MB&F’s Legacy Machine Nº2 has a differential. No, really | Top Gear
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Saturday 2nd December

MB&F’s Legacy Machine Nº2 has a differential. No, really

Maximilian Büsser and Friends’s creation is twin-engined and housed in the precious metal used for catalytic converters

Published: 10 Feb 2023

As ways to waste time go, tumbling down the YouTube / Wikipedia rabbit hole to find out how various bits of engineering work is far from the worst way we’ve heard of. Married at First Sight exists, after all.

But once you’ve sussed out differentials, counterbalances and eccentric shafts, what does that leave to wrap your head around and bend your mind? Well, in case context alone didn’t give it away, that’d be watches. And if you think engines are complex, mechanical watches would love a word.

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And, much like engines, mechanical watch movements get increasingly complex to achieve a very specific goal – tell you the date, be a stopwatch, or mark which phase the moon is in. Or simply be more accurate.

But how focused on the simple goal of accuracy does one have to be to consider putting two separate escapements next to each other, then connecting the two with a planetary differential and averaging the two frequencies? Honestly, we’d probably just deal with being a minute late.

Which probably doesn’t make us logical customers for the MB&F Legacy Machine Nº2, a perilously complicated, extraordinarily limited (just 18) and fairly understandably priced (£140,000 or so) piece of horology that contains just such a setup. But then trying to achieve accuracy through machinery is hardly the most logical thing in world of atomic clocks and the over-the-air corrections – let alone encasing it in palladium, a rare metal that’s a) most often used in catalytic converters, and b) apparently the bane of case-makers the world over. So why do it?

Well, exactly the same reason why we still crave V12s when an electric car can match the power, double the torque and blitz the performance figures. Knowing that what you’re experiencing is the result of understandable actions – reciprocation, rotation, oscillation – as well as understandable passions and motivations, is, for whatever reason, begets a much more involving experience and emotional reaction than anything driven by chemical reactions.

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So, what exactly is the experience of an MB&F Legacy Machine Nº2? Well, it feels like the kind of watch where you’d go to check the time, admire the tightly orchestrated ballet of balance wheels, then go back to what you were doing... only to realise that you hadn’t actually found out what the time was.

But as ways to waste time go, that’s far from the worst way we’ve heard of.

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