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June 18, 2024

MB&F LM101: Suspended In Time

Maximilian Büsser is a genius of modern watchmaking, no question. Each creation he makes with the MB&F’s signature is a blow to the conventions of a market that wants to remain faithful to itself but, at the same time, discover new aesthetics and mechanical inventions. Should we bet on the fact that, among these inventions, the LM101 will leave its a mark in history?

THE BALANCE WHEEL – THE LM101 STAR

We wouldn’t be so sure of our bet if we didn’t know the history of this timepiece – that defined simply as a watch is an understatement. Better to consider it a talisman of haute horology, whose history goes back a long way. Legacy Machine 101, or LM101, was unveiled in 2014 as one of the most compact machines ever created by MB&F.

MB&F LM101

The 40 mm diameter case was and remains quite far from Maximilian Büsser’s standards. In addition, it holds the first caliber entirely conceived in-house by the MB&F design team, a challenge within the challenge that the brand wanted to further emphasize by exposing the heart of the LM101. And when we talk about the heart of a watch, we talk about the balance wheel.

If in the aesthetics and mechanics of traditional watchmaking the balance wheel is hidden behind the movement, in the LM101 it stands out from the shadow of the gear train and the dial to float above it and above the caliber, in a suspended atmosphere enclosed by the domed sapphire glass. A technical choice that those unfamiliar with Büsser may consider almost crazy, but which comes from two very specific directions. On the one hand, the desire to be inspired by the manual caliber of the Legacy Machine No.1, recreating it almost from scratch; on the other, the determination to follow the teachings of history.

A HISTORY’S LESSON

Let me put a footnote, without being boring. The mechanics of the LM101, as well as that of many MB&F watches, pay homage and owe much to that of historic watchmaking. It is no secret that Maximilian Büsser loves 18th- and 19th-century pocket watches, so much so that his Legacy Machines were born from a question that he often asks himself: “What would have happened if I had been born in 1867 instead of 1967?

Perhaps he would have crafted the balance wheels as he crafts them today. Once, in fact, they had rather big dimensions, often at the expense of precision. Also important is the size of the LM101’s balance wheel: it’s 14 mm diameter and has four traditional regulating screws floating above the movement. It oscillates at a low frequency, at 18,000 vibrations/hour, but it is anything but retro thanks to the technological research characterizing it. The same as for the hairspring – the brain of the watch, together with the balance wheel.

MB&F LM101

In the 2021 editions of the LM101, it is a Straumann double hairspring with traditional Breguet curve, which comes from the collaboration between Moser and Precision Engineering: it is a double spiral escapement. Its task is to counteract gravitational influences, which compromise the precision of the movement, as well as being a system of interchangeability of the escapement module itself, which prevents the barrel from discharging uncontrollably.

MB&F LM101
MB&F LM101

These features make it possible to ensure the caliber has a power reserve of 45 hours, more than enough for the refined vocation that the LM101 wants to have. As usual for MB&F, the quality of the finishing of the movement’s parts is the same that the brand puts in the dial’s finishing. With a detail that’s not negligible: the aesthetics and finishes of this caliber were handled by Kari Voutilainen.

MB&F LM101

Maximilian Büsser’s friend and the MB&F team worked following the nineteenth century style, working on internal bevel angles that highlight the hand craft, polished bevels, classic Côtes de Genève finishes and handmade engravings. Voutilainen respected tradition by also creating the bridges with elegantly curved shapes, leaving a large space between the bridges themselves and between their perimeter and the case. A work that was signed on the bridges by the artist who worked on it and which is visible through the sapphire crystal caseback.

THE SHOW IS ON THE DIAL

Ok, the movement is great, but what about the dial, which is worth not only the price of the watch but also a front row seat in the high-end theater of watchmaking? It has truly out-of-the-ordinary aesthetics, dominated by the large suspended balance wheel that accentuates the tridimensionality of the watch.

The beauty stands in the fact that this presence is dominant but not bulky, because it does not minimize the impact of the hours and minutes dial or that of the power reserve, which catch the eye thanks to many tricks. Beyond their blued gold hands, in fact, they accentuate the tridimensional effect of the entire dial thanks to their rounded shape and the so-called “laque tendue” process, in which multiple layers of lacquer are applied and heated, to stretch them over the surface of the dials.

In addition, the counters are fixed on the dial through a sophisticated screwless system which makes them seem almost lying on it. The very domed glass and the sunray pattern engraved on the upper part of the plate increase the impression of depth of the whole dial, so much so that its elements seem to float in a vacuum.

On closer inspection, they float on a colorful sea instead. The 2021 versions of the Legacy Machine 101 are indeed characterized by the classicism of the shapes and the genius of the technical solutions, but also by a very modern touch of color. The version with the white gold case has a fascinating purple dial (€.67.000), which in the steel version becomes a beautiful blue (€.56.000); the reference with a red gold case has a dark royal blue dial (€. 67.000).

MB&F LM101

For these versions of the LM101, Maximilian Büsser chose colors that were more contemporary than those of the first editions in platinum, palladium, red gold and white gold or the “Frosted” versions, which were also beautiful.

MB&F’S CONSISTENCY

Finally, the straps, which we sometimes forget when talking about a watch, even though they are often a basic part in the aesthetic balance of the timepiece – especially if it is a haute horlogerie creation. Well, in the LM101 they are in black, blue, brown alligator, depending on the reference.

MB&F LM101

In short, what more can we say about the LM101? That it is maybe one of the watches that best embodies MB&F’s mission and vocation. Born as the first conceptual watchmaking laboratory in the world, after 16 years the brand continues to follow the vision of its founder and creative director Maximilian Büsser to create kinetic art in 3D by deconstructing traditional watchmaking. Timepieces like the LM101 only confirm the consistency of this project.

By Davide Passoni