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Baselworld 2015: MB&F Melchior with specs and price

by Chester Lau on March 19, 2015

MB&F celebrates its first decade in 2015; to commemorate this milestone, the Geneva-based Horological lab will present a number of Anniversary Pieces during the year, under the theme: ”A creative adult is a child who survived”. The first piece is the MB&F Melchior, created with L’Epée 1839: an impressive kinetic robot which may remind you of your childhood dreams, but also happens to be an impeccably finished, 480-component mechanical table clock.

The Melchior may appear to be a boy’s fantasy toy in his imaginary war with Darth Vader. But this Robot is in fact a majestic high-end table clock featuring jumping hours, sweeping minutes, double retrograde seconds and a 40day power reserve; a tribute to refined, classic clock- and watchmaking.

Melchior-Light-Closeup_Lres

The movement regulator features an Incabloc shock protection system, which minimises the risk of damage when the clock is being transported. This sort of shock protection is generally only seen in wristwatches. For clear reading of the hour, L’Epée developed a ‘slow’ jumping hour. This in-house complication sees the hour disc remain static for 55 minutes, then start to turn five minutes before the new hour so that the change of hour is smooth and subtle.

Christening this roboclock ‘Melchior’ – after a traditional forename in his family – Büsser developed the concept with designer Xin Wang, selecting a high-end L’Epée clock movement and reimagining it as the mechanical head and torso of a robot. Jumping hours and sweeping minutes on Melchior’s chest are displayed via discs bearing MB&F’s signature numerals – with pointers incorporated into the breastplate – while a dial on Melchior’s abdomen is the power reserve indicator. And this robot’s self-sufficiency is to be admired, for the finely-finished, highly-visible movement boasts a power reserve of 40 days – for most table clocks, it is eight days – thanks to five main spring barrels which help make up Melchior’s rippling torso.

Melchior-Light-Dark-face_Lres

The winding/time-setting key clips into Melchior’s left elbow joint socket. L’Epée needed to develop several new components: Machining, finishing and assembling a piece like the bulging glass dome forming Melchior’s skull was a first for L’Epée, as was crafting a stainless steel winding/time-setting key to resemble a Gatling gun.

Of special interest to watch collectors, Melchior’s exclusive table clock movement features the same type of mechanisms as a wristwatch – gear train, mainspring barrel (here five, in series), balance wheel, escape wheel and anchor – but their dimensions are far larger. The movement also features superlative fine finishing – Côtes de Genève, anglage, polishing, sand-blasting, circular and vertical satin finishing – that is seen on a wristwatch. However, finely finishing a clock movement is far more challenging than finishing a wristwatch because of the greater surface areas of the larger components.

Melchior-Light-face_Lres

Where precision was critical – Melchior’s kinetic parts or his precision rocket launcher, for instance – plated brass was selected. His armour on the other hand is crafted mainly in stainless steel, providing optimal resistance to withstand any enemy attacks. And for the finishing touch, L’Epée have applied a range of eye-catching finishes to Melchior’s bodywork – including anglage, mirror polishing, satin finishing, circular satin finishing, sand-blasting and polishing.

But now for the fun part. A true robot companion is one you can play with and Melchior doesn’t disappoint. His steel upper arms rotate and his lower arms pivot up or down – excellent manoeuvrability for aiming his rocket launcher or Gatling gun to blast away the bad guys. And in a neat design touch, his gun detaches and doubles as the winding/setting key for the movement.

The retrograde action of Melchior’s expressive eyes marks off intervals of 20 seconds. A combination of fixed vents and revolving discs, both bearing radial propeller motifs, gives the impression that Melchior is closing and opening his eyes – the resulting blinking effect endows the robot with a hint of endearing human-like personality. Further animation is provided by the regulator, its gentle beating and intricate composition made visible thanks to its polished glass dome cover. If the protective dome acts like a skull, then the regulator symbolises Melchior’s brain at work; just as the brain governs the body, the regulator governs the clock’s remarkable precision.

Melchior-Light-Back_Lres

L’Epée CEO Arnaud Nicolas -“We had a real blast making Melchior with MB&F,” he says. “Melchior is not just a table clock, it is a kinetic sculpture for eternal children and includes lots of small details, the type that we love working on at L’Epée. It was a stimulating technical challenge”.

Working from MB&F’s design, L’Epée diligently developed the various bodywork and armour components, carefully choosing materials according to the properties required.  “L’Epée are amazing, a joy to work with,” says Maximilian Büsser. “They always step up to the plate, no matter how original, how challenging the design”.

Melchior is limited to 99 pieces and is available in a monochromatic ‘light’ edition or a two-tone ‘dark and light’ edition featuring black PVD-treated components. Melchior comprises no fewer than 480 components, each one machined and finished at L’Epée’s Swiss atelier, bar the 50 movement jewels. An impressive 334 components make up the movement, while another 146 pieces comprise Melchior’s bodywork and armour.

Price~ 35000CHF

Technical Specs

DISPLAY

Jumping hours and sweeping minutes

Twin discs forming part of Melchior’s breast plate, one disc displaying hours, the other disc minutes, both featuring MB&F’s signature numerals Retrograde seconds

Flyback discs mark 20-second intervals behind a steel mask Power reserve indicator

Dial on abdomen providing intuitive view of remaining energy

MOVEMENT

L’Epée in-house designed and manufactured movement

Balance frequency: 18,000 bph / 2.5Hz Barrels: 5 in series

Power reserve: 40 days

Movement components: 334 Jewels

50 Incabloc shock protection system

Mechanism in palladium-plated brass

Manual-winding: double-depth square socket key sets time and winds movement

Movement finishing: includes Côtes de Genève, anglage, polishing, sand-blasting, circular and vertical satin finishing

MELCHIOR’S BODY AND ARMOUR

Dimensions: 30.3cm x 21.7cm (depending on position of the arms) x 11.2cm

Weight: 6.3kg Body/armour components: 146

HEAD

Dome: polished glass screwed via polished and bevelled palladium-plated brass bezel

Retrograde seconds display in stainless steel

Movement mainplate in palladium-plated brass

TORSO

Breastplate (forming hour and minute hands) in palladium-plated brass

Abdomen (power reserve indicator frame) in stainless steel

Ribcage/spine (formed by skeletonised mainplate) in palladium-plated brass

LEGS

Pelvis, thighs, shins and feet in stainless steel

Hips (long central bars joining pelvis) in stainless steel

SHOULDERS AND ARMS

Shoulders, upper arms and lower arm sockets in stainless steel; magnet in left arm socket

Right forearm: screwed-in rocket with chrome-plated brass body and stainless steel warhead

Left forearm: Gatling gun/detachable stainless steel winding key with palladium-plated brass

Body and armour finishing includes anglage, mirror polishing, satin finishing, circular satin finishing, sand-blasting, polishing. ‘Shoulders’, ‘pelvis’ and skeletonised mainplate treated with black PVD for the two-tone ‘dark and light’ edition of Melchior

 

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