MB&F ‘Arachnophobia’ by L’Epée 1839

This time, the latest horological machine coming out of MB&F’s high tech lab in Geneva reminds us a creepy creature that injects fear to our minds whenever it comes across.

The name ‘Arachnophobia’ itself indicates how powerful is the new creation from the Geneva based watch brand which is established since 2005 and produces extreme horological machines. Named Arachnophobia, which means fear of spiders, this eye-catching three-dimensional sculpture, which is also an impeccably finished table (and wall) clock, was conceived and developed by MB&F, and engineered and crafted by L’Epée 1839 – Switzerland’s only specialised high-end clock manufacture.

Arachnophobia was inspired by a giant spider sculpture called Maman that Büsser had seen in both Geneva and Doha. Maman (mother in French), was created by Louise Bourgeois (1911 – 2010) in bronze, stainless steel, and marble. Measuring 9.27 x 8.91 x 10.24 metres (more than 30 x 33 feet), the monumental sculpture has been installed in a variety of locations around the world.

Büsser developed the highly unusual concept with L’Epée, selecting a high-end L’Epée clock movement and re-imagining it as the mechanical head and torso of a spider. The body is outfitted with a black dome with white numerals depicting the hours and minutes. The araneae’s self-sufficiency is to be admired, for the finely-finished, highly-visible movement boasts a power reserve of eight days.

At either end of Arachnophobia’s time-displaying abdomen, important mechanical processes take place: the head houses the regulator with its oscillating balance wheel (and a set of jaws in case it gets peckish at night), while the other end contains the mainspring barrel, which powers the movement. Attached to the abdomen are eight, visually enticing legs articulated where they join the body by ball-and-socket joints. The legs can be rotated so that Arachnophobia can stand tall on a desk or splayed flat for wall mounting. A third position provides an optical treat for fans of large arachnids: the front legs can be moved forward while the six others maintain the standing position, an interesting and alarming posture that says, look out!

Arachnophobia is available in two colours, black or yellow gold. While individual tastes will vary, the black version is more realistic-looking and may be even intimidating to some; the gilded model has a more sculptured artistic appearance. While Arachnophobia is not nearly as large as the sculpture that inspired it, at 405 mm in diameter with the legs fully extended, or hanging on a wall, it is certainly large enough to make a real impression.

Arachnophobia comprises no fewer than 218 components; each one (except the jewels) machined and finished at L’Epée’s Swiss atelier.

Manufacturing realistic legs to faithfully replicate MB&F’s unusual design was no easy task. L’Epée had to find a solution for the legs that ensured that they would be both realistic-looking and articulated. The legs also had to conform to the standards of high watchmaking in that they could be nicely finished by hand. L’Epée came up with the novel solution of injection moulding metal to obtain the precise geometry needed. Injection moulding is a process of manufacturing components by injecting material (in this case metal) into a mould. The material is first subjected to high heat, then forced into the mould cavity. It then cools to the desired shape before being removed from the mould. While this is a very common process for shaping plastics, it is less common for shaping metals.

Arachnophobia is available in two colours, yellow gold and black, which required two different metals for the legs. The gold-coloured edition features gilded brass legs, while the black version’s legs are made of injection-moulded aluminium, which is hand-finished and lacquered black. Finishing techniques used on the clock’s “body” and legs include anglage, mirror polishing, satin finishing, circular satin finishing, sand-blasting, and polishing.  To really make a statement, L’Epée has also developed a system enabling Arachnophobia to be hung on a wall. An innovative catch underneath the movement hooks on to a stainless steel wall bracket.

In creating Arachnophobia’s highly visible movement, L’Epée had to transform its eight-day movement to look more like a spider body. The palladium-plated main plates were redesigned as was the layout of the gear train to fit the design. The escapement was rotated 90° to better represent the head.

The hours and minutes are read on a high dome representing the spider’s body, with rotating curved hands indicating hours and minutes on a polished, central dome featuring MB&F’s signature numerals.

The movement’s regulating organ features an Incabloc shock protection system, which minimises the risk of damage when the clock is being transported. This type of shock protection is generally only seen in wristwatches. The index mechanism for fine-tuning the timing, along with the other components of this all-important high-precision subassembly, are clearly visible on the head.

The movement features superlative fine finishing of the type generally found on the finest wristwatches, including Côtes de Genève, anglage, polishing, sand-blasting, and circular and vertical satin finishing. However, finely finishing a clock movement is far more challenging than finishing a wristwatch because of the greater surface areas of the larger components.

The underside of the spider is the key (quite literally) to winding and setting Arachnophobia.

Technical Specifications
Arachnophobia is available in black and 18k yellow gold-plated editions.
Hours and minutes: curved hands rotate to indicate hours and minutes on a polished, central dome featuring MB&F’s signature numerals.
L’Epée in-house designed and manufactured movement.
Balance frequency: 18,000 bph / 2.5Hz
Power reserve: 8 days
Total components: 218
Jewels: 11
Incabloc shock protection system
Mechanism in palladium-plated brass or gold-plated brass
Winding: key winding and setting on underside of clock
Movement finishing: includes Côtes de Genève, anglage, polishing, sand-blasting, circular and vertical satin finishing
Dimensions: 203 mm in height (legs extended); clock diameter (legs flat) 405 mm; movement dimensions 75.3 x 134.9 x 63.8 mm
Weight: gold-plated version 1.96 kg; black version 0.98 kg

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