Why I Bought It: MB&F Legacy Machine 101 2021 Edition
Once upon a time, there was a watch enthusiast (I’ll spare you the suspense: it was me) who admired the work of Max Büsser and his watchmaking enterprise MB&F and who dearly wanted to own one of his watches. But which one? Horological Machine 2, and in particular the HM 2.2 black version done in collaboration with Alain Silberstein, was attractive, but, well, too square.
The jet engine-shaped HM4, still the best of the Horological Machines to my way of thinking, was just too-too; and the early Legacy Machines didn’t quite hit the mark for me either, with the exception of the LM101 Frost in yellow gold that almost ended up on my wrist but in the end seemed just a touch too fussy.
Finally, there was the remarkable Legacy Machine Perpetual. I actually placed an order for the pink gold version, but shortly thereafter determined that I had many more obligations than money and withdrew – a decision I’m still regretting, but you can’t win them all.
Flash forward to a couple of months ago, during a visit with my favorite local dealer of independent watches, where I was shown – and offered the opportunity to buy – either of two new LM101s: the light blue-dialed steel version or the deep purple-dialed white gold.
Even though a steel MB&F is very much a rarity and Büsser himself has described that variant as “our Chronomètre Bleu,” I decided on the spot to buy instead the one that spoke to me: the one with the purple dial.
How it fits
While it’s impossible to deny that a watch with a big domed crystal, exposed balance, and vivid purple sunburst dial is fun, and I fully expect MB&F to be a force on the independent scene for the foreseeable future and many of its watches foundational parts of important collections, for me the LM101 is very much a “patronage” watch: one bought in support of one of today’s leading independent makers and in recognition of what they have already accomplished.
It had gotten to the point where I simply felt bad that I had never owned an MB&F watch, given the quality of the brand’s work and the number of my friends happily wearing theirs. But no guilt trip is strong enough to induce me to spend this kind of money on a watch I don’t love, so “the watch” had to be pretty special for me to pull the trigger.
Why I love the MB&F Legacy Machine 101
It’s obviously an MB&F: As a rule, I gravitate to watches that are both distinctive looking and whose makers are clearly identifiable at a glance. With MB&F, and in particular with the Legacy Machine series, that’s almost a given as there are consistent design cues and architecture elements that span the set of watches, a sense of lighthearted edginess, and a use of vivid colors that keep us from mistaking them for anything else.
That dial: The sunburst purple dial finish in combination with white metal case and components is just right, in my view – enough so that I significantly preferred it to the tamer look of the steel version’s light blue.
Seen straight on, the color is remarkably deep, and at a shallower angle there’s an interesting color shift that favors more reddish tones. It’s almost like having two watches in one, although the true purple is the hue that hooked me.
Kari Voutilainen: Büsser has assembled a stellar cast of Friends over the years, none more distinguished than the Finnish maestro who I’ve been honored to know for over a decade. Voutilainen’s involvement with MB&F dates back to the first Legacy Machine, for which he contributed finishing guidance and helped to solve the problem of how to make the case back view of a movement fascinating when the pulsing balance was on the dial side of the movement.
The finger-style bridges that did the trick appear again in the design of the LM101 movement and having Voutilainen’s name engraved on one of them is a definite plus for me, as is the overall excellent quality of the finishing on both movement and dial sides.
Small changes that add up: It would have been easier for MB&F simply to issue the 2014-vintage LM101 in different colorways, but the changes made in the 2021 editions went a long way toward making it a “buy” for me.
Reducing the diameter of the front bezel has provided more real estate for slightly larger subdials, and the removal of the “Legacy Machine” engraving from the dial and simplification of the power reserve display have also helped to make the overall effect less fussy to my eye and to bring the visual effect from “just a bit tight” to “just right.”
Some things have remained the same, including the domed lacquer subdials and striking flying buttress bridge suspending the balance. Even here, however, there’s an improvement with the incorporation of the Moser Straumann double hairspring for more accurate timekeeping.
Yes, I know there’s no second hand, but if it helps to avoid having to adjust the indicated time during the course of a week I’m all for it.
I’m also a fan of the updated appearance of the movement side, where for the 2021 edition MB&F has opted for a high-contrast look of dark-finished NAC-coated bridges against a brighter rhodium hue on the underlying plates.
