MB&F (which by now most watch aficionados know stands for “Max Büsser and Friends”) has built its brand equity on uniting some of the world’s most inventive and renowned independent watch artisans, and the new Legacy Machine Thunderdome, unveiled today after sneak previews last fall, is no exception. Not only does this wildly unconventional timepiece feature a world-first, proprietary tourbillon device; it also marks the first collaboration between watchmakers Eric Coudray and Kari Voutilainen.
The heart of the latest piece in Bussser’s popular Legacy Machine series — offered in two limited editions in either a tantalum or platinum case — is the so-called TriAx tourbillon mechanism designed by Coudray, developer of, among other standout high complications, Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Gyrotourbillon. It replaces the traditional but more cumbersome system, which links one tourbillon cage with each rotating axis, with a three-axis, two-cage configuration that allows for maximum visibility of the tourbillon escapement’s beating heart — all under a large domed sapphire crystal that gives the model its cinematic, sci-fi nickname (the fact that the idea, as with all MB&F inventions, sprang from the fertile imagination of company founder “Mad” Max Busser is just a happy coincidence.) Off-center at 6 o’clock is an analog subdial with Roman numerals on which the watch tells the time with two blued hands.
To control the rate of energy escaping from the movement’s barrel, MB&F and Coudray opted for a so-called Potter escapement, named after 19th century watchmaker Albert H. Potter, which is notable for its use of a fixed escape wheel rather than the more common, mobile wheel. This combination of a fixed wheel within a tri-axial mechanism, has never been used in watchmaking before. It allows for higher rotational speeds for the cages — the innermost completing a turn every 8 seconds, the intermediate one every 12 seconds, and the outermost cage making its full orbit every 20 seconds. All of this, of course, makes for a visually dynamic horological tableau on the dial side of the watch, aided by the hemispherical balance, which wraps around the helical hairspring.Perhaps most amazingly, the combined weight of the entire multi-axis mechanism is slightly less than 1 gram.
Despite the dizzying, hypnotic effect that the front of the watch offers, the rear side of the movement, visible through the clear caseback, is where you’ll find the legendary craftsmanship of Voutilainen on proud display. (Of course, the stunning, delicately applied circular guilloché pattern on the blued front dial is also pure Voutilianen.) Coudray and Voutilainen worked closely together to accomplish an unprecedented marriage of technology and decoration: for the first time in an MB&F watch, Voutilainen applied his signature finishing style — a secret process closely guarded in Voutilainen’s workshops that involves special tools — onto the movement’s ratchet wheels. Additionally, the smoothly rounded bridges, with their hand-beveled edges and mirrored curves, provide an elegant, “quiet” contrast to the rolling “thunder” of the front side’s tirelessly spinning tourbillon cages.
The LM Thunderdome, with a 44-mm case and a blue hand-stitched alligator strap, is being launched in two limited editions: 33 pieces in platinum 950, with a light-blue guilloché dial plate (pictured), and 10 pieces in tantalum, with five pieces bearing a dark-blue guilloché dial and five pieces with an inlaid aventurine dial. The retail price of the platinum edition is CHF 270,000 + VAT ($280,000 + tax).