MB&F’s only directive to Eric Coudray initially was to “make the craziest, most cinematic three-axis tourbillon ever.” Having been given free rein to create, Coudray built something that was entirely new in his experience: a mechanism that goes beyond the tourbillon, the proprietary new MB&F ‘TriAx’. The new TriAx mechanism, as showcased in Legacy Machine Thunderdome, fulfils MB&F’s directive to Eric Coudray in spectacular fashion. The triple-axis rotating escapement has a stripped-down construction that transgresses both tradition and modern convention. Instead of the rational (and cumbersome) system that associates one cage with each rotational axis, the TriAx defies logic with a three-axis, two-cage configuration that allows for unprecedented visibility of the Thunderdome’s beating, whirling heart.
In a second stroke of whirlwind audacity from Coudray, the TriAx mechanism of LM Thunderdome uproots our most familiar notions of watchmaking escapements. Controlling the rate at which energy escapes from the barrel is the unusual Potter escapement, which utilises a fixed escape wheel in place of the mobile escape wheels seen in virtually every type of modern rotating escapement. The fixed escape wheel of the Potter escapement – named for 19th-century watchmaker and inventor Albert H. Potter – allows for higher rotational speeds in such a mechanism. Integrating a fixed escape wheel within a tri-axial rotating mechanism is something that has never been done before, but LM Thunderdome achieves this, and for good reason. The high-speed rotation consumes energy voraciously, with the innermost structure completing one turn in 8 seconds, the intermediate cage rotating once every 12 seconds, and the outermost cage making one full rotation every 20 seconds. An additional advantage of the Potter escapement is that it frees up more space for the balance and hairspring, allowing to better admire another completely novel development: the balance of LM Thunderdome takes a hemispherical form, wrapping around the helical hairspring for an unprecedented configuration of regulating organ in both modern and classical watchmaking.
As difficult as it may be to tear your eyes from the dial-side spectacle, the reverse of the LM Thunderdome engine is equally rewarding. The manual-winding, triple-barrel movement may have been technically conceived by Eric Coudray, but its aesthetics are fully Kari Voutilainen. Countless sessions passed between the two watchmakers until the untrammelled dynamism of Coudray’s engine design took on classically elegant forms. Smoothly rounded bridges, incorporating sharp hand-bevelled internal angles and mirrored curves suggest a deep, unyielding calm that anchors the turbulent maelstrom on the other side. For the first time in an MB&F creation, Kari Voutilainen has applied his proprietary style of finish onto the ratchet wheels. This technique imparts a serpentine shimmer to the circular surface, catching the light in sigmoid waves. This technique is a closely guarded secret in the Voutilainen workshops, requiring years of experience and special tools to execute.