Indie brand MB&F has let master engraver Eddy Jaquet turn the Legacy Machine Split Escapement into tiny works of engraved art with a series of eight unique pieces featuring tableaux from the novels of Juler Verne has imagined by the engraver. The Legacy Machine ‘Eddy Jaquet’ Limited Edition models are an extra-ordinary mix of artisanal engraving and high watchmaking.
The Legacy Machine Split Escapement, launched in 2017, features an interesting movement architecture that isolates the model’s characteristic flying balance wheel on the dial side while moving the anchor and the escape wheel beneath the dial and visible through the caseback. The Legacy Machine range is best known for audacious designs inspired by timepieces made in the 18th and 19th century.
Incidentally, Eddy Jaquet has been a constant presence on the Legacy Machines all these years. The flowing script seen on the movement is made in Eddy Jaquet’s hand. The sci-fi world of Jules Verne was a fitting literary companion to the Legacy Machines considering the old-world inspiration of this watch – founder Max Büsser has said that this was the kind of watch he would have created if he was born 150 years ago.
After reportedly pouring through about 60 of Verne’s novels, Jaquet short-listed eight stories for his work including the much-loved Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea. The other seven are 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.
Highly notable is the fact that none of these illustrations are drawn from an existing piece of art. They are conceived by Jaquet after reading the source books by Jules Verne and viewing any other secondary films or creative work based on the books. Each engraving is an intricate tableau of scenes and key moments from the stories. Jaquet have to exercise his creativity and engraving skill within the exigencies and limitations set by the LM SE engine.
The designated engraving space was the dial plate, which presents a flat upper surface in the main LM SE series, but is actually of variable thickness on its reverse side in order to accommodate the different components of the engine. Engraving the dial plate as if it was uniformly thick throughout was not possible — careful consideration had to be made as to where the thinner areas were, so as not to inadvertently puncture the artistic canvas if a particular section required deep-relief engraving.
All the watches are cased in 18k 5N red gold that measures 44.5 mm in diameter. Several adjustments were made to the original LM Split Escapement so as to maximize the available engraving space. New, open-worked date and power-reserve subdials were created, along with wider dial plates. The bezel was redesigned to be slimmer, and the case dimensions reworked (the original case width was 44 mm), in order to make space for the wider dial plate. The domed crystal too has a less pronounced curve since its diameter was now increased.
Jaquet applied a dark rhodium alloy by hand, adjusting the shading of each detail according to the exigencies of the scene. The smoke of the fire on the Michel Strogoff dial, for example, required a tempered touch, while the underwater scene depicted on the Journey to the Centre of the Earth dial incorporated gradient-shading techniques. Between the redesign of a number of components and the actual execution of the engraved dial itself, over 300 hours of additional labour were required for each of these watches.
On the LM Split Escapement, the impulse jewel, anchor and escape wheel are visible through the transparent caseback while the 14 mm wide balance wheel is left to solely dominate the dial under a domed sapphire crystal. This is not the first time an escapement has been split. Stephen McDonnell, the Irish watchmaker who collaborated with the brand on this timepiece, used this first on the Legacy Machine Perpetual that was unveiled in 2015. The LM SE engine is driven by two barrels in parallel that provides the watch with 72 hours of energy when fully wound.
As mentioned, there are only eight watches in this series, all unique. They will retail for a price of $162,000.