Max bends, I wear: Okay, this one is a bit gratuitous, but I do have a certain affection for the LM101 as it is the only MB&F model whose creation Büsser admits was to some extent driven by collector requests: specifically, a desire for a smaller, more wearable piece in the LM lineup.
The practical outcome of this responsiveness is a watch that sits well on my wrist and that in combination with its relative simplicity I can easily envision wearing on many more occasions than I would any of the other LM watches.
Joining the Tribe: In my view MB&F has done a great job converting the mundane task of warranty registration into an opportunity for community building and brand affinity creation. As a Tribe member I’m now on the list for occasional goodies like the MB&F winding rotor hat and have access to buy friends-and-family pieces like the new M.A.D.1.
It’s also a formalization of that warm feeling of being able to visit with members of the MB&F team while wearing one’s own watch from the brand.
Management of the Tribe is not without its glitches, however: I was delighted recently to receive my hat, but it was accompanied by a warm personal note from Max and an extended warranty certificate meant for another customer! Whoever out there has mine, please let me know and I’ll be happy to arrange a swap.
Even the box is cool: Whether you see it as a stereo speaker, a spaceship, or an archery target, the LM101 box is completely consistent with the design cues of the watch it contains and one box that it’s very difficult to envision stashing in dry storage along with all of the other boxes. It’s whimsical and fairly compact, and even the hidden magnetic closures work like a charm.
As far as I am concerned, the perfect watch has not yet been made! When it comes to the LM101, the first thing that gives me a bit of pause is directly linked to one of its desirable improvements: the double hairspring.
I very much appreciate the desire to improve timekeeping, but I wish it could have been done without obscuring the lower left of the main subdial with one of the hairspring studs.
And I’m not sure about the experience of other MB&F owners, but that spring-loaded clasp on the strap just drives me nuts. Getting it to pop closed is a pain – it depends on spring tension rather than on a positive click to fasten – and the position of the upper blade of the mechanism against the underside of my Flexor carpi ulnaris is such that a twist of the wrist is sometimes sufficient to send a searing jolt all the way to my elbow.
Guess I will be talking with my friends at MB&F about a tang buckle!
Is the MB&F LM101 right for you?
I’ve plunked down my hard-earned cash for the LM101, but is it right for you? It’s apparently quite hard to get one at the moment (especially the steel version), but you might want to get on the wait list with your favorite dealer if:
- You’ve been eyeing an MB&F purchase for a while and like me find that the size, vividness, and design clarity of the 2021 editions of the LM101 hit the sweet spot for you.
- You appreciate and want to reward the audacity needed to start and sustain an independent watchmaking enterprise, especially one that combines an obsession with quality with daring design.
- Your collecting interests are centered on avant-garde offerings or at a minimum broad enough to go beyond highly traditional choices.
- You have a deep appreciation for mechanical creativity and a healthy respect for the aesthetic design genius and finishing acumen inherent in the Voutilainen-MB&F collaboration.
On the other hand, you may choose to focus elsewhere within the MB&F line or on other brands if:
- Your current collection is quite traditional, and you’ve considered adding a more contemporary piece but suspect it would just sit in the safe.
- Conversely, the Legacy Machine line and LM101 specifically strike you as too cautious, and MB&F’s Horological Machines are much more to your taste.
- You are a “go big or go home” type and won’t settle for anything less than the landmark Legacy Machine Perpetual.
I’ll look forward to your thoughts in the comments – in the meantime, happy hunting and happy wearing!
For more information, please visit www.mbandf.com/en/machines/legacy-machines/lm101.
Quick Facts MB&F Legacy Machine 101 2021 Edition
Case: 40 x 16 mm case in white gold, 5N red gold, and stainless steel with polished and brushed surfaces and domed sapphire crystal
Dial: purple (white gold), royal blue (red gold), or light blue (steel) soleil main dial; domed lacquer subdials for time and power reserve
Movement: manually wound movement with flying dial-side balance; in-house movement with design and finish specifications by Kari Voutilainen; power reserve 45 hours; 18,000 vph/2.5 Hz frequency; NAC finished bridges
Functions: hours, minutes; power reserve
Limitation: limited production; waitlist for future years’ production available through authorized dealers and at shop.madgallery.ch
Price: CHF 64,000 (white and red gold); CHF 53,000 (stainless steel)
Production years: updated versions launched 2021 (original LM101 launched 2014)