Editor’s note: While Sydney remains in a Covid-19 related lockdown, we highly anticipate the releases from the Geneva Watch Days 2021 like a breath of fresh air. Following the coverage of Watches & Wonders 2021 and the Only Watch Auction 2021, here’s our preview and the Gut Reaction Review (Grr…) of the new MB&F x L’Epée 1839 Orb. For our standard detailed hands-on reviews, please head to our dedicated reviews section here.
What is it: The new MB&F x L’Epée 1839 Orb in two variations, black or white, both limited to 50-pieces and retailing for 30’700 CHF. Both feature an L’Epée 1839 in-house movement — both designed and manufactured — that provides the functions of hours and minutes, and a striking hour tone along the lines of a church clock that can be repeated on demand. This time telling phenomenon is packaged as a ~17mm diameter when closed like an aluminium circular ball and 24cm height x 30cm diameter kinetic art de object when fully open
Why: Announced at the ongoing Geneva Watch Days 2021
When released: 30 August 2021
Where: Available via the MB&F M.A.D Gallery website here
Who is it for: For those who collect rare and glorious objects for their mansions. It’s a time-telling toy in soul, for those who are still young at heart
Orbs are circular objects that typically form into a spherical device. Orbs get to be conjured as futuristic by default; and are a permanent fixture in anything Hollywood that’s ultra-advanced, whether be it the movie Oblivion or the recent Jurassic World. It’s no wonder then that a brand that is always challenging the boundaries of present and future, breaking the status quo, will end up using the shape and form for a timepiece of some sort.
The new MB&F x L’Epée 1839 Orb, however, is a little different; it’s a normal orb, coked-up. It can impressively transform into a beetle-like object or take shape into other forms. Like a beetle, it opens and spreads its wings, as if ready to take flight. Like a crystal ball, it reveals the mysteries of time. And while the table clock ain’t going anywhere, the beauty of the new encourages our imagination to take flight, soar high on the wings of futuristic wizardry.
If I move past the obvious futuristic-robotic vibes, it reminds me of another object: flowers.
A dogwood tree’s flower that when opens reveals its four petals, or rather called bracts. Personally, the new MB&F x L’Epée 1839 Orb is like that flower, opening up to reveal a concealed beauty, only this time, it is a mechanical powerhouse.
When it comes to associations, the brand describes it in their own way; the four outer layers are like elytra, the anterior leathery or chitinous wings of beetles that serve as coverings to the secondaries. My immediate reaction to this was to think of the elusive Elytra in Minecraft, that are a set of rare wings “found in end ships that are the only single-item source of flight in Survival mode”.
I read somewhere on forums and such that people think of this as a light-lamps; and frankly I can see that resemblance too. As a matter of fact, I did a Google image search with the Orb and found that Google thinks this is indeed some form of a lamp.
At the end of the day, whatever your association is, you simply can’t avoid its impact and presence. It’s a champion conversation starter, that also tells time.
The result: a table clock that stings like a bee, moves like a beetle, looks like a futuristic android, and functions like a time-telling enigma.
If I am not wrong, the Starfleet Machine from 2014 was the very first table-clock in collaboration between horological destiny wild child Maximilian Büsser and L’Epée 1839. Since then, they have partnered over a number of projects, with us covering the Destination Moon and the recent Starfleet Explorer.
This new collar is technically a three-way initiative, with an ex-MBF intern being the mastermind, a talented German designer named Maximilian Maertens. This is his third collar with the two brands, having earlier worked on the T-Rex clock and the TriPod.
For the hour-striking mechanism, L’Epée 1839 has used for inspiration its own historic carriage clocks or French “Officer’s clocks”. They developed system that is a hybrid between a clock and a watch striking mechanism to ensure that the chiming mechanism can function even when the clock is laid out flat. The brand has also developed the movement as well as the lacquered transformable sphere.
As a side note, wouldn’t it have been cooler if the sounding mechanism featured a beetle-esque clicking or buzzing sound instead of the traditional cathedral sound?
The new MB&F x L’Epée 1839 Orb features a L’Epée 1839 in-house movement that is comprised of 300 components and 17 jewels, beats at the low frequency of 2.5Hz (18,000 vph), features an Incabloc shock protection system, and impressively boasts of a very generous 8-day power reserve courtesy two barrels (one for the time and the other for the striking of the hours).
This manual-winding movement works with a double-depth square socket key that sets time, winds the movement, and also winds the striking mechanism. It is also nicely finished with polishing, sandblasting, circular and vertical satin finishing and starburst decorations.
It is encased inside a 1.9 kg, 165-components palladium-plated brass and stainless steel main body with aluminium Elytras that are covered with handmade lacquer that is hardened in a kiln and provides that Apple-products like brilliant finish.
That’s All Folks!
There is a George Linley quote that reads: “Oft in the tranquil hour of night, when stars illume the sky, I gaze upon each orb of light, and wish that thou wert by”.
The new MB&F x L’Epée 1839 Orb is a poetic expression of time-telling, one so powerful in its impact, that if the owner is travelling sans it, and wakes up in his hotel suite somewhere, gazes at the bedside table, in the middle of quiet, starry night, will be reminded the Orb and wish it was by his side.
I reckon the next step should be for the brand to develop a foldable, compact, travelling version of this. This could also be a Transformer-like toy for the kids. With the talents of the forces behind this Orb, the possibilities are unlimited.
Whether you place it like a stationary saucer or play around with its four elytra to create interesting poses, the black and white orbs of perfect horological symphony are there to help you keep a check on time.
To find out more about the new MB&F x L’Epée 1839 Orb and other MB&F watches, head to their website here. All images unless otherwise specified are Courtesy ©MB&F SA 2018. Make sure to check out our reviews of other 2021 novelties here.