MB&F, L’Épée 1839, Massena Lab’s T-Rex Bronze: The Missing Link
by Martin Green
Clocks can have extraordinary power. I realized this in my teens when my parents bought a vintage Jaeger-LeCoultre Atmos.
Before joining our household, the Atmos was first sent to Le Sentier, where Jaeger-LeCoultre’s craftspeople did something amazing: they restored it to its former glory without making it look new. While that’s another story for another time, the clock has since formed an indispensable part of my parents’ living room.
Most of the time, a clock doesn’t do much but sit there and tell time – I never really took a liking to chiming clocks – but clocks have a presence that’s almost like a personality. And in my parents’ living room, while many pieces of furniture have long since come and gone, the Atmos remains a timeless constant.
Evolution of the T-Rex
The T-Rex clock is not new. The first was a unique piece for Only Watch 2019, the biannual timepiece auction in support of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Named Tom & T-Rex, a little figure “rode” the dinosaur-themed clock, which fetched CHF 85,000 for the cause, substantially more than the CHF 20,000-40,000 estimate.
After that, MB&F released three collection variations, each limited to 100 pieces and featuring a body and legs in stainless steel and palladium-plated brass. The Murano glass dials were made in blue, red, and green.
This dial is a distinct feature of the clock, made on Murano, one of the islands nestled in the lagoon of Venice and famous for its glass-making tradition. For over a millennium, Murano has been renowned throughout the world for its incredibly skilled glass artisans.
For the T-Rex, it is both the color and the fluid shape of the glass suspended in the case that makes it look so spectacular. The “hands” flow with the form, making it almost look like a sculpture.
While the idea for the design was born as MB&F founder Maximilian Büsser was fooling around with two chicken legs and a Christmas trinket, it was Berlin-based designer Maximilian Maertens who took it to the next level. He took the project particularly seriously as he wanted the legs of the T-Rex to be anatomically close to the dinosaur’s. For this, he studied three-dimensional scans of fossilized T-Rex leg bones to calculate the right proportions and positioning.
T-Rex marks the eleventh time MB&F had teamed up with renowned clockmaker L’Épée 1839, who crafted the clock, including its movement. The 138 movement components are placed to form the brain of the T-Rex.
While the legs and body are particularly nicely finished, the architecture is also captivating with the regulator placed on top. Setting and winding the clock is done with a separate key, and fully wound it boasts a power reserve of eight days, which seems to be today’s standard for high-quality clocks.
The evolution of this top predator continues
While the T-Rex enjoyed great success, its evolutionary path was a fast one, with the pack recently welcoming another sibling. This time a third party joined the team: Massena Lab, founded in 2019 by watch industry veteran William Massena, has been known for its exciting collaborations since releasing its first watch. And this T-Rex is no different.
Massena explained to me how they decided on the direction of the project: “Max [MB&F founder Maximilian Büsser] and I discussed using bronze immediately. My first collaboration project was with Habring2, we made the Erwin LAB01 in bronze and we had great feedback. I thought that was a material that could be great to use for the T-Rex, and MB&F and L’Épée were interested in working with bronze. It is not often that you use this material with a clock.”
The project was also not without challenges as Massena first wanted a “vert-de-gris” patina on the clock, the green-colored oxidation so typical to bronze. However it yielded unsatisfactory results in that the patina developed unevenly and couldn’t be adequately stabilized.
The hand-patina the team finally settled on offered a much more satisfying look, simultaneously making each of the 15 clocks in this edition unique. The patina and the bronze are both stabilized, ensuring that the clock retains its looks for decades.
This also brings the T-Rex into the realm of what is so nicely called – and in recent years fiercely discussed – “faux patina or fauxtina.”
I also put this question to Massena, who had an easy explanation for the road the team took.
“Because of my experience with the Massena Lab Habring2 collaboration, I know that bronze aging and oxidation can be very different depending on two factors: geography (near the sea or not) and climate (whether it is humid or dry), and that every T-Rex Bronze owner should enjoy his or her clock the same way and for as long as possible. To let it age on its own would expose the clock to possible premature oxidation and rusting. We did not want that to happen. It is easy to clean a water-resistant watch and prevent the case from aging too much, but a clock is much more delicate,” the longtime watch collector said.
Like the Atmos in my parents’ house, an MB&F L’Épée 1839 Massena Lab T-Rex Bronze will also have quite a presence in any room. With its white metal body and legs the original T-Rex looked a bit like a science-fiction character to me, but bronze changes this somewhat.
The Massena Lab T-Rex Bronze seems more raw and animalistic, as though you can smell the scent of this top predator carefully moving through dense vegetation. To me, the true T-Rex has landed. And Maximilian Büsser has proven once again that everything is better with friends.
For more information, please visit www.massenalab.com/product/t-rex-bronze.
Quick Facts MB&F L’Épée 1839 Massena Lab T-Rex Bronze
Frame: polished, satin-finished, and sandblasted bronze, chemically oxidized to achieve a brown color, handmade patina
Dial: hand-blown Murano glass
Movement: manually wound in-house movement by L’Epée 1839, 2.5 Hz/18,000 vph frequency, 8-day power reserve
Functions: hours, minutes
Limitation: 15 pieces
Price: $27,000 (excluding VAT)