This uber lux­u­ri­ous $36,000 clock is de­signed to look like a ro­bot oc­to­pus

Muscat Daily - - FEATURES -

MB&F has been col­lab­o­rat­ing with clock­maker L’Epée 1839 for many years, and dur­ing that time, the part­ner­ship has pro­duced a num­ber of very var­ied clock de­signs, which have taken from the worlds of bi­ol­ogy, science fic­tion, and space ex­plo­ration to pro­duce some dra­mat­i­cally dif­fer­ent time­pieces (in­clud­ing one guar­an­teed to cause hee­bie-jee­bies in 3.5 to 6.1 per cent of the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion). The new­est clock is the Oc­to­pod, a biome­chan­i­cal, ar­tic­u­lated-limbed, bub­ble-headed time­piece with shout-outs not just to the oc­to­pus, but also to James Cameron’s film The Abyss and ma­rine chronome­ters as well. And there’s a sort of stealth tour­bil­lon built into the move­ment as well.

Oc­to­puses are the most in­tel­li­gent of all in­ver­te­brates; they’re ca­pa­ble of plan­ning, fairly so­phis­ti­cated prob­lem solv­ing, and even seem to be able, at least in some cases, of recog­nis­ing in­di­vid­ual peo­ple and re­act­ing to them. One of the most fa­mous in­stances of oc­to­pus in­tel­li­gence comes from a New Zealand lab, where oc­to­puses learned to short out light­bulbs by squirt­ing wa­ter at them; at the same lab one an­i­mal took a strong dis­like to one of the re­searchers, eject­ing wa­ter at her from its siphon if she got too close to its tank. With eight limbs packed full of neu­rons (the arms of an oc­to­pus are ca­pa­ble of a re­mark­able de­gree of in­de­pen­dent de­ci­sion mak­ing) and by far the big­gest brain of any non-ver­te­brate an­i­mal, the oc­to­pus is a charm­ingly alien crea­ture in­hab­it­ing a par­al­lel cog­ni­tive uni­verse of its own – some­thing MB&F has tried to cap­ture in the Oc­to­pod clock’s de­sign.

The eight legs of the Oc­to­pod clock are jointed; the ar­tic­u­la­tions can be un­locked by a but­ton in each leg, and posed in a stand­ing or ex­tended po­si­tion. The glob­u­lar head (whose de­sign was in­spired, says MB&F, by the James Cameron film The Abyss, which fea­tured re­search mini-subs with trans­par­ent spher­i­cal pres­sure hulls) is mounted on a piv­ot­ing mount which al­lows the clock to be tilted to the op­ti­mum an­gle for view­ing, and which can also ro­tate (through 360° in both axes) and which is in­tended to echo the de­sign of gim­bal­mounted ma­rine chronome­ters.

One of the most in­ter­est­ing fea­tures of the Oc­to­pod is the con­fig­u­ra­tion of the move­ment.

The sharp-eyed will no­tice that the bal­ance and much of the go­ing train are mounted on the minute hand – ba­si­cally those com­po­nents are the minute hand, which means that the es- cape­ment ro­tates 360° ev­ery 60 min­utes.

While the con­fig­u­ra­tion of the gear train isn’t that of a clas­sic tour­bil­lon per se, it’s still an in­ter­est­ing ex­am­ple of a ro­tat­ing es­cape­ment time­piece. The de­sign con­cep­tu­ally is sim­i­lar to the Ulysse Nardin Freak, which also has the reg­u­lat­ing com­po­nents mounted on the minute hand, and to the Cartier Astro­tour­bil­lon though in the lat­ter case, the reg­u­lat­ing com­po­nents ro­tate once per minute, not once per se­cond.

It’s al­ways a tech­ni­cal chal­lenge to en­sure that the hand car­ry­ing the es­cape­ment is prop­erly poised with this sort of de­sign; hence the pres­ence of a large coun­ter­weight at the ex­trem­ity of the minute hand op­po­site the bal­ance wheel, lever and es­cape wheel.

Purists might ob­ject that the tour­bil­lon’s proper home is in a pocket watch but I think we’re far enough along in the de­vel­op­ment of mod­ern watch aes­thet­ics to ac­knowl­edge that the tour­bil­lon – in what­ever form it ap­pears – can be le­git­i­mately used for visual ef­fect as well as in the pur­suit of bet­ter po­si­tional per­for­mance. In fact, it’s prob­a­bly used far more of­ten for the for­mer than the lat­ter, nowa­days; and even Breguet made a ta­ble clock with a tour­bil­lon (and con- stant force es­cape­ment No 1252) so there is noth­ing if not prece­dent for the prac­tice.

The Oc­to­pod’s move­ment seems to float freely in­side the sphere that en­closes it. This is thanks to the trans­par­ent, min­eral glass face­plate which is dou­ble anti-re­flec­tive coated (and a good thing too; it would be an ex­cel­lent mir­ror with­out the AR coat­ing which would cer­tainly spoil the ef­fect).

The clock will be made in three lim­ited edi­tions – black PVD, blue PVD, and pal­la­dium – with 50 of each. This is an es­pe­cially suc­cess­ful ex­am­ple of a clock col­lab­o­ra­tion from L'Epée 1839 and MB&F – the flex­i­bil­ity of the clock, the pres­ence of points of ar­tic­u­la­tion through­out, and the han­dling of the move­ment in­side its bub­ble en­clo­sure make for not only a very so­phis­ti­cated and un­usual take on the of­ten rather staid world of ta­ble clock de­sign, but also ful­fill what’s al­ways been one of the key ob­jec­tives of any MB&F de­sign: Cre­at­ing some­thing that’s fun.

Max Büsser (left) and L’Epée 1839 CEO Arnaud Ni­co­las

It is a col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween MB&F and clock­maker L’Epée 1839


The Oc­to­pod clock

The move­ment sits on a min­eral glass base­plate

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