As strange as it might sound, moonlight doesn’t exist. After all, the moon gives off no light of its own, and only reflects light from the sun. If there’s one person who can be relied upon to thoroughly grasp this concept, it’s Stepan Sarpaneva. The independent Finnish watchmaker’s work has become synonymous with the moon phase display. His second collaboration with MB&F is no exception. The MB&F MoonMachine 2 is a horological creation that occupies the same elusive space as moonlight, and brings the world’s first projected moon phase display.
Horological Machine Nº8
First launched in 2018 as the adrenaline-laced “Can-Am”, Horological Machine Nº8 is a heads-up time display. It’s an evolution of the display that MB&F debuted five years ago in the HM5 “On the Road Again”.
The HM8 engine is a compact, in-house developed movement, built on a Girard-Perregaux base. It features a jumping hour disc, and a running minutes disc. Optical prisms fixed over the discs capture the time, refracting and magnifying the numerals so they can be read on a vertical plane.
The MB&F MoonMachine 2 comes housed in the case of HM8. The stripped-down case construction of HM8 emphasises the illusory nature of the projected hours and minutes. MoonMachine 2 uses the same mechanism to highlight the visual impact of a moon disc appearing in a space too small to fully contain it.
Challenges Of The Moon Phase
The gold moons of MoonMachine 2 are the smallest ever created by Stepan Sarpaneva. The watchmaker’s timepieces have, on average, gold moons that are 10mm in diameter, and 0.5mm in thickness. In comparison, MoonMachine 2 has one moon that is 8.5mm in diameter, and 0.45mm in thickness. On top of that, it also has two exceptionally small moons that are 4.5mm wide, and 0.35mm thick.
The smallest gold moons are first stamped to a thickness of 0.55mm, then reduced by hand-turning on a lathe till they’re just under 0.4mm. They are then manually ground down with a stone tool until they are 0.35mm at their thickest point, then matt blasted to create an even finish. At their thinnest point, around the eyes, the moons can be as little as 0.07mm thick. Nearly as thin as gold foil! The slightest pressure causes the soft gold to perforate, and the faulty moon discarded.
The 4.5mm-wide moons stretch the very limits of what can be worked on by hand. Any smaller, and the features of the moon’s face will no longer be any visible. As it is, they’re hardly discernible by touch, even by the experienced fingertips of Stepan Sarpaneva and his team. These near-impossible dimensions are necessitated by the constraints of the MoonMachine 2 case.
Three Instances, Three Limited Editions
As mentioned before, there are three instances of the Sarpaneva moon in MoonMachine 2. Two are mounted on the moon disc, and take turns to cycle under a Korona ring. The third is mounted on the winding rotor.
In a reflection of those three moons, the MB&F MoonMachine 2 is available in three limited editions of 12. The first is in full titanium, with white gold moons and a light blue sky. The second comes in blackened titanium, with white gold moons and a dark-blue sky. Last but not least, the third comes in red gold and titanium, with red gold moons and an anthracite sky.