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A fun-loving generation of designers are making clocks that resemble expensive toys

Time for a spin

Tracey Llewellyn discovers a new generation of playful clocks

Tracey Llewellyn discovers a new generation of playful clocks

Tracey Llewellyn | November 16th 2018

When Maximilian Büsser decided seven years ago to create his first table clock, he was inspired by the space-age toys of his childhood in the 1970s. Büsser was already known for his unusual and collaborative creations: MB&F, the company he founded in 2005, stands for Max Büsser and Friends.

His first clock looked like an intergalactic spaceship: he named it the Starfleet Machine. Three years in development, it consists of a C-shaped steel ring, held by three supporting arcs. Sitting in the middle, instead of a dial a large aluminium dome shows hours and minutes via two orbital scales and rotating hands. The clockwork is visible beneath the dome, with a pair of hands in constant motion. A second, smaller, turning dome indicates the clock’s 40-day power reserve. For the Starfleet Machine, as with almost every piece MB&F makes, a brand new customised movement was developed with French and Swiss clockmaker L’Epée 1839.

The companies now launch a new timekeeper each year. These include the Octopod, an eight-legged, eight-day clock with both hour and minute hands contained within a central transparent sphere. Destination Moon is a torpedo-shaped, sculptural, rocket-ship clock.

The most controversial piece in MB&F’s armoury is Arachnophobia (above): a giant spider containing an eight-day movement in a linear arrangement, with the clockwork set in the arachnid’s head and body. It has realistic, articulated legs that protrude from the creature’s robotic head and body. Inspired by “Maman”, a huge spider sculpture created by artist Louise Bourgeois in 1999, Büsser says Arachnophobia represents his personal fascination with irrational fears: “I wanted to create a cross between real and mechanical and it has created more reaction than any other piece I have made.”

Büsser is part of a movement making clocks desirable objects again, particularly for a new, younger set of buyers: there is now a waiting list for every new timepiece. The new designs are creating enough of a buzz to inspire even those who can’t afford the price tag of $15,000 or more, says L’Epée’s chief executive Arnaud Nicolas: “These will become tomorrow’s clients.”