For the first time, MB&F is putting the work of a traditional artisan in the spotlight, with the LM Split Escapement ‘Eddy Jaquet’ Limited Edition: a series of eight unique pieces featuring the extraordinary imagination and skill of the well-known engraver in depicting the novels of Jules Verne.
Summary of the release
Chances are, you’ve never heard of Eddy, an incredibly talented master engraver and one of the many unsung subcontractors of our industry. The friendship between MB&F and Eddy goes back a while: he has been engraving the flowing script on the Legacy Machines for almost a decade – just a tiny hint of his artistic talent.
If you are familiar with his work, you’ll know that Jaquet’s transformative touch can turn a watch into a rich storytelling tapestry. The idea of this series occurred about two years ago during a brainstorming session: knowing how Jules Verne was one of the inspirations of our Legacy Machine collection, the theme came naturally to Max’s mind. And guess what? Eddy happened to be an expert on the subject. After reading (or re-reading) about 60 of his novels, Eddy selected eight stories that he then synthesised into entirely original illustrations. According to Jaquet, the project of a lifetime – for the first time, a series where he had virtually unlimited artistic freedom.
We understand that even when we received the pre-embargo press release, theat all 8 pieces are already sold out. But for the sake of completeness, the retail price of each unique piece is CHF 148,000 + VAT (USD 162,000 + tax)
MB&F x Eddy Jaquet LM Split Escapement
Eddy Jaquet is recognised throughout the rarefied circles of independent watchmaking aficionados as the man whose transformative touch can turn a watch into a rich storytelling tapestry. Those who have followed MB&F for a long time will already be familiar with his work. The flowing script you see on the Legacy Machine engines is made in Eddy Jaquet’s hand; it is the merest hint of his true artistic talent.
“We’ve worked with Eddy for years, but getting Eddy Jaquet to engrave names on movements is like playing Für Elise on a Stradivarius violin — you couldn’t imagine a more modest use of such an amazing gift.”
MB&F founder Maximilian Büsser
The most memorable work of the Neuchatel-based Jaquet is characterised by the depth of its scope and ambition; it is classical in style and heroic in its execution of human figures. In a way, the uniting theme of the LM Split Escapement Eddy Jaquet Limited Edition was inevitable. Says Büsser, “We’re brainstorming around the table, and a theme that comes immediately to mind is the writing of Jules Verne, because I’m so into science fiction, and because the Legacy Machine collection that Eddy has been working on is basically the watch that I would have created if MB&F was founded 150 years ago.”
Because of its wide expanse of surface available for engraving, the Legacy Machine Split Escapement (LM SE) was a natural choice for this unprecedented collaboration.
In his preliminary research for the series, Eddy Jaquet devoured the books of Jules Verne, reading up to 60 novels and short stories by the prolific 19th-century French author. The eight stories that were finally selected to be illustrated in the limited edition include some of his best-loved work such as Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea but also some of the lesser-known stories such as The Adventures Of Captain Hatteras.
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, synthesised in the imagination of Jaquet and expressly designed to be interpreted through the medium of the LM SE engine.
Not only did Jaquet have to exercise his creativity and engraving skill to the utmost, he was also obliged to practise his craft 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.
From the side of production as well, several adjustments were made to the original LM Split Escapement so as to maximise the available engraving space and allow Jaquet to exhibit his savoir-faire to the fullest. New, openworked date and power-reserve subdials were created, along with wider dial plates. The bezel was redesigned to be slimmer, and the case dimensions reworked, in order to make space for the wider dial plate. Because the bezel and case dimensions were changed, a new dial crystal had to be produced, with a less pronounced curve to the dome, since its diameter was now increased.
To fully bring out each illustrated scene, 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 an attenuated touch, while the underground sea 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 unique piece of the LM SE Eddy Jaquet Limited Edition.
The eight Jules Verne stories illustrated in the series are:
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea
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
Robur The Conqueror
Each of the eight unique pieces comes in an 18K red-gold case.
Notes on the engravings
The engraved dial plates of the LM SE Eddy Jaquet Limited Edition are inspired by the stories of Jules Verne, the 19th-century French writer widely acknowledged to be the foremost pioneer of science fiction. For each unique piece, famed engraver Eddy Jaquet read (or re-read, in some cases) the original work by Jules Verne and viewed any significant secondary creative works based on the books, such as the original published illustrations (which would have been approved by Jules Verne) or films. He then created his own original sketches on templates of the dial plate, depicting key scenes from each story, sometimes combining several tableaux in a single dial plate as a graphic tapestry of storytelling.
The dial plate of the piece inspired by the book Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea, for example, shows the submarine Nautilus drifting in the depths of the ocean in an unspecified location; a pair of ruined pillars just above the power-reserve dial hints that this is the scene where Captain Nemo and his crew explore the lost city of Atlantis. The dial plate of the piece inspired by Journey To The Centre Of The Earth, by contrast, brings together scenes of the protagonists descending into the planet’s interior, the subterranean ocean teeming with prehistoric life, and, far off in the distance — spoiler alert! — the erupting volcano that returns them to the surface in the novel’s denouement.
Creating these rich scenes on the limited diameter of the dial plates posed its own particular challenges, some of which Jaquet was able to foresee and plan around, and some that he was obliged to invent solutions for, mid-engraving. While working on the first dial plate to be engraved, the piece inspired by Five Weeks In A Balloon, his detailed project notes include observations about the variable thickness of the dial plate. Although flat on the upper side, the dial plate was highly irregular on its reverse, hollowed out in different places to accommodate the different components of the LM Split Escapement engine.
In certain parts, the dial plate had a thickness of 1.15mm, which allowed Jaquet ample space to engrave even in deep relief. In three particularly vulnerable areas, the dial plate measured only 0.35mm thick, requiring him to work with an extremely light touch in those places while making sure that the overall aesthetic of the engraving, which is intricately detailed, was not compromised.
In the same project notes on this particular dial plate, Jaquet refers to the trio of zebras visible at the date dial, quietly refreshing themselves at a watering hole on the African savannah. These animals were not part of his initial concept sketch, but were added late in the engraving process for a key point of aesthetic balance. This, however, required Jaquet to adjust the placement of two nearby hippopotami, highlighting the agility and adaptive skills essential to this delicate project.
Jaquet frequently uses darkening treatments as a means to draw the eye to certain elements in his dials and to enhance the dramatic rendering of a scene. Instead of the more commonly seen technique of uniformly applying a dark coating, which is then removed in parts to create the necessary contrast, Jaquet opted for a far more labour-intensive (and ultimately more aesthetically impactful) method for Legacy Machine Split Escapement. Using a jeweller’s electroplating pen, Jaquet painstakingly applied a solution containing ions of a dark rhodium alloy to each dial plate. In this technique, the normally silver-white rhodium is alloyed with a secret mix of other metals to impart a lustrous dark-grey coating.
Using the electroplating pen like an artist’s brush, layering the solution in multiple applications and working with the natural tendency of the rhodium electroplating solution to draw itself along the grooves and surfaces of the dial, Jaquet was able to create a wide range of grey tones to suggest different textures and levels of light. This mastery of chiaroscuro technique is demonstrated in the smoky fire depicted on the Michel Strogoff dial — ink-dark in some areas and pierced by light in others, billowing around a church steeple as Jules Verne described in his tale. The sleek dark sheen of hippopotamus skin in the Five Weeks In A Balloon dial is brought out with subtle highlights using a more painterly approach, while the gradient shading of space and sea in From The Earth To The Moon and Journey To The Centre Of The Earth called for rigorous technique, intense focus and complex layering of the rhodium solution to obtain a moiré effect in some parts.