Swiss horological lab MB & F unveils a unique piece of Melchior (a robot-cum-table clock) to Only Watch, a biennial charity auction of unique timepieces under the High Patronage of HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco to raise money for research on Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD).
Melchior is a high-end table clock crafted by L’Epée 1839– Switzerland’s only specialised high-end clock manufacture – featuring jumping hours, sweeping minutes, double retrograde seconds, and an impressive40-day power reserve drawing from five mainspring barrels. Hours and minutes are displayed via discs on Melchior’s chest, while a dial on his abdomen indicates the state of wind of that long power reserve. Melchior’s eyes blink through a combination of fixed vents and revolving discs, endowing the robot with a playful touch of human-like personality.
The unique piece Melchior Only Watch is the 100th and final piece in the Melchior series. Clothed in palladium-plated brass and steel with bright red shoulder pads, Melchior is sure to put smiles on children’s faces and melt the hearts of adults.
MB&F founder Maximilian Büsser developed the Melchior concept with designer Xin Wang in a quest to revisit his childhood hankering for a robot friend. Melchior comprises no fewer than 480 components, each one machined and finished at L’Epée’s Swiss atelier, bar the 50 movement jewels. An impressive 334 components make up the movement, while another 146 pieces comprise Melchior’s bodywork and armour.
Such was the originality of MB&F’s robot concept that L’Epée needed to develop several new components: Machining, finishing and assembling a piece like the bulging glass dome forming Melchior’s skull was a first for L’Epée, as was crafting a stainless steel winding/time-setting key to resemble a Gatling gun.
The winding/time-setting key clips into Melchior’s left elbow joint socket. It is held by a small magnet strong enough to hold the key, but not so powerful as to affect the function of the movement. The key boasts a double-depth square socket that neatly fits over both of the square pegs on the back of Melchior. One of the pegs is for winding the movement, the other for time setting.
Working from MB&F’s design, L’Epée diligently developed the various bodywork and armour components, carefully choosing materials according to the properties required. Where precision was critical – Melchior’s kinetic parts and his precision rocket launcher, for instance – plated brass was selected. His armour on the other hand is crafted mainly in stainless steel, providing optimal resistance to withstand any enemy attacks.
And for the finishing touch, L’Epée have applied a range of eye-catching finishes to Melchior’s bodywork – including anglage, mirror polishing, satin finishing, circular satin finishing, sand-blasting and polishing.
To create Melchior’s highly visible movement, L’Epée developed a completely new skeletonised main plate in palladium-plated brass, which sandwiches the movement mechanism, also in palladium-plated brass.
For clear reading of the hour, L’Epée developed a ‘slow’ jumping hour. This in-house complication sees the hour disc remain static for 55 minutes, then start to turn five minutes before the new hour so that the change of hour is smooth and subtle. The movement regulator features an Incabloc shock protection system, which minimises the risk of damage when the clock is being transported. This sort of shock protection is generally only seen in wristwatches. In fact, Melchior’s exclusive table clock movement features the same type of mechanisms as a wristwatch – gear train, spring barrel (here, five in series), balance wheel, escape wheel, and anchor – but their dimensions are far larger.
The movement also features superlative fine finishing – côtes de Genève, anglage, polishing, sandblasting, circular and vertical satin finishing – that is seen on a wristwatch. However, finely finishing a clock movement is far more challenging than finishing a wristwatch because of the greater surface areas of the larger components.
Melchior Only Watch is a unique piece for Only Watch 2015 with bright red anodised aluminium shoulder pads contrasting against the monochromatic body. The back is engraved “Melchior Only Watch Piece Unique”.
‘Slow’ jumping hours and sweeping minutes: Twin discs forming part of Melchior’s breast plate, one disc displaying hours, the other disc minutes, both featuring MB&F’s signature numerals
Retrograde seconds: Flyback discs mark 20-second intervals behind a steel mask
Power reserve indicator: Dial on abdomen providing intuitive view of remaining energy
L’Epée in-house designed and manufactured movement
Balance frequency: 18,000 bph / 2.5Hz
Barrels: 5 in series
Power reserve: 40 days
Movement components: 334
Incabloc shock protection system
Mechanism in palladium-plated brass
Manual-winding: double-depth square socket key sets time and winds movement
Movement finishing: includes côtes de Genève, anglage, polishing, sandblasting, circular and vertical satin finishing
Melchior’s body and armour
Dimensions: 30.3cm x 21.7cm (depending on position of the arms) x 11.2cm
Body/armour components: 146
Dome: polished glass screwed via polished and bevelled palladium-plated brass bezel
Retrograde seconds display in stainless steel
Movement mainplate in palladium-plated brass
Breastplate (forming hour and minute hands) in palladium-plated brass
Abdomen (power reserve indicator frame) in stainless steel
Ribcage/spine (formed by skeletonised main plate) in palladium-plated brass
Pelvis, thighs, shins and feet in stainless steel
Hips (long central bars joining pelvis) in stainless steel
Shoulders and arms
Shoulders in red anodised aluminium
Upper arms and lower arm sockets in stainless steel; magnet in left arm socket
Right forearm: screwed-in rocket with chrome-plated brass body and stainless steel warhead
Left forearm: Gatling gun/detachable stainless steel winding key with palladium-plated brass
Body and armour finishing includes anglage, mirror polishing, satin finishing, circular satin finishing, sandblasting, polishing.