Web of Time: MB&F Spider Clock


MB&F’s knack for striking innovation continues with this creepy-crawly clock inspired by Louise Bourgeois’s most famous sculpture.Arachnophobia is the fear of spiders. It’s also the name and shape of the newest clock from MB&F. And it marks the contemporary Swiss watchmaker’s latest collaboration with L’Epée 1839, the Swiss traditional high-end clock manufacturer. The concept was conceived and developed by MB&F’s founder Maximilian Büsser and engineered and crafted by L’Epée 1839. It was inspired by a giant spider sculpture called Maman (mother in French) that Büsser had seen in Geneva and Doha. It was created by Louise Bourgeois (1911 – 2010) in bronze, stainless steel, and marble.

The new timepiece that resembles a spider can be displayed as a table or wall clock and is available in black or 18k plated gold. It comprises no fewer than 218 components. Almost everything you can do in watchmaking has been done before somewhere or somehow, which makes creative-timepiece production a matter of finding novel combinations, and no-one seems to understand this better than Max Busser. Even his company MB&F (which stands for Max Busser and Friends) is set up as an ever-evolving alliance between watchmakers, designers, and engineering studios all working on a project by project basis following the pattern he established with the Opus project for Harry Winstoan during his time as MD.

MB&F hit the ground running with eye-catching designs that were genuinely unlike anything seen before, catching a wave of interest in steampunk in the process – HM (Horological Machine) 3 seems to jump straight from the pages of 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. The collective does an equally good line in classical horology too, as their Legacy Machine series proves.


The clock is inspired by a giant spider sculpture named Maman (‘mother’ in French), created by Louise Bourgeois (1911 – 2010). The original made of bronze, stainless steel and marble, measures almost 10 meters all around, and has been a fixture in a variety of locations around the world.

A L’Epée eight-day clock movement was re-imagined as the mechanical head and torso of a spider. The head houses the regulator with its oscillating balance wheel, while the other end contains the mainspring barrel, which powers the movement. The hours and minutes are read on a high dome representing the spider’s body, with rotating curved hands indicating hours and minutes on a polished, central dome featuring MB&F’s signature numerals. The palladium-plated main plates were redesigned as was the layout of the gear train to fit the design. The escapement was rotated 90° to better represent the head.

MB&F developed the highly unusual concept based on the imagination of its founder Maximilian Busser alongside L’Epée, selecting a high-end movement from the clockmaker and positioning it as the mechanical head and torso of a spider. The body is outfitted with a black dome with white numerals depicting the hours and minutes. The araneae’s finely-finished, highly-visible movement reveals its power reserve indicator up to eight days.The head houses the regulator with its oscillating balance wheel, while the ‘tail’ end contains the mainspring barrel, powering the movement. Along the way, Busser set up a side project, The MAD Gallery, that showcases the wilder shores of mechanical art – think kinetic sculptures, photos of Peterbilt trucks and Nixie tubes. Inevitably this has bled back into the watch, and in this case clock, making as MB&F has blurred the conceptual lines between art, toy and timepiece in a manner that no-one else has even thought to try. Their latest collaboration with L’Epee 1839, one of Switzerland’s oldest companies, is Arachnophobia, a menacing eight-legged clock with its escapement mounted on the mandibles – it works as both table and wall clock. As a spider, it comes straight from the deepest recesses of subconscious terror, partly thanks to the size (it’s a foot and a half across) but mostly thanks to the device’s sheer spideriness. Apart from the mechanical mandibles and the immense legs, the curiously appropriate dome of the clock face is inspired.

Fashioned from steel and brass, Melchior contains over 480 individual components hand-made in Switzerland. Some of these are more useful than others: in his moving arms he carries a rocket launcher on the right and a Gatling gun on the left. Sure, they don’t actually fire missiles, but they look damn cool. However, his primary purpose is, of course, to tell the time – a job he does via two discs located on his breastplate which display the hours and minutes. He also has eyes that display red markers that click round every 20 seconds, and a clear, domed head that houses its ticking “brain” – the watch’s escapement. The clock’s movement is Melchior’s body itself, which has five power barrels that provide it with a 40-day power reserve, which you’ll charge up by winding it 10 times a year with the robot’s detachable machine gun-shaped arm.

The creation, of course, takes its cue from Louise Bourgeois’ Maman, the bronze, stainless steel and marble sculpture. It helps too that the “finishing” of the creature, which includes the full range of techniques that you would expect to find in a modern watch, is faultless – it glistens as it lurks there on the wall. MB&F, who are celebrating their 10th anniversary this year, will be showing Arachnophobia, together with more conventional watches, at SalonQP next month. Not for the faint-hearted.


While we’ll let you decide whether it’s a brilliant or bonkers desk addition, we can tell you one thing with absolute certainty: with only 99 pieces going on sale worldwide in two editions – Light (aka all-steel) and Light & Dark (aka dual steel and brass) – they’re not going to be around for long.


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