April 12, 2015
by Ariel Adams
Here’s the deal: if you have an extra 35,000 Swiss Francs (or the currency equivalent thereof) laying around, you are more than likely going to want a MB&F Melchior robot clock if you are even remotely interested in the mechanical horological subject matter of aBlogtoWatch. That’s a big “if,” though, because about US$36,000 (at the time of writing) isn’t chump change. It is, however, a price that at least 99 people are going to be more than eager to dedicate towards having this “roboclock” in their home or office. So, let’s take a closer look at the newest clock creation to come out of the partnership between Swiss MB&F and also Swiss L’Epée.
The MB&F Melchior is the second product of MB&F and L’Epée working together. Last year in 2014, the two companies presented the MB&F Starfleet Machine Clock (hands-on here) which was equally impressive. Why do I think the MB&F Melchior will be more successful, though? Well, both of these items are clocks, and both are directly inspired by the world’s of science fiction. While the Starfleet Machine Clock is supposed to be the tabletop rendition of a space station (Deep Space 9 from Star Trek), the MB&F Melchior emulates the robot companion, a futuristic battle buddy and compatriot that is so deeply engrained in the imaginations of so many people today. Like MB&F’s Max Busser, I grew up with science fiction and still subscribe to its allures today. A “luxury quality” robot clock with the pedigree of a cool Swiss watchmaker is just too cool to refuse.
The MB&F Melchior was designed by MB&F and designer Xin Wang, and is produced entirely by L’Epée in Switzerland. There will be two slightly different versions of the MB&F Melchior for 2015, and in total, they will be limited to 99 pieces. Where the “Melchior” name came from is another interesting piece of trivia. According to MB&F founder Max Busser, men of the Busser family traditionally had one of two names. Apparently Max’s grandfather did away with that tradition, but according to Busser men of his family were named either Melchior or Balthazar starting back in the 15th century. Given the fact that all anthropomorphic robotic creations deserve a human name, Melchior just seemed fitting.
Weighing 6.3 kilograms (almost 14 pounds) this is one heavy action figure. Nevertheless, the MB&F Melchior is designed with posable limbs which are intended to look like a rocket launcher or a Gatling gun. The latter of which actually magnetically detaches from the arm and acts as the mechanical movement’s winding key. The entire figurine (not counting the movement) is comprised of 146 parts which are produced from either steel, chrome-plated brass, or palladium-plated brass. Moreover, there is an MB&F Melchior “Light Edition” and an MB&F Melchior “Dark Edition” model. The “Dark Edition” version of the MB&F Melchior has some PVD-coated black parts on the “armor.”
The MB&F Melchior stands 30.3cm tall and is topped with a glass dome over the movement’s regulation system. Of course, this is the more important part of the clock which is why it sits in the robot’s “brain cavity.” All of the clock’s indicators are built into the design of the MB&F Melchior. Under the glass dome are red discs in the eyes which spin around each 20 seconds. These are actually retrograde indicators and jump back to their original position after 20 seconds.
Moving down to the MB&F Melchior’s torso, you see discs used to indicate the minutes and hours. This is where you’ll be primarily looking if you are interesting in using the MB&F Melchior to read the time. Look further down to the robot’s pelvic region, and you’ll see a power reserve indicator. The L’Epée-produced mechanical movement has a total power reserve of 40 days – which is a nice long time, so it is good that the clock comes with an attached winding key.
The L’Epée manually-wound clock movement consists of 334 parts and operates at 2.5Hz (18,000). Even though it is a clock movement meant to be stationary, the balance wheel system has an Incabloc shock protection system, because MB&F assumes people will be moving around the clock a bit more than they might most other desk or table clocks. The long power reserve is stored in five mainspring barrels.
One thing that MB&F understands very well is that most modern watch lovers aren’t really interested in clocks. That’s typically because clocks aren’t something you can wear and aren’t as enjoyable to take around with you. Watch collecting is as much about the enjoyment of wearing something you find aesthetically pleasing as it is about owning quality, history, or utility.
Clocks and other display items need a bit more creative oomph to really get our juices flowing. The types of things MB&F is involved with that isn’t an Horological or Legacy Machine (wrist watch) is really about catering to a specific modern-minded mechanical enthusiast who enjoys the same types of things that Max Busser does. Items like the MB&F Melchior or the other clocks and music boxes that MB&F has been (and will be) involved with are not only an extension of what MB&F has been successful with at their MAD Gallery locations, but also meant for a targeted niche of enthusiasts around the world who want an excuse to have these in our homes or offices. Few people will collect an MB&F Melchior because they love clocks, but rather most people who get one see the MB&F Melchior as a damn fine reason to own a clock.
One thing that is important to mention about the MB&F Melchior is the sound. Given that the movement is more or less exposed, you are going to hear an audible ticking sound coming from it. One way around this would be to cover the MB&F Melchior with a glass dome – which would also keep it clean. MB&F has offered such domes with previous creations, I believe, and I think they should probably offer a glass dome (at least as an option) with the MB&F Melchior to not only dampen the sound of the operating clock movement, but to also help keep dust from accumulating on the MB&F Melchior and its mechanical movement.
As I mentioned above, the price for the MB&F Melchior by L’Epée robot clock is 35,000 Swiss Francs, and both the Dark and Light Edition together will be part of a limited edition of 99 pieces. mbandf.com