Once again, Geneva based Horological Concept Laboratory MB&F and L’Epée 1839, the venerated Swiss watch manufacture of high end mechanical clocks, join hands to create a horological masterpiece, this time a new generation horological robot.
Balthazar is a sophisticated and imposing high-precision robot clock displaying jumping hours, retrograde seconds and a 35-day power reserve. Weighing in at over eight kilograms (18 pounds) and standing nearly 40 centimetres tall (16 inches), Balthazar is composed of 618 beautifully finished, micro-engineered components.
Balthazar boasts dual faces. With amazing 35 days of power reserve, Balthazar’s clockwork displays “slow” jumping hours and trailing minutes via two discs on the chest, while the power reserve indicator is located on his belly. His red eyes, which continually scan the surroundings, are actually 20-second retrograde displays.
Moving higher still to Balthazar’s “brain” under the polished glass dome, we find the precision regulator of the clockwork. Balthazar rotates around the hips like the high-precision machine that he is; you can feel the miniscule bumps of each micro-roller as he turns, and each distinct notch when he rotates the full 180°.
On the other side, the absolute nature of Balthazar’s darkness is revealed by the coldhard skull with menacing teeth and deep-set ruby-red eyes. But it’s not all threat here as Balthazar’s chest also contains a moon phase display accurate for 122 years. You can adjust the moon phase manually, providing one of many of Balthazar’s tactile pleasures.
Balthazar does more than display horological events: as well as rotating around the hips, his arms articulate at both the shoulders and the elbows, and his hands can clasp and hold objects. Finally, Balthazar’s shield conceals and protects an integrated clock-winding and time-setting key.
A spectacular example of high-precision micro-engineering, Balthazar required 618 components go into the construction of his body and clockwork, which are more pieces than in most complicated wristwatches.
Developing Balthazar’s movement required significant modifications to the previous movement that L’Epée had created for Melchior (MB&F and L’Epée first cobranded robot-clock) that it is basically a new movement. As well as the addition of a double hemisphere moon phase complication, Balthazar is around 30% taller than Melchior so an additional gear train was required to connect the regulator with the rest of the clockwork.
With a normal jumping hour indication, between five minutes to the hour and five minutes past it can be difficult to know if the jump has occurred or not. So L’Epée developed a ‘slow’ jumping hour, which sees the hour disc remain static for 55 minutes and then – rather than jump instantly and risk the jump being missed – start to turn five minutes before the hour. The jump is so gradual that it can be easily seen.
Balthazar’s movement features a regulator (his brain) with an Incabloc shock protection system to minimise risk of damage to this critical component when the clock is being transported or moved. This type of shock protection is generally only seen in wristwatches. Balthazar’s movement also features the fine finishing techniques found in high end luxury watches: Geneva waves, anglage, mirror polishes, sandblasting, circular and vertical satin finishing.
Balthazar comes in limited editions of 50 pieces per colour in black, silver, blue or green armour plates.
“Slow” jumping hours and sweeping minutes: twin discs on the chest feature MB&F’s signature numerals and respectively display hours and minutes
20-second retrograde second display in eyes: red “pupils” in each eye scan over 20-second intervals and indicate seconds
35-day power reserve indicator: dial on the belly provides intuitive view of remaining energy
Double hemisphere moon phase indicator: phases of the moon are displayed on a disc on the “dark side” chest
L’Epée 1839 in-house designed and manufactured movement.
Balance frequency: 18,000 bph / 2.5Hz
Barrels: 5 in series
Power reserve: 35 days
Movement components: 405
Incabloc shock protection system
Clockwork in palladium-plated brass and stainless steel
Manual-winding: double-depth square socket key sets time and winds movement; when not in use the key integrates into a dedicated slot in the shield
Movement finishing includes Geneva waves (moon phase and power reserve bridges), polishing, sandblasting, circular and vertical satin finishing and starburst decoration
Balthazar’s body and armour
Dimensions: 39.4 cm high x 23.8 cm wide (depending on position of the arms) x 12.4 cm (boot size)
Weight: 8.2 kg
Body/armour components: 213
Movement mainplate in palladium-plated polished brass
Dome: polished glass secured via polished and bevelled palladium-plated brass bezel, circular brushed finish around escapement
Skull: nickel-plated bronze with brushed and sandblasted finishes
Teeth: each tooth milled in stainless steel and polished before being mounted into the skull individually
Eyes: 20-second retrograde seconds display in stainless steel painted with red lacquer
Breastplate in three pieces, breast and two CVD colour-treated shoulder pads
Hours, minutes, and power reserve indicators on one breastplate, moon phase display on the other.
Protective plate in sapphire crystal
Rotate on precision ball bearings with spring click to indicate and hold at resting positions
Balthazar’s centre of gravity is low around the hips to minimise any risk of being knocked over
Each leg weighs 1.5 kg.
Each femur is in 3 parts to reinforce the look of telescopic-potential and armour plating
Legs, shins, and feet in nickel-plated brass
Shoulders and arms
Articulation: pivot at arms/shoulders, rotation at the elbows, pivot lower arms with spring locking system
Fingers: on each hand, two fingers cross into the other three so that the hands can clasp
Shield: double-depth square-socket key in polished and laser-engraved nickel-plated brass with integrated winding/time-setting key
Key is palladium-treated to maximise the longevity of the polished finish