Never a dull day with the new MB&F + L’Epée 1839 Starfleet Explorer

Never a dull day with the new MB&F + L’Epée 1839 Starfleet Explorer

The new MB&F + L’Epée 1839 Starfleet Explorer is a table clock with a difference. And since it is inspired by the eclectic universe of Star Trek, we figured may as well give this review three separate introductions, or seasons as we would like to call them given the first generation of Star Trek ran for three seasons. 

Season 1: “Never a dull day in Starfleet,” says author David Mack in the novel Desperate Hours. Never a dull day with MB&F I should say. Presenting the new MB&F + L’Epée 1839 Starfleet Explorer, a wonder of a space themed clock.

Season 2: The famous rocket scientist and pioneer of the astronautic theory, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky once said: “The Earth is the cradle of humanity, but mankind cannot stay in the cradle forever.”

The Earth we all know is probably not the safest place to be in currently due to the Covid-19 fiasco. We are all here in it together and fighting it, but it does seem cool to think of a place in outer space that’s habitable and without the infection. It’s purely speculation but a merry one. And while the researchers and scientists may or may not be looking at space as an alternative for mankind, it seems the watch brands surely are. The time telling device we are looking at today is the third one this year that we have reviewed which follows the space theme. First came the Ming 27.01 and then the Urwerk UR-100 Gold. Both of these releases were inundated with themes and references to the Star Wars universe. 

Now, providing balance to this space exploration theme is the new MB&F Starfleet Explorer that references the Star Trek universe. So this may be an unconscious effort on the part of watch brands, but it sure does appear that 2020 is the year of space exploration themed watches. 

Season 3: Bored to bits with conventional watches? How about traditional clocks? If you are, then “by Grabthar’s Hammer, by the Sons of Warvan, you shall be avenged” of this boredom.

Meet the the new and futurist table clock by the creative forces at play at MB&F. 

new MB&F + L'Epée 1839 Starfleet Explorer
The new MB&F + L’Epée 1839 Starfleet Explorer |

The Context 

New Frontiers 

“Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilisations, to boldly go where no man has gone before,” says William Shatner as Capt. James T. Kirk in Star Trek.

As if taking this to heart is the new release by MB&F.

Almost after a five-year — in this case of the clock it’s a six year difference but five is more dramatic going with the above quote — mission returns the Starfleet Machine from 2014, in the form of an updated and compact avatar called the Starfleet Explorer. 

new MB&F + L'Epée 1839 Starfleet Explorer
2014 version | Courtesy ©MB&F SA 2018

The clock from 2014 was the brand’s very first table-clock in collaboration with L’Epée 1839. Returning in an updated and compact avatar and featuring bright colours, is the new table clock that to me looks like the cerebro helmet from the X-men comics and movies (though in reality its more akin to DS9 but more on that later). Cool and futuristic, this machine is also accompanied by a fleet of three small spacecrafts exploring the makeshift universe that this clock calls home. 

The Design Maxim

“Whether it be the sweeping eagle in his flight, or the open apple-blossom, the toiling work-horse, the blithe swan, the branching oak, the winding stream at its base, the drifting clouds, over all the coursing sun, form ever follows function, and this is the law.”

The above maxim form follows function was coined by fellow architect — not really my peer in any universe, real or Star Trek, but we are both architects who believe in the maxim — Louis Sullivan. 

MB&F and L’Epée’s design is seeped in this philosophy. 

new MB&F + L'Epée 1839 Starfleet Explorer
Courtesy ©MB&F SA 2018

The outermost C-shape features three vertical arcs on which the clock rests. This design is what reminded me of the X-men cerebro helmets even though the design is more of an interpretation of the Deep Space Nine (DS9). What’s that you ask? Well, DS9 is a fictional space station orbiting the planet Bajor and is the setting of the TV series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine that happens to be a spin-off of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

CBS TELEVISION
CBS TELEVISION

Coming back to the clock, not just to look cool, these arcs have a functional use in that they enable the Starfleet Explorer to be placed upside down for time-setting and rewinding using a special key. Additionally, the curved open-worked design of the concentric C-shaped external structure to which the mainplate is attached allows the user to witness the gears and mainspring barrel are on full display thanks to the skeletonised mainplate and other details of the polished movement.

In-fact, this polished movement is a laborious work of art in itself. 

Arnaud Nicolas, CEO L’Epée 1839 explains: “It’s not just a case of double the size of the components, it’s double the time it takes to finish them. The complexity increases exponentially. For polishing you need to apply the same pressure as you would finishing a watch movement, but on a bigger surface, and that’s more challenging. It’s thanks to the experience and dexterity of our clockmakers that the Starfleet Explorer can feature such superlative fine-finishing.”

