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Understanding MB&F's First-Ever Chronograph – HODINKEE

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The LM Sequential EVO is a genuine breakthrough in the history of the chronograph.
The leading avant-garde watchmaker and horological concept studio MB&F was founded nearly 17 years ago, and in that time, the company has achieved so many off-the-wall developments and unexpected evolutions that it’s almost a surprise to realize they’ve yet to introduce their own take on a chronograph. That changes today. As of this morning, MB&F has officially unveiled its 20th movement in 17 years; the new Legacy Machine (LM) Sequential EVO stands tall not only as the firm’s first-ever chronograph but also for being unlike any other chronograph wristwatch we’ve seen before.
So what makes it so special? Well, the LM Sequential EVO utilizes two independent chronograph mechanisms and displays, operated through separate pushers, placed within a single movement driven by a single regulating organ. The twin chronograph mechanisms are split symmetrically and vertically across the face of the watch – one chronograph has its seconds and minutes register at three and one o’clock, respectively, while the other has them positioned at nine and 11 o’clock. (Typical for an MB&F timepiece, there is no running seconds display; the passing hours and minutes can be read off the smaller register located in the traditional six o’clock position.)
The chronograph pushers used to operate each individual chronograph mechanism are located on the casebands for each respective side of the watch. But that’s not all that’s noteworthy here – the LM Sequential EVO also incorporates a mechanism MB&F is calling the “Twinverter,” which is effectively a binary switch capable of synchronizing the actuation of each chronograph to offer enhanced and unexpected elapsed timekeeping capabilities.
Functionally, the Twinverter is a fifth pusher that’s placed at nine o’clock on the caseband of the watch, and that can control both chronographs at once, engaging – or “inverting” – whatever position each chronograph is currently in. Just to be clear, the LM Sequential is a singular watch that offers two separate, independent chronograph mechanisms, each with its own set of pushers, column wheels, and timing displays. You can engage the chronograph on the right-hand side of the watch without ever touching the chronograph on the left-hand side. For all intents and purposes, they’re completely independent of one another – except for when the fifth chronograph pusher, the “Twinverter,” is engaged.
The fifth pusher than enables the “Twinverter” mechanism.
If neither of the chronographs are running, the Twinverter will kick-start both of them instantaneously, no matter where the individual chronograph seconds hands are stopped (meaning they don’t both have to be stopped in the same place, one can be stopped at zero with the other at 15 seconds, or whatever combination). If both are running, then the Twinverter will stop both. If only one chronograph is running, pressing the Twinverter will kill the operational chronograph while at the same time jumpstarting the chronograph on the opposite side.
You’re probably just now beginning to realize what all of this means in terms of pure chronograph functionality. The LM Sequential EVO can be used to successfully measure and track multiple different types of timing modes and intervals – most obviously split and lap timing – some using the Twinverter capability, others not. Here are a few examples of what’s achievable. 
Büsser and his team enlisted the aid of an old friend in the creation of their new chronograph – Stephen McDonnell, a brilliant independent watchmaker (and Oxford-educated theologian) based out of Northern Ireland who previously collaborated with MB&F on the company’s ingenious three-dimensional Legacy Machine Perpetual Calendar, from 2015. McDonnell was kind enough to sit down with Jack and I yesterday for a fascinating discussion detailing his work developing the watch with MB&F over a period that stretched more than four years. Jack will be following up on today’s announcement with a deep dive on all the technical details and chronograph theory we learned from McDonnell about his movement in the near future – trust me, it’s going to blow your mind – but in the mean time, I want to emphasize just how impressive and rare it is for a new type of chronograph to be released, especially one as groundbreaking and energy-efficient as the LM Sequential EVO.
A quick breakdown of the LM Sequential movement architecture reveals a single escapement and oscillator – as seen by the sole, extra-large flying balance wheel beating away at 3 Hz on the top of the dial, attached to high-polished, two-legged bridge and hanging above the rest of the movement – which ensures that the separate chronograph mechanisms both operate at the same chronometric rate. 
