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DESIGN
Baselworld 2014: MB&F's Starfleet Machine
The Deep Space Nine-inspired collaborative desk clock engineered by L'Epée
by David Graver
on 31 March 2014
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As a symbol of their 175th anniversary, Switzerland's last remaining specialized high-end clock manufacturer L'Epée has engineered and crafted another visionary design by conceptual micro-engineering lab MB&F. The resulting desk clock, Starfleet Machine, manages to be as visually stunning and future-forward as it is technically magnificent. Drawing inspiration from Star Trek's Deep Space Nine, the highly detailed intergalactic artistry all serves a function—with every flourish also an acting indicator. The clock lays horizontal, rather than being wall-mounted. It can rest on either end of its external structure without disturbing the clock, so winding the mainspring or setting the time is easy. This limited release is a real stunner and executes a brilliant vision of the future within clockmaking today.

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Starfleet Machine features many of the same mechanisms as a wristwatch, only larger in scale. The prominently featured in-house movement carries a 40 day power reserve, as well as a series of five mainspring barrels. The clock showcases hours and minutes, double retrograde seconds and a power reserve indicator, but only in a way these two creative forces can execute. "About two years ago I went to L'Epée with a gouache image," explains MB&F founder Maximilian Büsser, who designed the Starfleet Machine with ECAL design graduate Xin Wang. "We basically cut out one of their movements that we found and created a design based on Deep Space Nine around it," he says. The initial reaction from the craftsmen at L'Epée was of awe and they quickly jumped on the project.

From there, the process of making every detail contribute to functionality began. For example: "We've indexed this little radar system on the power reserve system, which turns in 40 days. The enormous balance wheel escape system is indexed on the system seconds. The two cannons that are protecting the heart of the spaceship are actually a double retrograde seconds indicator."

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The more I create, the more I want to create.

"The more I create, the more I want to create," Büsser says. "When I started MB&F I only had the ideas for HM1 and HM2." Everything since is a reflection on the expansive imagination in which the designer indulges. Büsser was drawn to L'Epée because "these are some of the last clockmakers with this knowledge." With all the challenges present in the MB&F design, the craftsmen balanced the standards of each brand and invoked the identity of both. Every component (except the 48 jewels) within the finished palladium-treated brass movement was designed and manufactured at L’Epée’s Swiss atelier; a tall feat, considering that everything is on display (pertaining to a skeletonized mainplate and the concentric C-shaped external structure) and larger in size, where a bigger surface area greatly effects finishing—arguably more complicated than within a wristwatch. On top of that, the movement's precision allows for an accuracy of -2 to +2 minutes over the 40 day reserve. Altogether, the machine is highly complex, structurally beautiful and the product of masterful engineering innovation.

MB&F and L'Epée's Starfleet Machine is limited to 175 pieces, in recognition of their anniversary, and available in silver or black editions—the latter incorporating ruthenium-finished components. Starfleet Machine comes with an all-encompassing transparent biosphere dome made of polished Plexiglass, which follows the contours of the futurist clock's three arcs. The Starfleet Machine will retail for 28,000 CHF from L'Epée.

Additional reporting by Evan Orensten. Lead photos by David Graver, additional images courtesy of MB&F

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