In the four years that have elapsed since MB&F asked watchmaker Eric Coudray to create “the craziest, most cinematic three-axis tourbillon ever,” the renowned master of micro-engineering has been working overtime. One look at the just-released MB&F Legacy Machine Thunderdome will attest to the fact that Coudray met – and exceeded – that initial challenge.
The new MB&F Legacy Machine Thunderdome pairs Coudray’s three-axis mechanism with the globe-topped tilted-dial display similar to the design we saw first earlier this year in MB&F’s award-winning Legacy Machine FlyingT. As a result, Coudray’s proprietary new ‘TriAx’ does its high-speed regulation work in plain sight, operating in multiple dimensions underneath the massive MB&F domed sapphire crystal.
Coudray’s regulation device features three axes that revolve on different planes and in three speeds: an incredible eight seconds, twelve seconds and twenty seconds.
Coudray met MB&F founder Maximilian Büsser at Jaeger-LeCoultre, where Büsser was a senior manager and where Coudray in 2004 developed the Gyrotourbillon, one of the world’s first multi-axis tourbillons. Coudray is now a member of a specialist team TEC Ebauches, a high-complication think tank and movement supplier based in the Vallée de Joux.
Coudray created the TriAx using the unusual Potter escapement, a 19th century design that allows the watchmaker to control the rate at which energy escapes from the movement barrel.
With the rate under control, Coudray then designed an escapement that uses a fixed escape wheel in place of the far more common mobile escape wheel. This not only allows for higher rotational speeds, but also frees up more space for the balance and hairspring.
The multi-axis arrangement gave Coudray the space to add another novel component: a hemispherical balance combined with a cylindrical hairspring.
Historically, this sturdy, ultra-precise hairspring design is found inside marine chronometers, though today you’ll also variations within specific wristwatches made by Bovet, Montblanc (Minerva), H, Moser, Jaeger-LeCoultre and a few others. According to MB&F, the hemispherical balance/cylindrical hairspring arrangement is a first in any micro-mechanical work of horology.
A Voutilainen Stage
The LM Thunderdome’s multi-axis drama unfolds above Kari Voutilainen’s eye-catching dark-blue guilloché movement plate. Echoing earlier Legacy Machines, MB&F further showcases the TriAx by suspending it on arched, polished titanium bridges that beautifully echo the curve of dome that gives the watch its name. And underneath his rich blue plate/dial, Voutilainen has for the first time on an MB&F piece applied his own finish onto the movement’s ratchet wheels, creating a snake-like design that catches the light in unexpected ways.
The new platinum-cased MB&F LM Thunderdome essentially becomes a high-mech version of the LM FlyingT we first saw in early 2019. Retaining that earlier model’s much-lauded tilted two-hand dial, the new watch is larger than the FlyingT (44mm compared to 38.5mm) and showcases a more complex horological mechanism. Even if the calculations behind the whirling TriAx remain a puzzle to the buyer, its presentation is mesmerizing – and pure MB&F.
MB&F is launching the Legacy Machine Thunderdome in two limited editions: Thirty-three pieces in platinum 950, with a light-blue guilloché dial plate and ten pieces in tantalum commemorating the 40th anniversary of Asia-Pacific retail group The Hour Glass, with five pieces bearing a dark-blue guilloché dial and five pieces with an inlaid aventurine dial. Price for the platinum model is $280,000. THG-Tantalum editions will be set locally by The Hour Glass, in their local currencies.
Specifications: MB&F Legacy Machine Thunderdome
Movement: Developed for MB&F by Eric Coudray and Kari Voutilainen, is manual winding with three mainspring barrels. The regulating mechanism features three fast-rotation axes revolving at different speeds and on different planes. The rotation speeds of the axes starting from the center are respectively 8 seconds, 12 seconds and 20 seconds. The combined weight of the multi-axis mechanism is nearly 1 gram. Bespoke hemispherical 10mm balance wheel with traditional regulating screws and helical hairspring, visible on top of the movement.
Superlative hand finishing throughout respecting 19th-century style; bevelled internal angles highlighting handcraft; polished bevels; Geneva waves; hand-made engravings. Power reserve (indicator on back) is 45 hours.
Dial: Blue guilloche plate showing hours and minutes on a 58° vertically tilted white dial
Case: 44mm by 22.2mm platinum 950. Hour Glass editions in tantalum. Water resistant to 30 meters. Sapphire crystals on top and display back treated with anti-reflective coating on both faces.
Strap: Blue hand-stitched alligator strap with platinum or tantalum folding buckle matching the case.