November 3, 2015
by Ariel Adams
Hero of the luxury watch maker independents, and master of marketing and product, Geneva-based MB&F will now release the brand’s first perpetual calendar timepiece with the Legacy Machine Perpetual. This newest member of the Legacy Machine watch collection family was produced in collaboration with Irish-born watchmaker, Stephen McDonnell, who is one among that rare breed of super-talents behind the scenes. McDonnell designed the manually wound perpetual calendar movement inside of the Legacy Machine Perpetual from the ground up as a fully integrated new perpetual calendar mechanism totally distinct from everything else out there. Set in the same 44mm wide Legacy Machine case as the original LM1, the Legacy Machine Perpetual Calendar is, perhaps, MB&F’s most direct competition to the storied product collections of Switzerland’s largest and oldest watch “maisons” to date.
The MB&F Legacy Machine Perpetual doesn’t break the mold of previous generation Legacy Machine watches, but it does a unique look with a skeletonized dial and fully populated face given the amount of indicators required for the complicated movement. Also, the polished bezel mixed with the light reflections off visible parts of the movement make for a much more “dazzling” look while on the wrist.
Designed and produced exclusively for MB&F, the Legacy Machine Perpetual movement is produced from 581 parts operating at 2.5Hz (18,000 bph) with a power reserve of 72 hours. Intended to resemble legacy 19th century pocket watch movements in aesthetic style, there is very little which is actually retro about the movement, aside from how it looks, with its swoopy lines and hand finishing. McDonnell was careful to match the thematic aesthetics applied to the Legacy Machine as set forth by Jean-Francois Mojon and Kari Voutilianen, even though the movement of the Legacy Machine Perpetual does have a more modern feel to it.
One of the most special design elements of the movement will likely be easily overlooked by most because it isn’t obvious. Like all LM watches, the Legacy Machine Perpetual’s dial emphasizes the large, floating balance wheel that, so far, helps to visually and mechanically define the collection. Follow the hand-polished bridge to the balance wheel and hairspring and you may see something missing. There is no escapement. Well, there is, but you can’t see it from the dial. MB&F and Stephen McDonnell designed the system with what might be the world’s longest balance wheel pinion rod that goes through the movement and connects to an escapement system which is visible through the rear of the watch.
Enthusiasts should understand that considerable engineering effort was require for this and other elements of the Legacy Machine Perpetual. It is common in such artistic and complicated watches for a considerable amount of the timepiece’s expense to be attributed to designing the movement to match a particular aesthetic dream versus building the aesthetics around the movement.
Like other MBF&F Legacy Machine watches, time is displayed on an off-centered dial in white lacquer with blued steel hands – here, placed at the 12 o’clock position. Note that the lack of centrally mounted hour and minutes hands avoids the situation where dials exist on top of other dials – a look I happen to find particularly pleasing. Not since the Loiseau 1f4 do I recall seeing a dial design quite like this (well, sort of). Of course, there is a degree of visual overlap where the balance wheel assembly looks like a hovering alien ship floating over a small horological city. It appears even though the Legacy Machine is MB&F’s more traditional watch collection. It can still evoke fun science fiction ideas, like the more modern Horological Machine watch collection produced in tandem with the LM watches by the brand.
As perpetual calendar mechanisms go, the Legacy Machine is unconventional in that it does not follow the “grand lever” system used by most other perpetual calendar dials. This eliminates much of what typically happens right under the dial and allows for a lot more creative freedom in how a perpetual dial is designed. The system makes full account of the day of the week, date, month, and leap year. The system also has a useful power reserve indicator scale which helps balance out the retrograde style leap year indicator represented with a hand that follows along three dots.
The choice to skeletonize the dial on the Legacy Machine allows for a fantastic view of how the perpetual calendar system works. In lieu of the traditional system for offering a perpetual calendar, Stephen McDonnell designed a “mechanical processor” system which starts with the assumption that each month has a length of 28 days. Days are then added as needed each month allowing for 28, 29, 30, and 31-day-long months. The system further uses a planetary gear system which allows the wearer to scroll through up to 47 months to find the correct year, month, and date in order to easily set the perpetual calendar system. With that said, there are also some helpful corrector pushers on the case which reassuringly work on each press (ironically – that isn’t always the case). It’s really a brilliant design and I very much enjoy when watch makers focus on improving utility of perpetual calendar movements as they are among the most useful of the “major complications” around.