The primary issue the chronograph, as a mechanical instrument, has always faced is related to the effective and efficient transfer of energy. Since chronographs aren’t constantly running, they can end up consuming quite a lot of power when physically actuated, causing a negative impact on the movement’s amplitude. And if you have two chronographs positioned in a single movement like on the LM Sequential, the detrimental effect would naturally double.
McDonnell’s clever way of working around the amplitude issues involves the introduction of a pair of vertical clutches, each placed within one of the two individual gear trains, and which ultimately converge on the same escape wheel pinion. These separate clutches engage with their own column wheels, acting as a coupling mechanism for each individual chronograph, in the process replacing the position of a conventional seconds wheel within the gear trains. Due to this placement, the trains remain under a consistent level of torque, eliminating the need for a conventional chronograph friction spring that would typically be used to create running tension for the chronograph mechanism, draining amplitude in the process. Each individual clutch shaft also features interior-set synthetic jewels that ensure the seconds hands start and stop without any shuddering, as well as offsetting any potential discrepancies in amplitude between the various levels of chronograph engagement.
That’s a rather simplistic overview of McDonnell’s innovative approach, but the complete story involves five new patents, 585 components, close to five years of backbreaking horological R&D, and working within infinitesimal tolerances that are nearly impossible to imagine. 
Stay tuned for the full breakdown from Jack, coming soon. 
Chronographs have always been important to MB&F’s founder, Max Büsser. A little over six months ago, Büsser appeared on an episode of Talking Watches, hosted (over Zoom) by Jack. Within the first three minutes of the 25-minute conversation, Büsser transports us back to 1990, when at 23 he survived a traumatic car accident that ended his service in the Swiss military. After six weeks of recovery, Büsser felt well enough to buy what he describes as “his dream watch” at the time – an Ebel Chronograph powered by a high-beat Zenith El Primero movement.
“It was way more interesting than a Rolex in those days,” he says, in the episode. “There was this three-dimensional design to it, very biomorphic, which was amazing. Watches were really just round, cylindrical objects and there was this organic shape to it. The detailing was just incredible. When I look at it, it hasn’t aged.”
Max Büsser’s Ebel Chronograph
Max Büsser’s Harry Winston Ocean Chronograph
A few years later, at the age of 31, Büsser became the Managing Director of Harry Winston Timepieces. And what kind of watch did he choose to kick-start the next generation of sport watches at the famed American-born jeweler? A chronograph, of course. The Ocean Chronograph, a funky-yet-classic dress chronograph equipped with interesting retrograde displays to measure elapsed time, was brought to life through the combined effort of Büsser, designer Emmanuel Gueit, and the watchmaker Jean-Marc Wiederrecht.
These specific moments show the relevance the chronograph, as a genre, holds within the catalog of Max Büsser’s career. Chronographs were part of his life before even starting in the watch industry, and they served as an early example of his collaborative and entrepreneurial spirit. Eventually, after six years at Harry Winston, in July 2005, Büsser would establish MB&F, which has since become the watch world’s premier marque for combining avant-garde aesthetic experimentation with top-notch horological innovation. 
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The independent Swiss company’s tendency to push boundaries does mean that MB&F’s typical design language can be transgressive and polarizing; it tends to be something you’ll either love or hate. And I imagine that will remain true for the new LM Sequential EVO. But I also feel that the design of the new chronograph feels holistic to the brand identity – no part of the watch feels out of place, every visible aspect of the movement, as well as the choice in dial colors, has clearly been considered.
The finish of the movement itself, for instance, is traditional and dramatic, with sweeping côtes de Genève, intricate interior and exterior angles, and swoon-worthy countersunk screws, all completed by hand and placed on full display through a sapphire crystal exhibition caseback. The watch’s general appearance also retains plenty of sporty elements, a reasonable choice given the complication at hand, providing an appeal that’s almost akin to a product born out of the skunk works division of a Formula 1 race team.
