Watches: MB&F Legacy Machine N°1 Xia Hang (+live pics)

By Thierry Ané on March 2, 2014

A glance at any of the stunning watches produced by Maximilian Büsser and his friends is largely enough to realise that their so-called “machines” are more than just breathtaking pieces of fine watchmaking. By their shape, or dare I say poetry, they transcend their initial purpose and rightfully become pieces of art.

There are no coincidences and it is extremely fitting that the brand should choose to create an art space, the M.A.D Gallery in Geneva, to display its mechanical wonders among other examples of modern art.

With such a keen sensitivity for all things artistic, it was only a matter of time before MB&F started collaborations with renowned artists. And, over the years, the charity auction Only Watch has provided an excellent platform for the brand to showcase the creativity that can result from such partnerships. The Horological Machine N°2 Sage Vaughn in 2009 or the Horological Machine N°4 Huang Hankang in 2011 perfectly exemplify how powerful the combination of art and watchmaking can be.

All these sensational pieces, however, only used art as a way of embellishing the timepiece: there was no interaction per se between art and watchmaking, merely a tasteful juxtaposition of both. With the new Legacy Machine N°1 Xia Hang (red gold or white gold) the brand brings the relation between art and watchmaking to a whole new level. It is no longer just a combination of both: we are truly witnessing the fusion of these two worlds!

This new Legacy Machine retains all of the 19th century pocket watch-inspired features of the original LM1 models (red gold or white gold). Jean-François Mojon (Chronode) remains responsible for the mechanical expertise and Kari Voutilainen for the visualization of the design. The watch thus includes the mesmerizing suspended slowly oscillating balance wheel and the two independent time zone indications. One tiny detail, though, makes it fundamentally different.

The three-dimensional power reserve indicator has now been replaced with a highly polished 4 millimetre aluminium figurine designed by Chinese sculptor Xia Hang. With its distinctive shape, this little “comma man”, as the artist calls it, represents a chubby boy inspired by a selection of art pieces he created between 2005 and 2008.

What makes it so unique is that Xia Hang’s creation actually interacts with the watch’s inner workings. Indeed, by observing his posture, the owner can assess how much power is left in the movement. At the start of the day, when the watch is fully wound, the little figurine sits up straight, full of energy, and is referred to as “Mr Up” by the brand. As the day progresses and energy is used, the little boy starts to feel tired. Thanks to a concealed hinge, the head, shoulders, back and chest of “Mr Up” slowly bend down as he gradually transforms to “Mr Down”. It is time to wind the watch again and breathe new life into him.

Mr Up

Mr Down

Naturally, several other high-end brands have collaborated with famous artists to create one-of-a-kind timepieces but in all the examples I can think of, art was used in a purely decorative way. This Legacy Machine N°1 Xia Hang makes horological history. It blurs the boundaries between the world of art and that of watchmaking to introduce a new form of time-telling kinetic art. Undoubtedly the most intriguing model presented this year so far…

MB&F offers two versions of this exceptional model: one in red gold with a grey sunray plate and brown alligator strap and one in white gold with a blue sunray plate and black alligator strap. Twelve pieces of each rendition will be produced and the retail price is CHF 99,000. Each Legacy Machine is accompanied by a pair of large-scale sculptures: Mr. Up and Mr. Down in highly polished stainless steel signed by Xia Hang.

For a technical description of the timepieces and additional pictures: