Max Büsser and his team at MB&F collaborated with renowned French watch designer Alain Silberstein in 2009 on the HM2.2 “Black Box,” the first in its series of “Performance Art” timepieces. Today, the brand announces the latest in the series — and one imbued even more deeply with Silberstein’s distinctive design DNA — the MB&F LM1 Silberstein.
For this newest Performance Art piece — which was revealed to me at a top-secret preview during Baselworld 2016 — Silberstein used as his canvas the popular MB&F Legacy Machine No. 1, perhaps the most horologically traditional in the brand’s largely unconventional portfolio, and embellished it with the elements for which his own watches are known, namely the prominent usage of three bright primary colors — red, yellow, and blue — and three geometrical shapes — triangle, rectangle, and circle — all of which are put to use in the hands and dial markers. The color choices for each indicator, as per Silberstein’s design ethic, are based in visual practicality: the hour hand, generally the first bit of information one looks at when reading the time, has a brighter color (red) and a larger surface area (triangle) than the minute hand (a thin blue rectangle). Similarly colorful, three-dimensional versions of the shapes — a blue cone, red cube, and yellow sphere — are employed to make up the 3D, vertically moving power-reserve indicator at 6 o’clock, a watch-world first, according to MB&F.
Silberstein’s design philosophy of “eternal time,” and welcoming it into the watch, also informed another standout feature of this new Legacy Machine, the concave subdials — contrasting with the convex sapphire crystal and clear, convex balance bridge over the dial — which display the time in two independent time zones. The hands also have a concave curve to them, the better to seamlessly complement the curvature of the dial. The convex crystal, in the design parlance of Silberstein (below), offers “protection” for the watch, while the concave dial elements “catch” time, attracting it inward from the universe.
The Frenchman also broke with the original LM1 design with his proposal of a transparent sapphire crystal bridge, replacing the dual arcing bridges that he felt drew too much visual attention from the dial’s main highlights: the timekeeping subdials and the big, dial-side balance. Developed to incredibly tight tolerances in order to support the weight of the balance wheel, the bridge is designed to be essentially invisible.
The movement in the LM1 — developed specially for MB&F based on Busser’s sketches by the experts at Chronode, led by Jean-Francois Mojon, and another rock-star independent watchmaker, Kari Voutilainen — features not only the innovative dial-side regulator, which is designed to appear as if floating above the dial, but a slowly oscillating balance wheel (18,000 vph frequency, as compared to the faster, more common 28,800 of may modern movements) inspired by those used in antique pocketwatches. Its architecture allows the watch’s user to independently set two time zones independently of each other — via the two crowns on either side of the case — as opposed to the vast majority of second-time-zone watches, which allow only the hour to be adjusted in the second zone. The six-sided crowns also emphasize the merging of Silberstein and MB&F design codes, enhanced with the former’s bright colors and the latter’s battleaxe logo.
MB&F strove for historical fidelity to those pocketwatch movements of old in the LM1 caliber’s finishing, which was overseen by Voutilainen. Frosted, elegantly curved bridges; wide spaces between the bridges and case; oversized ruby jewels in polished, countersunk gold chatons; and other 19th-century-style flourishes abound and are on full display through the sapphire caseback. The manual-winding movement, made up of 279 components, including 23 jewels, stores 45 hours of power reserve in its single mainspring barrel.
The case — available in grade 5 titanium (above), grade 5 titanium with black PVD (first three watch photos) treatment, and 18k rose gold (below) — measures 42.5 mm wide by 17 mm thick, is water-resistant to 30 meters, and is comprised of 41 separate pieces. Each case features, engraved on the caseband between the lugs, a quote from French novelist Gustave Flaubert: “Le vrai bonheur est d’avoir sa passion pour metier,” which translates, roughly, as, “Making a profession of your passion is true happiness.” The rose-gold version is offered on a black hand-stitched calfksin strap with black topstitched seams, while both titanium watches come on the same strap with red topstitched seams. Prices for the LM1 Silberstein are $83,000 for both titanium models and $92,000 for the rose-gold; each is limited to just 12 pieces worldwide.