“The body regulates the soul, and, like the balance-wheel, it is submitted to regular oscillations” – The new MB&F x Eddy Jaquet LMSE are watches extraordinaire
Jules Verne once said: “The body regulates the soul, and, like the balance-wheel, it is submitted to regular oscillations”. This quotation was begging to be included in this watch review in my opinion. After all, it’s the man of the hour, Jules Verne talking about balance wheels, and what better watch to pair this quote with than the one with an iconic LM floating balance wheel on the dial face that stares at you in all its glory, enticing you to be swayed under its spell? The new MB&F x Eddy Jaquet LMSE series of watches are watches extraordinaire; they are after all, inspired by Jules Verne’s Voyages Extraordinaires series. More over Pablo Picasso, step aside Leonardo da Vinci, we have in our midst a series of new art masters.
The Literary Context
This is pretty coincidental I must say; just last month while reviewing the MING 18.01 H41 diver I happened to reference and talk about Jules Verne. In particular, that watch reminded me of a specific work of his, the science fiction novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas: A World Tour Underwater where the French author tells the story of a fictional submarine named Nautilus — coincidentally also inspiring the name of Patek’s famous watch — and its crew led by Captain Nemo who wander the seas. The new MB&F x Eddy Jaquet LMSE series of watches we are reviewing today coincidently are not only directly inspired by the works of Jules Verne, but also pay due respect to the worlds of Eddy Jaquet’s exceptional horological engravings and to the distinctive watchmaking expertise from the minds at MB&F.
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, and Robur The Conqueror.
On a personal note, we are extra chuffed at reviewing these watches; anyone who has read our long-form reviews can attest that we use a lot of literary and pop-culture references in our articles. And it’s also true that we find a more passionate form of reviewing when we review MB&F’s works. So what better way to marry these worlds for us, than to talk about a set of watches that by default embody the above.
The Engravings Context
As definite as these timepieces are, seeped in MB&F’s design language, I reckon the star of the show is the next level universe of mind-blowing engravings. And the talent behind these is the aforementioned master engraver, Eddy Jaquet.
As MB&F succinctly puts it, Eddy’s transformative touch can turn a watch into a rich storytelling tapestry, and in the case of these new masterpieces, Eddy has managed to synthesise as entirely original illustrations the key moments from eight Verne novels.
Thankfully I am no stranger to Verne’s works myself; many a lazy summer vacations in my primitive schooling days have gone into reading some of the literary classics from various storytellers, with Verne’s Around The World In Eighty Days being one of those that has had a lasting impression. Perhaps it is my readings of the Voyages Extraordinaries series that has subconsciously to do with my own wanderlust and quest to travel as much and as often I can (though that has been brutally marred by the pandemic).
Anyway, person musings aside, coming back to the watches at hand, the ‘summary’ of each novel is directly engraved on the Legacy Machine Split Escapement’s 18K white gold movement dial plate, and that is the real beauty behind this release.
MB&F founder Maximilian Büsser aptly 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.”
Eddy Jaquet’s work is so rich in detail, so intricate and well-thought of, that I reckon it is the engraving version of J. R. R. Tolkien’s mythopoeia writings.
The Horological Context
With the new MB&F x Eddy Jaquet LMSE, nine years since its first launch, the Legacy Machine era of watches is rounding off into a decade of kinetic brilliance and watchmaking excellence.
The LM collection of watches seamlessly blend the poles apart worlds of nineteenth-century watchmaking expertise and contemporary objets d’arts, and feature the proprietary escapement developed for MB&F by master watchmaker Stephen McDonnell.
These new MB&F x Eddy Jaquet Legacy Machine Split Escapement series of watches are a true testament to this.
The Watch Faces
The iconic LM floating balance wheel on the front is retained in all the new versions, and they all feature the same architecture of three sub-dials. 5N+ red gold frames this stunningly detailed work, and sans colour, the dials are mute yet full of life with the only burst of colour visible in the presence of blued hands.
What does change is the artistic backdrop on which the essence of time is displayed. The release is all about the eight faces, inspired by eight novels, all encased inside an 18K red gold case featuring a slim bezel and open-worked subdials that showcase the engravings.
Since they are all individual pieces of art, it’s hard to choose, but if I really had to, my favourite out of the lot would be the Five Weeks In A Balloon version. I feel there is a certain sense of realism yet mystique in this piece.
And if I was to pinpoint the favourite bit of engraving here, it would be the sleek dark sheen of hippopotamus skin that is brought out with subtle highlights using the chiaroscuro technique that employs an electroplating pen being applied like an artist’s brush.
