Arachnophobia! Telling the time on eight legs

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September 2015

MB&F and L’Epée have teamed up on an evocative project that might send shivers down your back. Combining a vivid imagination and high-end watchmaking, the end result is a wonderfully conceived and manufactured work of extreme art and timekeeping.

“A creative adult is a child who survived”. That is the motto of MB&F, implying that every adult has creativity at his or her core. Celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, the horological concept lab might be on to something. After all, it received a “Red Dot: Best of the Best” award – the top prize at the international Red Dot Awards - for its HM6 Space Pirate.

Arachnophobia! Telling the time on eight legs

With the focus on imagination and creativity, the Geneva-based brand has introduced some very extreme and visually powerful machines in the decade of its existence. And its new Arachnophobia piece is arguably as extreme as they come. It is the result of MB&F founder Maximilian Büsser’s (perhaps) overactive imagination. In fact, Arachnophobia was inspired by a giant spider sculpture called Maman (meaning ‘mother’ in French) that Büsser had seen in Geneva, which has since been installed in a variety of locations around the world.

Arachnophobia’s intense appearance was conceived and developed by MB&F. It was then engineered and crafted by L’Epée 1839, Switzerland’s only specialised high-end clock manufacture. A high-end L’Epée clock movement is therefore at the core of this mechanical wonder, re-imagined as the head and torso of a spider, which has 218 components in all. The head houses the regulator with its oscillating balance wheel, while the other end contains mainspring barrel, which powers the key-wound movement. The body is outfitted with a black dome with white numerals depicting the hours and minutes.

Arachnophobia! Telling the time on eight legs

But the Arachnophobia’s time-displaying abdomen wouldn’t evoke fear and awe without the eight legs attached to the body. Thanks to ball-and-socket joints, the legs can be rotated so that the piece can either stand tall on a desk or flat against a wall. A third position provides the most interesting and alarming posture: the front legs can be moved forward while the six others maintain the standing position, as if to warn anyone from approaching closer, threatening to bite!

Arachnophobia! Telling the time on eight legs

L’Epée CEO Arnaud Nicolas explains the different threatening poses of the timepiece:

“Making this clock was an adventure; it is the first time we went so far on a design. In fact, the clock was made in two steps. The first one was the spider itself, and the second took place in the middle of a meeting when I was presenting it and had the spider in my hand near a wall. I was explaining how incredible this new clock was when the idea of hanging it on the wall popped up in my mind.”

The level of detail and finishing on such a large timepiece are impressive. The feat is all the more remarkable because finely finishing a clock movement is far more challenging than finishing a wristwatch, simply because of the greater surface areas of the larger components, increasing the complexity exponentially. The movement features superlative finishing of the type generally found on fine wristwatches, including Côtes de Genève, anglage, polishing, sand-blasting, and circular and vertical satin finishing.

Arachnophobia! Telling the time on eight legs

The legs, too, conform to the standards of high watchmaking, having been nicely finished by hand. To obtain the precise geometry needed, L’Epée came up with the novel solution of injection moulding metal. It is available in two colours: the more artistic gold-coloured edition features gilded brass legs, while the more realistic black version’s legs are made of injection-moulded aluminium.

While Arachnophobia is as large as the sculpture that inspired it, at 405 mm in diameter it is certainly larger than the spiders that inspired the statue in the first place! The good news for us is that it’s certainly not as scary. Unless you have arachnophobia…