At MB&F, ‘X’ signifies a 10th-anniversary special edition. The first example being the HMX in 2015, and the latest being last year’s HM3 FrogX. This year marks the 10th year since the launch of Legacy Machine N°1, or LM1, back in October 2011.
“With LMX, we will have come out with eight calibres in nine Legacy Machines in ten years, which is quite incredible in itself. On top of that, there were seven Horological Machine calibres, which means we came out with a total of 15 movements in 10 years.” Maximilian Büsser, the founder of MB&F, told us prior to the launch of LMX. To put this achievement into context, he added: “There is no brand out there that makes around 500 million to a billion dollars in annual revenue that has produced even a quarter of that.”
Between 2005 (when MB&F was founded) and 2011 (when the LM1 was launched), the brand had presented four Horological Machines (HMs), each one more audacious than the previous. Then, in true MF&F style, Maximilian decided it was time for a dramatic change in course. While the HMs were about exploring an imagined future, Maximilian now wanted to explore an imagined past. He pondered: “what would MB&F have created a century ago, during the golden age of watchmaking?” The answer was LM1, a more classical timepiece by MB&F standards.
“LM1 was absolutely not planned,” Maximilian revealed to us while recalling the LM1 story. “There was supposed to be another horological machine after HM4. At that time, I was going through what I will call my ‘balance wheel fetishism’ – I wanted to see the balance wheel of my pieces. After some eight frustrating months of trying and failing to crack that code, I said at a team meeting: we’re going to create a classic round watch with a flying balance wheel and two floating dials.
“Eric Giroud, our designer, got so angry he stormed out of the room. Serge Kriknoff, our CTO, said very respectfully: the team and me, we didn’t join MN&F to create a round, classic watch. I got massive pushback from the team. But my thinking was: this would finally allow me to show a balance wheel, and I am going to do it; even though it made absolutely no sense in the lineup of our brand. But that’s why I created MB&F.”
Thus, LM1 featured MB&F’s first round case, along with two white lacquered dials and blued hands. The star of the show was obviously the hallucinatory “flying” balance wheel, suspended above the dial, as Maximilian intended. It was now free to perform its rhythmic dance in full view of an appreciative audience. The circular theatre was capped by a domed crystal.
The LM1 was followed in 2013 by LM2, featuring two balance wheels. A year later, LM101 became the first MB&F to feature a movement developed entirely in-house. LM Perpetual reinvented the perpetual calendar in 2015, while the LM SE presented the Split Escapement in 2017. In 2019, there were two debutants. The LM Thunderdome set the record for the world’s fastest triple-axis tourbillon, while LM FlyingT became the first MB&F Machine dedicated to women. Last year, The LM Perpetual EVO was presented as an every-day-wearable MB&F wristwatch, even at the beach.
The LMX, the ninth timepiece in the LM line up, simultaneously looks back to LM1 – with its central flying balance wheel and two dials – while also looking forward with a host of new features. In another departure from the LM1, the LMX is available in two limited launch editions. LMX RG (18 pieces) has an 18k red gold case with black NAC treatment on plates and bridges. LMX TI (33 pieces) has a grade-5 titanium case with green CVD treatment on plates and bridges. From a mechanical standpoint, however, both models are identical.
The two angled dials are presented in white lacquer, displaying two different hours and minutes. The dial on the right is set by the crown at the 2 o’clock position. Bearing an engraving of the MB&F battle-axe, this crown also winds the movement. The crown at 10 o’clock, engraved with a globe, sets the time on the left dial to a second time zone. Both dials are tilted at an angle, a feature that debuted on the LM FlyingT. This innovation requires the transfer of energy from horizontal to vertical planes through conical gears.
LMX is quite liberal among the LM models in revealing its functional yet theatrical elements. There are three large wheels on display. Two of them, placed adjacent to the two crowns, are set in motion when setting the time on the corresponding time display. The gear at 6 o’clock is the common seconds’ wheel. Also visible are the battle-axe-shaped escapement bridge and gear-train components.
The balance wheel on the LMX is all-new. It is a 13.4mm behemoth with inertia blocks that marks a departure from the more traditional screwed balances. It offers greater accuracy in regulating the heart of LMX. The polished arms of the straight bridges have been manually finished to impart a curved, or bercé, profile on their upper surfaces.
The world-first vertical power reserve indicator of LM1, finds a new expression on the LMX. The completely new three-dimensional hemispheric display at 12 o’clock showcases the engine’s impressive seven days (168 hours) of power reserve. Customers have the option to select between two modes of counting down the power reserve. The markers on the arched scale, positioned alternatively on opposite sides of the pointer, may either be numbered 1 to 7, or showing the days of the week.
MB&F has added another layer of intricacy by enabling the wearer to adjust the orientation of the entire power-reserve display by rotating it. This is done by simply continuing to wind the battle-axe crown after the power reserve is fully replenished.
The two sets of circular triplets found on the dial – one comprising the two dials and the power reserve indicator, and the other by the three wheels – are complimented on the reverse side. Visible through the sapphire case back are three barrels placed evenly around the centre, and are accentuated by the sunray pattern of the Côtes de Genève finishing.
While most luxury brands release limited editions to commemorate an important chapter in their history, most of these timepieces come with a hefty price tag. Maximilian insists otherwise.
“We always include a gift component to our anniversary piece by offering them at a competitive price,” he explains. “It’s our way of saying thank you to our clients. It is because of them that we are able to reach these milestones. Six years ago, for our 10th anniversary, we created HMX. We only took a little bit of margin on it. Similarly, last year, when we created FrogX, it was the most price competitive full Sapphire watch in the market.”
MB&F, for Maximilian, was never about profit maximisation. It was about bringing to life his boyhood fantasies. “My team often looks at me like, seriously, we should be much more expensive. I say no. We’ve never lost money. We’ve never made money. We’ve got no debt. We’ve got no shareholders. As long as we can finance our next crazy idea, I’m happy.”