Angus Davies reviews the MB&F MOONMACHINE by Stepan Sarpaneva. This timepiece represents an interesting collaboration between the Finnish watchmaker and Max Büsser’s innovative luxury watch brand, MB&F.
I have had the privilege of meeting Stepan Sarpaneva and there are two things which strike you about the Finnish watchmaker. Firstly, he has an immense ability to create watches bestowed with an individual, innovative and highly original design. They harness high precision horology with sublime finissage. Secondly, Stepan has a remarkable talent to raise one eyebrow in an inquisitive manner. This may sound a strange feat to mention, but seeing is believing. Clearly, Mr Sarpaneva thinks it has an attention grabbing appeal, he has made it his trademark.
Sarpaneva has spent time working for various prestigious names in the field of haute horology including Piaget and Parmigiani Fleurier. It is whilst at Parmigiani Fleurier that he worked alongside the much respected and fellow Finn, Kari Voutilainen. Kari is another personal hero of mine and his watches are stunning in their execution.
MB&F, the brainchild of Maximilian Büsser has wowed the horological cognoscenti with its avant garde timepieces. I have previously waxed lyrical about the gorgeous MB&F Legacy Machine No.1 and it remains a personal favourite I would dearly love to own.
Some MB&F designs are more controversial and likely to divide opinion. I have sometimes viewed images of models or handled them and initially been repelled by the aesthetics. However, reacquaintance has on occasion lead to a 180 degree u-turn and feeling of adoration has sometimes overwhelmed me. That is the thing about art. We sometimes discover facets of a design which we miss on first glance, but later they creep up on our blindside and we succumb to hidden charms.
MB&F create horological pieces of art. They go beyond the mere functionality of a timepiece and confer thought provoking forms which cleverly impart time with inspired conception.
The MB&F MOONMACHINE is the product of a collaboration between MB&F and Stepan Sarapaneva. It is based on the HM3 Frog, an existing model from the MB&F range. However, this has provided a canvas, partly drawn by Eric Giroud and then completed with Stepan’s unique design language.
The dial and case
The watch is available in a choice of three cases; natural titanium, black titanium and red gold. Whilst I often prefer watches presented in cases made of gold, it is the black titanium model which appeals to me most. This version suits the contemporary character of the timepiece and proffers nocturnal symbolism which suits the watch.
The choice of case material dictates the colour scheme of the watch. My preferred model features white gold moon faces set against a dark blue sky. The design is a departure from the typical moon phases often found on watch dials.
Stepan has often focussed on the beguiling appeal of the moon. It may be borne out of a childhood staring at the prolonged darkness of a winter sky in his native Finland. Yet, one thing is certain it forms part of the Sarpaneva design DNA. Moreover, the Korona ring often found on timepieces bearing his own name also features on this model.
As you admire the moon face, a depiction of Stepan’s face, you will note it is located on a dark blue sky. This is actually the winding rotor, decorated with laser-pierced stars representing the constellations visible in the northern sky.
The blend of form and function is exquisite. The metallic appearance of the blue disc, formed from steel and 22-carat gold, is enchanting.
The asymmetrical shape of the case is comfortable on the wrist and the crown does not gouge or scrape the skin.
The dome-shaped displays atop the case are an inspired flourish of style. But, beyond ingenious arrangement is a user-friendly method of reading time. One dome, marked “H”, shows hours using Arabic numerals, indicated with a tear shaped marker. The second dome is marked “M” and displays minutes, with a combination of large and small numerals arranged in integers of 5 minutes. The white Arabic numerals are presented in a neoteric font at ease with the modernity of the watch.
The three-dimensional movement was designed by Jean-Marc Wiedderrecht / Agenhor. It is based on a Sowind base and has been modified by Stepan Sarpaneva.
Convenience is provided by a self-winding movement. However, it is the inventive depiction of the sky, moon face and stars on the star-pierced steel and 22-carat gold rotor which makes this über-cool timepiece so appealing.
Traditionalists should not fear, this watch does not eschew fine finishing. The main plate is decorated with perlage. Bridges are decorated with Côtes de Genève motif. Close examination of the “engine”, to use MB&F parlance, reveals a combination of sunray-brushing on some wheels with other components snailed with a spiral-shaped motif.
The two aluminium domes for the hour and minute receive power from the mainspring via a newly developed gear train. The power sent to the aluminium domes is transmitted via ceramic ball bearings which are visible via the sapphire caseback.
A further testament to the quality of the movement is the 36 functional jewels present and the vast number of components, 319 in total. This is a remarkably high number of components for a watch which has hour, minutes and moon phase displays. However, it is indicative of the complexity of the engineering required to deliver this incomparable timepiece.
The MB&F MOONMACHINE is a timepiece which will encourage debate. Some will not take to its unconventional looks. Others will fall for its charms and be drawn to the blue-sky thinking of those who brought the concept to fruition. I fall into the latter group.
In life many goods lack inspiration. They seek the safe route of commercial conservatism, scared of pushing boundaries or taking risks. If you look at many family cars which grace our roads, they are honed in wind tunnels with near homogenous results. They neither excite nor innovate.
I applaud Büsser & Sarpaneva. They have taken risks with this watch and as a result have created a horological masterpiece. It harnesses engineering excellence and presents it in an artistic form worthy of any art gallery.
I look forward to seeing the next novelties which originate from these two friends who have certainly raised a few eyebrows.
Model: MB&F MOONMACHINE by Stepan Sarpaneva
Model reference: 34.BTL.B
Case: Black titanium case; dimensions 47 mm x 50 mm; height 19mm ; water resistant to 3 bar (30 metres); sapphire crystal to the front and caseback.
Functions: Hours; minutes; moon phase
Movement: Three-dimensional horological engine designed by Jean-Marc Wiederrecht/Agenhor; self-winding movement; frequency 28,800 vph (4 Hz); 36 jewels; power reserve 45 hours; 319 parts
Strap: Black hand-stitched leather strap with titanium deployant
Angus is a self-confessed watch addict and is frequently asked to contribute to various printed magazines and websites around the globe. He also writes for individual watch companies on matters of horology and has appeared on television and radio as an industry expert.