, the MB&F LM2 and the Legacy Machine Perpetual are similarly priced watches, in the same watch family at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to being a “complicated” timepiece. I’ll find it interesting to hear what you as the audience want more, and why.
MB&F has clearly enjoyed themselves when it comes to having their dial supplier play with finishes and coloring processes (which here I believe is a PVD coating process). They’ve done green in the past and they’ve done blue, now they offer a color that exists somewhere in the middle as it plays with the light. Amusingly enough, MB&F doesn’t even attempt at giving this color a name themselves. The rest of the dial is composed of the off-centered white subdial for the time with blued 18k gold hour and minute hands, as well as the dual arched bridges for the balance wheels and a view of the planetary differential system. Finishing is top-notch and gorgeous to view as you gaze into the richly three-dimensional horological sculpture.
MB&F uses a range of high-end suppliers to make all the parts and assemble the movements – and each of the companies are always laid out in detail in MB&F press releases, which is something that no one else in the luxury watch industry really does.. The movement is signed by both of its designers, along with the MB&F name. Such a sight is quite rare for a watch brand to share credit with the suppliers, but doing so follows the theme of the “& Friends” part of the MB&F brand.
The movement is produced from 241 parts with an operating frequency of 18,000bph (2.5Hz) and a power reserve of 45 hours from a single mainspring. This more modest operational speed allows for a more graceful view of the two 11mm-wide balance wheels in action. The MB&F LM2 case itself is 44mm wide, 19mm thick (1mm thinner than previous LM2 cases), and water-resistant to 30 meters. It comes fitted on a very nicely made black alligator strap.
As an expression of “modern traditional” watchmaking which is masculine but is all about the wearer donning “look at me” horological art, there is little else out there which presents itself as well as the MB&F Legacy Machine 2, and this titanium version with its blue/green dial is a gorgeous and welcome addition to the collection. The MB&F Legacy Machine 2 Titanium is produced as a limited edition of just 18 pieces with a price of $138,000 USD. mbandf.com