This novel from 1863 tells a sort of semi-autobiographical travel story of three explorers who venture to Zanzibar in Africa. Whether be it the presence of a trio of zebras at a watering hole on the African savannah visible around the date dial at 7’o clock, or the presence of hippopotami in the centre, or the hunter hiding at 4’o clock inside the power-reserve dial, or finally the hot air balloon ‘Victoria’ at 2’o clock, the brilliance and attention to detail is par excellence.
The other iteration I really liked as well was the Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea version.
This novel from 1870 tells the story of Captain Nemo and his submarine Nautilus we talked about earlier. Nautilus has been targeting ships from all over the world, and the authorities think that it is a sea monster that’s doing the damage. There is a plethora of themes and sub themes covered in the book that are beyond the scope of this review, but loosely speaking, the story is essentially about Captain Nemo’s underwater adventures in his submariner.
The dial mainplate on the new new MB&F x Eddy Jaquet LMSE depicts this submarine. It is shown drifting in the depths of the ocean, and most strikingly a pair of ruined pillars just above the power-reserve dial hint at the place where Captain Nemo and his crew explore the lost city of Atlantis.
The beauty of this version is that it really feels that the scene is set deep down under the water, making one forget for a minute that it is actually an art work on one’s wrist, way above the water level.
In the other versions, I really admire the compass detailing at 4’o clock in the The Adventures Of Captain Hatteras version, the scene where the protagonists descend into the planet’s interior at 3’o clock in the Journey To The Centre Of The Earth version, and the Big Ben in the Around The World In Eighty Days.
The movement — developed for MB&F by Stephen McDonnell — used is manual winding with double mainspring barrel and features a bespoke 14mm balance wheel with traditional regulating screws. The split escapement with the balance wheel is suspended above the dial, while the anchor and escapement wheel are under the movement.
The movement is comprised of 296 components, 35 jewels and beats at the low frequency of 2.5Hz (18’000 A/h), and featuring an impressive 72-hour power reserve.
What one can expect from a MB&F timepiece, the movement is beautifully finished, featuring hand finishing throughout respecting 19th-century style, alongside bevelled internal angles, Geneva waves and of-course hand-made engravings.
The dial shows the functions of hours and minutes at 12’o clock, a sub-dial at 4’o clock as the power-reserve indicator and another sub-dial at 7’o clock as the date indicator. You would think that on a busy engraved dial the legibility would be poor, but owing to the blued hands, Roman numerals and white disc, time telling is a breeze.
The movement and dial are presented inside a large 44.5 mm x 18.2 mm 5N+ red gold featuring 50 components. I am not usually impressed with larger sized watches, but in this case, I will gladly make an exception, for an artwork as fabulous as this needs a big canvas.
Rounding up the aesthetics of the watch are the push-button at 2’o clock and the hand-stitched dark brown alligator strap with 5N+ red gold folding buckle matching the case.
Watch Ya Gonna Do About It
Being an architect and a literary buff myself, the new MB&F x Eddy Jaquet LMSE series of watches are like a wonderland for me. Back in my design days we used to come up with concepts that would stem from various aspects of life, and I have personally designed by extracting the essence from various texts, symbols and pop-culture references. Maybe that’s why so many articles I write end up with a plethora of quotations or some random similes that at first read have nothing to do directly with a particular watch but have more meaning to them. Sorry, not tooting my own horn, just wanted to say that these MB&F watches made me remember my architecture days and also got me excited in terms of watchmaking.
The watches we are looking at today can be summarised in a couple of lines, thanks to a Jules Verne quotation that reads, “In presence of Nature’s grand convulsions, man is powerless”.
Such is the power of the new MB&F x Eddy Jaquet Legacy Machine Split Escapement series of watches, that I can humbly summarise these by saying that in the presence of MB&F’s grand designs, traditional horology becomes powerless.
I think it’s safe to say that Maximilian Büsser is a fan of science-fiction. A lot of his work delves deep into the heart of this genre, and yet it stems from the foundations of horological expertise. To that rare mix, I salute. And as always, the team at MB&F have produced something quite extraordinary. My only grief? Only eight pieces were produced, which at the time of writing had already been sold out. I don’t know what next they have planned, but if you ask me, I say bring on timepieces inspired by H.G Wells!
A Jules Verne homage series, the new MB&F x Eddy Jaquet LMSE are truly Watches Extraordinaire.
For more information on this and other MB&F watches, please to their website here. All images used in our new MB&F x Eddy Jaquet LMSE review are courtesy Courtesy © MB&F SA 2018.