MB&F Balthazar: Time Gets Dark Playful Twist
Balthazar is a toy that tells time, with movable joints and everything, but it is a toy for grown-ups. It reminds us of the Iron Giant, a little.
MB&F puts a mean twist on time with the Balthazar table clock – although in fairness calling Balthazar a mere clock misses the point entirely. Ok, so MB&F is a Swiss watchmaking outfit we’ve covered many times over the years. Just click on the tag MB&F if you’re a Thomas who doubts. Personally, I’ve had many a wonderful encounter with the good people at MB&F over the years as I’ve wandered the halls of BaselWorld (like Bono, I too have not found what I’m looking for) and have always come away entertained, if nothing else. Being entertained at the madhouse that is BaselWorld is no small matter.
This entertainment value is what comes to my mind when looking at the Balthazar clock, which shows (slowly) jumping hours and sweeping minutes, alongside 20-second retrograde seconds, a 35-day power reserve indicator and moon phase indicator. Reading a text description like this undercuts Balthazar’s power though and doesn’t tell you what’s so entertaining about this, unless you’re a watch geek.
In fact, Balthazar is so interesting that no less than TechCrunch dedicated Part 23 of its Goofy Rich-Person Gadgetry series to it. Being respectable techies, TechCrunch calls Balthazar a “novelty” made by hand to sell to rich people. It also calls MB&F a “glitzy watch manufacturer… Basically, that is what most tech-savvy people think of high-end watches and watchmaking but not to worry, we’ll do what we can to correct such notions. If that doesn’t work, maybe Balthazar can unleash his death rays on them…
Nevertheless, MB&F isn’t just positioning this to the rich, as they demonstrated with the Sherman and Melchior. Balthazar is a toy, with movable joints and everything, make no mistake but it is a toy for grown-ups. Founder Max Busser is quite open that what MB&F makes are objects inspired by his own childhood experiences. In this way, we suppose that MB&F channels Antoine de Saint Exupery, if you can accept Busser in the role of the Little Prince (we still love you Max).
Like the previous table clocks/kinetic sculptures, the movement here is by L’Epée, the high-end table clock specialist. Standing some 40cm tall, Balthazar is made up of 618 components but has a heart made of pure whimsy. When you rotate Balthazar’s torso 180 degrees, you see his more menacing visage, complete with Terminator-esque skull. Honestly, Balthazar reminds us of the Iron Giant, which is quite far removed from Busser’s childhood but perhaps speaks to some sort of universal and timeless experience.
Balthazar carries his winding key in his shield (on his right arm) and has moveable arms, at the shoulders and elbows, and his hands can grasp objects. While his torso does indeed rotate, Balthazar’s legs are immobile for greater stability. By the way, this mean machine weighs 8.2 kg so he needs adequate support.
- MB&F and L’Epée Balthazar
- Dimensions: 39.4mm x 23.8mm x 12.4mm
- Functions: Slow jumping hours, sweeping minutes, 20-seconds retrograde display, power reserve indicator, double-hemisphere moon phase indicator
- Power reserve: 35 Days
- Movement: Mechanical, manual-winding calibre 1839, by L’Epée
- Water resistance: NA (Balthazar doesn’t swim)
- Material: Fully palladium plated polished brass, with black, silver, blue and green armor
- Limited to 200 pieces: 50 in black, 50 in silver, 50 in blue and 50 in green