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Max and Stepan Go to the Moon and Back — Again

MB&F’s MoonMachine 2 is as illusory and breathtaking as the lunar phenomenon captured in its design.

Words Thomas Billinghurst
March 20, 2018

Let’s start by debunking a myth: there is no such thing as “moonlight”. Rather, the light that falls to Earth when a striking luminescent moon is out is actually sunlight reflecting off the surface of the moon. Though a poetic and romantic gothic concept, moonlight is ultimately a misnomer. A malapropism. An illusion. At least in terms of natural phenomena, this holds true.

But with MB&F’s innovative approach to revolutionary horology, moonlight has a new meaning entirely of its own thanks to renowned independent watchmaker Stepan Sarpaneva.

There’s thinking outside the box. And then there’s thinking outside the cosmological confines of the Blue Planet, which is precisely where the MoonMachine 2 takes us. The Finn’s second collaboration with the luxury Swiss brand has produced the first “projected moonphase display” in a stunning interplay of sleek lunar aesthetics and high-end horological construction.

MB&F founder Maximilian Büsser says of their second project with the Helsinki-based designer: “We would never have done MoonMachine 2 on our own, and Stepan would never have done it on his own. But that’s what I love about Performance Art pieces — the chance to expand the MB&F universe in unexpected ways.”

The first MoonMachine was unveiled in 2012. It marked the first time that a piece of MB&F Performance Art had been produced in conjunction with a watchmaker. That partnership has now evolved to procure a world premiere.

“This time the challenge was to augment HM8, which is not easy. But it’s fun, and that’s why I say yes to any project with Max.”
By Stepan Sarpaneva

Sarpaneva Workshop


The first MoonMachine — which was based on the HM3 Frog — utilised the rotor and moonphase display as locus points for incorporating the Sarpaneva contribution. Six years later, the MoonMachine 2 develops this concept to create the first-ever projected moonphase display.

The MoonMachine 2 is available in three limited editions of 12 — one in full titanium with white gold moons and a light-blue sky, one in blackened titanium with white gold moons and a dark-blue sky, and one in red gold and titanium with red gold moons and an anthracite sky.

MoonMachine 2 comes housed in the case of Horological Machine No 8 — the first MB&F creation to possess two design icons of the Horological Machine collection: the battle-axe rotor, and the heads-up time display first seen in Horological Machine No 5.

"That's what I love about Performance Art pieces — the chance to expand the MB&F universe in unexpected ways."
Maximilian Büsser

The stripped-down case construction of HM8 emphasised the illusory nature of the projected hours and minutes, and MoonMachine 2 uses the same mechanism to highlight the visual impact of a moon disc appearing in a space too small to fully contain it.

The projection is accomplished via an optical prism, which refracts the hours, minutes and moon discs in their flat positions to appear as if they are perpendicular to the engine. The prism is cut to magnify the hours and minutes by 20 per cent for greater readability, but not for the moonphase display, which is at risk of distortion if magnified.

Max and Stepan Go to the Moon and Back — Again

The HM8 engine is a compact movement built on a Girard-Perregaux base, with a jumping hour disc and a running minutes disc. Optical prisms fixed over the discs capture the time, refracting and magnifying the numerals so they can be read on a vertical plane. Horological Machine No 8 is completely pared down in terms of exterior cladding, not just to emulate the bare-all aesthetic of Can-Am racecars, but also to allow as much light as possible to flood the prisms and maximise the clarity of display.

The case of MoonMachine 2 is 0.5mm thicker than that of the HM8, to accommodate the additional moon disc, and has a pusher on the side for quick adjustment of the moonphase display.

Max and Stepan Go to the Moon and Back — Again

The battle-axe rotor of HM8 has been transformed into an open-worked radial web of titanium, echoing the design vocabulary of Sarpaneva’s best-known work. The sapphire crystal pane framing the top of the MoonMachine 2 engine has been metallised in a similar pattern and draws focus to the variable sheen of the brushed titanium rotor as it rotates.

Based on Sarpaneva’s own face, the piercing eyes and pointed nose feature in the MoonMachine 2’s dial. Two of the Sarpaneva moons are mounted on the moon disc, taking it in turns to cycle under a Korona ring (another Sarpaneva hallmark) to indicate the phase of the moon. A third is mounted on the winding rotor. Each moon is made of gold and finished by hand.

Max and Stepan Go to the Moon and Back — Again

The two small moons on the moon disc measure 4.5mm in diameter and 0.35mm in thickness, while the rotor moon is 8.5mm wide and 0.45mm thick.

A Korona-framed gold plaque commemorating the collaboration between Sarpaneva and MB&F is affixed on the sapphire crystal pane.

Thomas Billinghurst
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