MB&F x Eddy Jaquet: Inspired by the Novels of Jules Verne

By Christina Tsangaris

In the course of its 15-year history, MB&F has partnered with some of the most talented watchmakers of our generation. Now, for the first time, MB&F is putting the work of a traditional artisan in the spotlight, with the LM Split Escapement ‘Eddy Jaquet’ Limited Edition: a series of eight unique pieces featuring the extraordinary imagination and skill of the well-known engraver in depicting the novels of Jules Verne.

Eddy Jaquet is recognised throughout the rarefied circles of independent watchmaking aficionados as the man whose transformative touch can turn a watch into a rich storytelling tapestry. Those who have followed MB&F for a long time will already be familiar with his work. The flowing script you see on the Legacy Machine engines is made in Eddy Jaquet’s hand; it is the merest hint of his true artistic talent. MB&F founder Maximilian Büsser says, “We’ve worked with Eddy for years, but getting Eddy Jaquet to engrave names on movements is like playing Für Elise on a Stradivarius violin — you couldn’t imagine a more modest use of such an amazing gift.”

The most memorable work of the Neuchatel-based Jaquet is characterised by the depth of its scope and ambition; it is classical in style and heroic in its execution of human figures. In a way, the uniting theme of the LM Split Escapement Eddy Jaquet Limited Edition was inevitable. Says Büsser, “We’re brainstorming around the table, and a theme that comes immediately to mind is the writing of Jules Verne, because I’m so into science fiction, and because the Legacy Machine collection that Eddy has been working on is basically the watch that I would have created if MB&F was founded 150 years ago.”

Because of its wide expanse of surface available for engraving, the Legacy Machine Split Escapement (LM SE) was a natural choice for this unprecedented collaboration. In his preliminary research for the series, Eddy Jaquet devoured the books of Jules Verne, reading up to 60 novels and short stories by the prolific 19th-century French author. The eight stories that were finally selected to be illustrated in the limited edition include some of his best-loved work such as Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea but also some of the lesser-known stories such as The Adventures Of Captain Hatteras.

Highly notable is the fact that none of these illustrations are drawn from an existing piece of art. They are conceived by Jaquet after reading the source books by Jules Verne and viewing any other secondary films or creative work based on the books. Each engraving is an intricate tableau of scenes and key moments from the stories, synthesised in the imagination of Jaquet and expressly designed to be interpreted through the medium of the LM SE engine.

Not only did Jaquet have to exercise his creativity and engraving skill to the utmost, he was also obliged to practise his craft within the exigencies and limitations set by the LM SE engine. The designated engraving space was the dial plate, which presents a flat upper surface in the main LM SE series, but is actually of variable thickness on its reverse side in order to accommodate the different components of the engine. Engraving the dial plate as if it was uniformly thick throughout was not possible — careful consideration had to be made as to where the thinner areas were, so as not to inadvertently puncture the artistic canvas if a particular section required deep-relief engraving.

To fully bring out each illustrated scene, Jaquet applied a dark rhodium alloy by hand, adjusting the shading of each detail according to the exigencies of the scene. The smoke of the fire on the Michel Strogoff dial, for example, required an attenuated touch, while the underground sea depicted on the Journey To The Centre Of The Earth dial incorporated gradient-shading techniques.  Between the redesign of a number of components and the actual execution of the engraved dial itself, over 300 hours of additional labour were required for each unique piece of the LM SE Eddy Jaquet Limited Edition.

By Christina Tsangaris