The case of the LM Sequential EVO measures 44mm in diameter with a height of 18.2mm, mostly taken up by the domed sapphire crystal that MB&F timepieces are famous for. The case, made of zirconium, features no exterior bezel, allowing all emphasis to remain on the visible elements of the movement and chronograph displays inside. Although it’s almost impossible to notice without looking for it, MB&F points out that the crystal actually has a pair of slight cambers set into its dome that are intended to minimize the feeling of the watch’s height on the wrist. I handled the LM Sequential briefly when I was in Geneva earlier this month, and while it’s obviously a large watch, it doesn’t feel any less approachable than any other MB&F Legacy Machine. 
As part of the company’s sporty EVO collection, which debuted in 2020 with the introduction of the Legacy Machine Perpetual EVO, the new LM Sequential comes outfitted with an integrated rubber strap and features a screw-down crown, enabling up to 80 meters of water resistance. The use of zirconium as a case metal also enhances the watch’s athletic appeal, giving off a rich silver-grey luster and offering up impressive hypoallergenic properties; the material is also notably lighter than steel and is said to be more robust than titanium. Finally, the LM Sequential incorporates a shock absorption system developed by MB&F called the “FlexRing,” which is more or less a monobloc steel dampener that sits between the case and movement.
Images, MB&F
The LM Sequential EVO is, from my perspective, representative of the most successful type of MB&F watches. It’s a breath of fresh air, both aesthetically and technically, with an incredible amount of inherent horological interest that should captivate even the most conservative of watch collectors. The LM Sequential EVO is also significant for the place it holds within the history of the MB&F brand; 20 movements in 17 years is no joke, after all, and the development of a new chronograph caliber is famously fraught horological territory.
Image, MB&F
Stephen McDonnell is the genius behind the LM Sequential EVO chronograph; the watch would not exist without his genuine mechanical brilliance and one-of-a-kind problem-solving capabilities. But at the same time, I think it’s important to acknowledge that the release of the LM Sequential EVO is a banner achievement for Max Büsser in his position as a business and creative leader in the watch industry. 
We know, through his Ebel Chronograph and the Harry Winston Ocean Chronograph, just how important the chronograph, as a category, is to Büsser’s unique watchmaking vision. And after 17 years of building up and supporting the most unique and original horological landscape out there through MB&F, it should also be clear just how meaningful the successful development and release of an innovative new chronograph like the LM Sequential is for Büsser, and how influential it could end up being for the rest of the watch world.
Brand: MB&F
Model: Legacy Machine Sequential EVO
Diameter: 44mm
Thickness: 18.2mm
Case Material: Zirconium
Dial Color: Atomic Orange, chemical vapor deposition; or Coal Black, physical vapor deposition
Lume: Yes, Super-LumiNova on numerals and hands
Water Resistance: 80 meters
Strap/Bracelet: Integrated rubber strap with titanium folding buckle.
Movement: Fully integrated dual chronograph system developed for MB&F by Stephen McDonnell, featuring Twinverter switch allowing multiple timing modes.
Functions: Hours and minutes; dual chronograph seconds and 30-minute counters; “Twinverter” mechanism with pusher at nine o’clock, binary switch that inverts the start/stop position of both chronograph mechanisms; power reserve indication on back of the movement.
Power Reserve: 72 hours
Winding: Manual
Frequency: 21,600 vph / 3 Hz
Jewels: 59
Chronometer Certified: N/A
Additional Details: 585 components; flying balance wheel with regulating screws at 12 o’clock, Breguet overcoil; bridges darkened with NAC finish; galvanic black dials; screw-down crown; FlexRing annular dampener fitted between case and movement, providing shock protection along the vertical and lateral axes
Image, MB&F
Price: $180,000
Availability: Immediately, at MB&F Authorized Dealers and through the MB&F M.A.D. Gallery
Limited Edition: N/A
You can learn more about the MB&F LM Sequential EVO online
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