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Space: When reality is stranger than (science) fiction
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Space: When reality is stranger than (science) fiction

Wednesday, 20 January 2016
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Mathilde Binetruy
Freelance journalist

“And yet, it moves.”

Galilée

From the 1998 World Cup, her first big event, to SIHH and Baselworld today, she reports from where the action is.

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4 min read

Some time ago in a galaxy not so far, far away, a new generation of watchmakers was born. Raised on mangas and space heroes, they would give rise to watches inspired by intergalactic vessels and the dark side of the force. Space calling Earth, what time is it?

“Oh yes, there’s definitely a Captain Future inside me,” confides Maximilian Büsser, CEO of MB&F. “Nothing infuriates me more than injustice and people who show no respect for others.” A hero who devoted his life to maintaining law and order in the universe, Captain Future sparked more than a few vocations among his fans, as Maximilian Büsser will agree. Brought up on a diet of cinema and TV, mangas are frequently the seeds from which his creativity grows. In 2006 he set up watchmaking skunkworks MB&F. This is where he designs his horological machines, reminiscent of spaceships and Thunderbolt fighter planes. When it comes to imagining uniquely original creations, the inner child is never far from the surface of this now 48-year-old.

HM6 Space Pirate © MB&F

The HM6 Space Pirate is testimony. This masterful creation propels lovers of fine mechanics into a world where Captain Future would feel at home. He patrolled the galaxy in the Comet, a spaceship composed of two spheres joined by a tubular gangway. Maximilian Büsser has joined two such spaceships into one as the foundation for his HM6 Space Pirate. The three-dimensional engine was designed in consultation with David Candaux Horlogerie Créative. This is, then, a four-handed work that defies the laws of gravity, both literally and figuratively. “Our creations are a bit like therapy,” says Maximilian Büsser. “Some things you tell the psychiatrist and some things you keep for yourself…”.

Speedmaster CK2998 © Omega
Tick-tock space odyssey

Because they appeal to our imagination, because they lend an air of wonder to the everyday, watches inspired by science fiction are a genre apart in the horological universe. The earliest signs of watchmaking’s new direction came in the 1960s, when the race for space was raging. In 1962 Omega sent its first watch into orbit, the Speedmaster CK2998, worn by astronaut Walter Schirra during the Sigma 7 mission of the Mercury programme, a moment of particular gravity. Most importantly, two and a half years later the Speedmaster was flight-qualified by NASA for all its manned missions, en route for the stars and glory. When in 1969 astronaut Buzz Aldrin set foot on the surface of the moon, he was wearing a Speedmaster. Firmly consigned to earth until then, the watch had entered a different galaxy.

Deep Space Tourbillon © Vianney Halter

Following on from the Speedmaster’s classic style, watches in the 2000s not only looked as though they had been plucked from a sci-fi novel, they were even designed to explore the universe and beyond. The question going round and round in Vianney Halter’s head was, “what would be the ultimate time-telling instrument that a human must take for a trip into space?” Having mulled over these various considerations, he presented a wristwatch that would be a constant reminder to man, in space, of the four dimensions of length, height, depth and time that form our frame of reference here on Earth. The Deep Space Tourbillon is less a scientific instrument and more a philosophical object whose purpose is to maintain an intangible link between the crew of a spacecraft and mankind who sent them out there as explorers and ambassadors.

Star Wars Darth Vader © Seiko
Watchmakers harness the force

Anxious to keep pace with events on and above Earth, other brands have targeted the launch of their “space watches”. In 2012, Seiko partnered with American production company Lucasfilm for a Star Wars watch collection. In celebration of the 35th anniversary of Star Wars and the release of the films in 3D, Seiko issued six styles in limited editions ranging from 500 to 1,500 pieces each, for a total of 5,000 pieces. Classic in design, the collection comprised a watch for each of the Star Wars characters: Darth Vader, Darth Maul, C-3P0, R2-D2 and Yoda, as well as a Stormtrooper edition.

Star Wars Render © Devon

Based on the principle that you can’t have too much of a good thing – the latest Star Wars adventure is proof – and more specifically to coincide with the opening of the latest episode at end 2015, Devon Works has raised the bar with its Star Wars watch. Marko Petrovic, who designed it, re-watched every single episode in cinema’s most famous franchise to then transpose the essence of the films into a carefully thought-out object. This hefty timepiece makes multiple references to the Star Wars saga, with the TIE starfighter as a design cue, the Empire’s insignia, and countless nods at Darth Vader. The movement comprises over 350 parts with four microstep motors and 313 electrical contacts. May the force be with you if you’re hoping to buy one of this 500-piece limited edition.

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