With the original Legacy Machine No. 1 watch discontinued (the LM1 Final Edition completed the series), Swiss MBF now introduces the Legacy Machine Split Escapement, which debuts in four styles. Gone is the numerical naming convention, though the Legacy Machine Split Escapement would technically be the fifth in this sub-collection within the overall MBF brand. This began with the Legacy Machine 1 (LM1), then the LM2, followed by the LM101, the Legacy Machine Perpetual Calendar, and now the MBF Legacy Machine Split Escapement.
MBF once again worked with the talented watch movement designer Stephen McDonnell for the Legacy Machine Split Escapement. His technical and aesthetic prowess was proven in the MBF Legacy Machine Perpetual Calendar (hands-on here), and the “Split Escapement” system was actually more or less developed in the movement McDonnell created for the Perpetual Calendar. For practical reasons, he needed to separate the balance wheel and hair spring from the anchor on a lot arbor. This has the practical effect of having the oscillating balance wheel on one side of the dial, and the anchor and escapement wheel on the other side.
For aesthetic reasons, this system is now being featured as the main attraction in the new Legacy Machine Split Escapement. In a sense, this watch is a re-imagination of the LM1. I actually don’t see the Split Escapement as being an upgrade or a better watch, but rather a more or less lateral move from the LM1 to the Split Escapement. With the LM1 no longer being produced, and a healthy slew of higher-end Legacy Machine models such as the Perpetual Calendar, this strategic move by MBF makes sense.
The Legacy Machine Split Escapement benefits from aesthetic upgrades to the Legacy Machine introduced only recently and late into the production run of the LM1. This includes things like a polished bezel as well as a rounded and polished design for the balance wheel bridge. MBF further chose to use their fancy “frosted” dials for these debut Legacy Machine Split Escapement watches. It is a technique we’ve seen before such as in the LM101 Frost (hands-on here). The frosted faces are an attractive background for the three sub-dials on the the main dial, as well as the suspended 2.5Hz frequency balance wheel mechanism.
Like the Legacy Machine 1, the MBF Legacy Machine Split Escapement comes in a 44mm-wide case, but is 17.5mm thick as opposed to the greater thickness of the original LM1. Case material options for the debut models are limited to 18k white gold. However, the frost dials come in four colors including yellow gold, red gold, blue, or ruthenium. It is a matter of taste when considering which Legacy Machine dial you like. I was a big fan of the two big “eyes” on the LM1, whereas the MBF Legacy Machine Split Escapement has three opposed sub-dials with a relatively large volume of space in the middle. I’ve not worn these yet, but I’d be curious to see what the Legacy Machine Split Escapement would look like if the sub-dials were a bit larger and potentially all the same size. Nevertheless, this is once again an attractive and balanced dial on what is easily going to be considered another beautiful Legacy Machine luxury watch product.
The Stephen McDonnell manually wound movement is very nicely finished and, again, operates at 18,000bph with a power reserve of 72 hours. In addition to the large, suspended balance wheel (which is now cleaner-looking as a result of the anchor being on the other side of the watch), the face has a sub-dial for the time, the date, and a power reserve indicator. In a sense, the Legacy Machine Split Escapement feels like a grownup version of the Legacy Machine 101. I do appreciate the power reserve indicator, but of course it is easy to miss the fancy “3D” power reserve indicator of the LM1.
With the coming of the MBF Legacy Machine Split Escapement, we see the Legacy Machine collection settling a bit into a groove as consumers have voiced their preference for a particular style they like. Whereas the Horological Machine collection from MBF is more interested in sweeping new designs with each ensuing creation, the Legacy Machine collection is in a sense “anti-MBF” for being more traditional not only in style, but also in its resistance to change. Undeniably, the Legacy Machine Split Escapement is an attractive and compelling product, but I hope it doesn’t signal a more static design ethos when it comes to future Legacy Machine products. Price for each version of the MBF Legacy Machine Split Escapement is $79,000 USD. mbandf.com