As strange as it might sound, moonlight doesn’t exist. It is an illusion, and even the word “moonlight” is misleading. The moon gives off no light of its own, it only reflects light from the sun. In effect, moonlight is sunlight, projected onto Earth via the moon.
If there’s one person who can be relied upon to thoroughly grasp this concept, it’s Stepan Sarpaneva, the independent Finnish watchmaker whose work has become synonymous with the moon phase display. Little wonder, then, that the second collaboration between MB&F and Stepan Sarpaneva has resulted in a horological creation that occupies the same elusive space as moonlight, somewhere between illusion and reality. The MB&F MoonMachine 2 brings us the world’s first projected moon phase display.
MoonMachine 2 comes housed in the case of Horological Machine Nº8, the first MB&F creation to possess two design icons of the Horological Machine collection: the battle-axe rotor, and the heads-up time display first seen in Horological Machine Nº5. The stripped-down case construction of HM8 emphasized the illusory nature of the projected hours and minutes, and MoonMachine 2 uses the same mechanism to highlight the visual impact of a moon disc appearing in a space too small to fully contain it.
The projection is accomplished via an optical prism, which refracts the hours, minutes and moon discs in their flat positions to appear as if they are perpendicular to the engine. The prism is cut to magnify the hours and minutes by 20 percent for greater readability, but not for the moon phase display, which is at risk of distortion if magnified. The case of MoonMachine 2 is 0.5mm thicker than that of HM8, to accommodate the additional moon disc, and has a pusher on the side for quick adjustment of the moon phase display.
The battle-axe rotor of HM8 has been transformed into an openworked radial web of titanium, echoing the design vocabulary of Stepan Sarpaneva’s best-known work. The sapphire crystal pane framing the top of the MoonMachine 2 engine has been metallized in a similar pattern and draws focus to the variable sheen of the brushed titanium rotor as it rotates.
There are three instances of the immediately recognizable Sarpaneva moon in MoonMachine 2, its piercing eyes and pointed features based on Stepan Sarpaneva’s own face. Two of the Sarpaneva moons are mounted on the moon disc, taking it in turns to cycle under a Korona ring – another Sarpaneva design hallmark – to indicate the phase of the moon. The third is mounted on the winding rotor. Each moon is made of gold and finished by hand, which is incredibly challenging at their size. The two small moons on the moon disc measure 4.5mm in diameter and 0.35mm in thickness, while the rotor moon is 8.5mm wide and 0.45mm thick. The hand-finishing process is extremely delicate and the failure rate is very high, meaning that each completed moon will be the result of multiple work sequences.
A Korona-framed gold plaque commemorating the collaboration between Stepan Sarpaneva and MB&F is affixed on the sapphire crystal pane, adjacent to the crown.
According to MB&F founder Maximilian Büsser: “We would never have done MoonMachine 2 on our own, and Stepan would never have done it on his own. But that’s what I love about Performance Art pieces – the chance to expand the MB&F universe in unexpected ways.”
Stepan Sarpaneva’s take on the project is illuminatingly personal. “Max and I have a very long friendship, and there is a lot of honesty between us. He pushes me to do better and gives me the most challenging projects. This time the challenge was to augment HM8, which is not easy. But it’s fun, and that’s why I say yes to any project with Max.”
MoonMachine 2 is available in three limited editions of 12 – one in full titanium with white gold moons and a light-blue sky; one in blackened titanium with white gold moons and a dark-blue sky; and one in rose gold and titanium with rose gold moons and an anthracite sky.