How did you get back together with MB&F?
It was 2012 when I got back together with Max with the idea of doing some sort of project. Prior to that, I'd been working on a very long, drawn-out, very complicated project which involved an investor. The investor decided it was a difficult arrangement and he no longer wanted to continue with it, and pulled out. Suddenly, I found myself unemployed with no income.
Peter, who is a recurring character in my story, came down and I showed him the design of this cool watch I had created, which has never seen the light of day. It had several mechanisms which were completely new. So, Peter said, “OK, what we’ll do is we’ll take one of these systems, we’ll turn it into a watch that will feature this module, and then we’ll sell it and have some income.” This was six weeks before the Basel fair. In those six weeks, I took the idea, turned it into a complete module, got the thing finished – not just functional, but completely finished, looking lovely – and Peter took it to Basel.
I knew Max would be there and I was interested in trying to do something with Max and so I said to Peter [he should have] the watch in his pocket and show it to Max. Max thought it was great and after Basel, they [MB&F] called me and said let’s meet up. That resulted in the Legacy Machine Perpetual.
This watch was a fundamentally fresh take on the workings of a perpetual calendar. What made you decide to pursue this?
I did the course on restoration and complications with Voutilainen [at WOSTEP] and I remember getting my hands on a perpetual calendar for the first time. It was this mythical complication and I remember opening it up and getting into it and I was just amazed. I remember thinking, “Is this it?” Because it was really clunky and there are all sorts of problems with the big lever and how it moves around. If you do the setting at the wrong time, you can break the tips off some of the teeth.
At first Max wanted nothing to do with an idea for a perpetual calendar. He of course had previously worked at Harry Winston and Jaeger-LeCoultre and he had nothing but problems with perpetual calendars. They didn’t work properly, and nobody even expected that they should work properly. It was taken as part of the game that they would sell the watch to the client, the client would break it and it would be sent back to the after-sales service, and the watch would just come and go.
My question was, why the hell has nobody done this better? So I said to Max that I have an idea for a calendar which won’t do any of those things, it will be completely reliable and nothing will go wrong with it – no matter what intervention the wearer makes [with the pushers and crown] can break it.
The classic perpetual calendar is based on a wheel with 31 teeth, 31 being the longest month. To me that’s counterintuitive, because whenever you have a month which is less – for example, the end of February – if you watch what happens on 28th February, jumping to 1st March, you’ll see that for about 20 minutes, the watch will move forward on 29th February, then maybe half an hour later it’ll move to 30th February, then 31st February. So, it reads these incongruous values and then eventually will settle on 1st March. But this seemed so inelegant.
For me, it’s much more logical to take 28 as the base for the calendar calculation, since all months have at least 28 days, and add in the extra days as and when required. Then you always have exactly the right number of days in the month.
But you can’t use the same system as the traditional calendar. This required a completely different architecture, what MB&F call a mechanical processor – it’s a multi-layered stacked gear with moving segments inside. You programme it on the 25th of the month for the present month, and then at the end of the month it spits out the extra days – be it 28, 29, 30 or 31.
The watch also allows direct access to the year in the cycle of 48 months or four years. In the conventional perpetual calendar, say you have to go back by one month in the 48-month cycle, what you actually have to do is go forward by 47 months, pressing the month corrector 47 times, which is again very incongruous. Mine allows direct access to the year and with one press you move forward a whole year, or 12 months.
The other thing as well, is that in a conventional perpetual calendar, if you look at the date, the 31st and 1st are so close together because the wheel governing it typically has 31 teeth. So, it looks ridiculous. It does the calendar in a completely new, more efficient and effective way. But the information it provides is familiar to everybody. It’s how it does it that’s interesting.