L’Epée 1839

L’Epée 1839 is Swiss manufacture specialised in high-end table clocks with intriguing designs and great complications. It was founded in 1839 by Auguste L’Epée in France’s Besançon region. Gradually it cornered the market in the production of ‘platform’ escapements, creating regulators especially for alarm and table clocks, as well as musical watches. One of its crowning moments came in 1976 when the Concorde supersonic aircraft entered commercial service, and L’Epée wall clocks were chosen to furnish the cabins. L’Epée has also graced the annals of the Guinness Book of Records for building the world’s biggest clock with a compensated pendulum in 1994, called the Giant Regulator.

Powered by this expertise and legacy, crafted by them is this superb execution of form follows function that taken the shape of an intergalactic spaceship-cum-table clock that not only displays the hours and minutes but also features an animation in which three spacecraft perform a five-minute orbit of the station. Introducing to this mix a very tangible and personal experience is the use of a superlatively finished manually winding in-house movement that allows the owner to be in contact with this ‘spaceship’. 

new MB&F + L'Epée 1839 Starfleet Explorer
The 2014 version | Courtesy ©MB&F SA 2018

2014 vs 2020

Starfleet Explorer also features a significantly original new element in the form of three tiny spacecrafts, lined up along the same axis at regular intervals and placed inside the actual Starfleet movement, the heart of the mechanism, around which they revolve at a rate of one full turn every five minutes: a space exploration guided by the mothership.

The addition of tiny spacecrafts is not the only difference.

The size is a major one. The 2014 version featured dimensions of ~21cm height and ~29cm diameter while the 2020 version boasts of a smaller 11cm height and 16.5cm diameter. The power reserve in a another major difference, the former had a 40-day reserve owing to five barrels while the latter provides an 8-day reserve. The Starfleet Machine was limited to 175 pieces and was available in ‘light’ or ‘dark’ editions, and the new Starfleet Explorer is being launched as three limited editions of 99 pieces each in blue, green and red.

new MB&F + L'Epée 1839 Starfleet Explorer
Courtesy ©MB&F SA 2018

Watch Ya Gonna Do About It

“The Prophets teach us patience,” says Vedek Bareil in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. After a wait of 6 years, we have been introduced to version 2.0 of the the brand’s Starfleet range of clocks. The movement and the design that encases it are both worthy of detailing. 

The Movement 

“We’re Starfleet officers. Weird is part of the job,” says Captain Kathryn Janeway to Ensign Harry Kim in Star Trek: Voyager. 

MB&F watches are anything but normal. The movement and its casing embody that spirit.  

The heart used is a manual winding L’Epée 1839 in-house designed and manufactured movement featuring a gear train, mainspring barrel, balance wheel, escape wheel, pallet-lever, a double-ended key to set time and wind the movement and Incabloc shock protection system. The movement is placed horizontally, but its escapement is vertically positioned.

The movement beats at the low frequency of 2.5Hz (18’000 A/h). It comprises of 11 jewels, features 95 components and boasts of an impressive 8-day power reserve.

The movement is encased inside a 11cm × 16.5cm stainless steel case structure, the mechanism and the mainplate are in palladium-treated brass, while the three spacecrafts are in hand-lacquered polymer.

new MB&F + L'Epée 1839 Starfleet Explorer
Courtesy ©MB&F SA 2018

The Dance of Time

“I like this clock! Y’know, it’s exciting!” In the spirit of Montgomery Scott, onboard the USS Enterprise, in Star Trek 2009, is the design of the new clock.

Time can be read on the hour dome and the minutes disc that are satin-brushed and feature MB&F’s signature numerals. The minutes are indicated by a fixed curved aperture on the mobile upper dome, performing a complete rotation every 60 minutes. The hours are indicated by a mobile hand, performing a complete rotation every 12 hours on a fixed disc. Introducing legibility and play of colour are the minutes aperture and the hour hand that are satin-brushed and anodised, in blue, green or red.

new MB&F + L'Epée 1839 Starfleet Explorer
Courtesy ©MB&F SA 2018

Too Much To Like 

There is a lot to like here. I like the automation present here with the three moving spacecrafts. I like the burst of colour in these spacecrafts that also matches the minutes aperture and the hour hands. I appreciate the smaller size as it would be less obtrusive on the desk. I like the Star Trek connections. I also like the option that the clock can be titled. It is indeed a piece of art that is a clock too. Finally I also really like that the power reserve is reduced, yes you read that right, reduced to 8-days. This gives the owner, or me if I owned this, a chance to personally connect with this pièce de résistance by manually winding it every time. The chance to activate a kinetic work of art and in the process transport yourself to outer space is something that doesn’t come too often. 

To wrap this up I have slightly modified what Weyoun says in Deep Space Nine, “You should be honored. You’re witnessing an historic moment – the continuation of the alliance between MB&F and L’Epée 1839. Changes everything you know about clocks, doesn’t it?”

For more information on the new MB&F + L’Epée 1839 Starfleet Explorer and other MB&F watches, head to their website here. To buy this online for the retail price of CHF 9’900 + VAT, head to the eShop here: https://bit.ly/2WqGD7N