The MB&F LM101 was introduced last year. This year this unique model is brought to an even higher level trough real craftsmanship. By reinventing the frosted finish, first used in the late 18th an early 19th centuries, the watch gets a whole new look to it.
First presented in 2014, Legacy Machine 101 embodies and accentuates what is essential in a wristwatch: the balance wheel, which is responsible for regulating precision; how much power remains in the mainspring, which indicates when it needs to be next wound; and of course, the time. With the new ‘Frost’ limited editions, those essential LM101 elements now contrast magnificently against the effervescent backdrop of the frosted gold dial − which paradoxically is not really a dial at all, but the top plate of the movement. Additional contrast is provided by Frost’s highly polished bezel and lugs, which make the matte surface of the frosted dial really pop.
Abraham-Louis Breguet is credited with inventing the “frosted” finish (“finition grenée” in French) in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. At the time, frosting protected dials and movements from oxidation – more common in Breguet’s day – and added subdued vivacity to movement plates. Traditional frosting methods involved dangerous acids which have been largely replaced by the environmentally (and medically) safer method of carefully compressing the surface with a wire brush. However, this is a much more difficult process to master and obtain a uniform, non-polished surface. Very few artisans today create true frosted finishes: the majority of surfaces that look frosted have in fact been bead blasted, which does not quite have the same visual impact.
Visually, LM101 Frost is dominated by the monumental suspended balance wheel, now rhodium plated so that it stands out even more. Two pristine-white subdials hover just above the fine frosted movement top plate: contrasting blued-gold hands display hours and minutes at the top right, while the 45-hour power reserve indicator is displayed below.
LM101 Frost’s highly domed sapphire crystal is virtually invisible, creating the illusion that you can reach out and touch the prodigious balance wheel hanging mesmerisingly from elegant twin arches. The arches are milled from a solid block of metal requiring hours of hand polishing to achieve its mirror-like lustre.
Turning over LM101 Frost, the display back crystal – domed to reduce the thickness of the caseband and, visually, the height of the watch – reveals the exquisitely hand-finished movement. Sensually curved plates and bridges, hand polished bevels, gold chatons and countersunk blued screws pay homage to the style found in historic pocket watches and testify to the respect accorded to historical legitimacy.
While award-winning independent watchmaker Kari Voutilainen took responsibility for the movement’s fine finishing and fidelity to the horological past, its architecture and construction were developed in-house by MB&F.
Legacy Machine 101 Frost is available in two limited editions: 18 pieces in yellow gold and 33 pieces in red gold.
LM101 Frost – in detail
Dial and Indications:
The animated suspended balance has always visually dominated LM101 and the frosted movement top plate amplifies this even more. Set off by the frosted finish, the blued-gold hands and pristine white dials for the time (hours and minutes) and power reserve indications are both aesthetically appealing and highly legible.
The dials are gently domed with a translucent, high-gloss lustre created using a laque tendue process in which multiple layers of lacquer are applied and heated, causing them to stretch over the surface of the dials. To ensure aesthetic purity of the dials, a sophisticated fixation underneath removes the necessity of visually obtrusive attachment screws. A fine golden perimeter circumscribing each dial elegantly reinforces their timeless classicism.
In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, frosting was created by treating the components with a special acid mixture and then heating on an open flame (what could possibly go wrong). The result was a silvery-white effect looking similar to frost, which protected the surfaces from oxidation; this was important when watches and clocks were not water resistant at all.
As watchmakers became more attentive to the potential hazards associated with working with powerful acids, alternative methods were explored, the most effective – in terms of the quality of finish – being to very carefully brush the surface with a wire brush. However, it is extremely difficult to obtain a uniform result because just slightly too much pressure or brushing for too long can quickly ruin the desired matte surface with uneven polish.
Today there are very few craftsmen with the skills and experience necessary for creating a traditional frosted finish, and they closely guard their secrets. Modern traditional brushed frosting actually burnishes the surface (compresses the metal without removing material), creating a finish so hard that it is impossible to hand engrave.
Presented for the first time in 2014, the LM101 movement is an entirely new calibre conceived and developed in-house by MB&F.
The balance wheel and spring are at the very heart of any mechanical watch movement and their isochronal (equal intervals of time) oscillations regulate the movement’s precision. MB&F founder Maximilian Büsser has long been fascinated by the large slowly oscillating balance wheels of antique pocket watches (2.5 Hz/18,000 vph compared with the much faster 4 Hz/ 28,800 vph more common today). So it was no surprise that this was his starting point.
What was surprising though is just how radically he re-interpreted tradition by relocating the balance wheel from its more usual position hidden at the back of the movement to majestically floating not just the above movement, but high above the dial. While the location of LM101’s oscillator may be considered avant-garde, ‘tradition’ is upheld by the large 14mm diameter balance wheel, featuring regulating screws specifically developed for MB&F, balance spring with Breguet overcoil and mobile stud holder.