Balthazar is a sophisticated and imposing high-precision robot clock displaying jumping hours, retrograde seconds and a 35-day power reserve. Weighing in at over eight kilograms (18 pounds) and standing nearly 40 centimetres tall (16 inches), Balthazar is composed of 618 beautifully finished, micro-engineered components.
But beware… there is also a dark side to Balthazar, as there is in all of us.
Rotate his torso 180 degrees and discover a terrifying Balthazar, along with a dual hemisphere moon phase indicator that should help you anticipate the evolutions of your mood. To quote Darth Vader in Star Wars, “If you only knew the power of the dark side.”
Light side: boasting a month-busting 35 days of power reserve, Balthazar’s clockwork displays “slow” jumping hours and trailing minutes via two discs on the chest, while the power reserve indicator is located on his belly. This side of Balthazar may be serene, but he is still always on guard: his red eyes, which continually scan the surroundings, are actually 20-second retrograde displays.
Moving higher still to Balthazar’s “brain” under the polished glass dome, we find the precision regulator of the clockwork. The animated balance constantly oscillates to let you know that while he may be standing still, Balthazar is always calculating.
Balthazar rotates around the hips like the high-precision machine that he is; you can feel the minuscule bumps of each micro-roller as he turns, and each distinct notch when he rotates the full 180°. Then everything changes: smiling Balthazar becomes very dark, or vice versa.
Dark side: The absolute nature of Balthazar’s darkness is revealed by the cold hard skull with menacing teeth and deep-set ruby-red eyes. But it’s not all threat here as Balthazar’s chest also contains a moon phase display accurate for 122 years. You can adjust the moon phase manually, providing one of many of Balthazar’s tactile pleasures.
Balthazar does more than display horological events: as well as rotating around the hips, his arms articulate at both the shoulders and the elbows, and his hands can clasp and hold objects.
Finally, Balthazar’s shield conceals and protects the secret of his awesome power: an integrated clock-winding and time-setting key.
Balthazar is available in limited editions of only 50 pieces per colour in black, silver, blue or green armour.
BALTHAZAR – A ROBOT-CUM-TABLE CLOCK
Balthazar doesn’t just look like an incredibly solid piece of complex high-precision micro-engineering, he is just that: an incredible 618 components go into the construction of his body and clockwork, which are more pieces than in most complicated wristwatches.
Developing Balthazar’s movement required such significant modifications to the previous movement that L’Epée had created for Melchior (MB&F and L’Epée first co-branded robot- clock) that it is basically a new movement. As well as the addition of a double hemisphere moon phase complication, Balthazar is around 30% taller than Melchior so an additional gear train was required to connect the regulator with the rest of the clockwork.
Surprisingly, because of Balthazar’s size – and he is even heavier than he looks – manipulating any of Balthazar’s joints and even the moon phase indication is extremely tactile. Moving anything on this robot is like gently closing the door on a high-end German sedan ; it’s the type of feel that requires much more than excellent high-precision micro-engineering capability, it requires caring deeply about touch, sensations, and even sounds from the outset. Balthazar is built to watch- making precision by a team that cares deeply, you can feel it.
Balthazar is full of surprises: joints move in ways that astonish (and it’s astonishing that some move at all); motions feel so wonderfully better than you expect that you want repeat them again and again. The build quality continually surprises and it’s hard to emphasise just how solid Balthazar feels. Then there is yet another surprise: the double-depth square- socket winding/time-setting key integrated neatly into the shield, which naturally slips in and out of its concealed niche with horological precision.
And for those who look very carefully into those eerie, ruby- red, Terminator-style eyes set deep into Balthazar’s skull, there is an ultimate surprise perfectly illustrating just how seriously the team takes the notion of form-follows-function. Those red eyes are actually the ruby bearings that support the 20-second retrograde eye displays on the other side of his face.
“L’Epée 1839 are amazing, a joy to work with,” says MB&F founder Maximilian Büsser. “They always step up to the plate, no matter how original, how challenging the design”.
With a normal jumping hour indication, between ve minutes to the hour and ve minutes past it can be dif cult to know if the jump has occurred or not. So L’Epée developed a ‘slow’ jumping hour, which sees the hour disc remain static for 55 minutes and then – rather than jump instantly and risk the jump being missed – start to turn ve minutes before the hour. The jump is so gradual that it can be easily seen.
Balthazar’s movement features a regulator (his brain) with an Incabloc shock protection system to minimise risk of damage to this critical component when the clock is being transported or moved. This type of shock protection is generally only seen in wrist watches.
Balthazar’s movement also features the same superlative fine finishing – Geneva waves, anglage, mirror polishes, sand- blasting, circular and vertical satin finishing – seen on Haute Horlogerie wrist watches. However, finely finishing a clock movement is more challenging than finishing a wristwatch because of the greater surface areas of the larger components. L’Epée CEO Arnaud Nicolas explains: “It’s not simply a case of double the size of the components, double the time it takes to finish them. The complexity increases exponentially. For polishing, for example, you need to apply the same pressure as when finishing a watch movement but on a much larger surface. Any variation in that pressure will show up in the finishing, so a skilled and steady hand is required to apply uniform pressure.”
Much time, attention and work goes into ensuring that Balthazar is absolutely everything he can be. For example, consider that his legs, which have no articulations to mini- mise risk of falling over, have nevertheless been manufactured and finished in three separate pieces before assembly, just because going to that trouble significantly increased the telescopic potential of various sections. Or those long nail- type teeth set into Balthazar’s skull: they could have been milled from a solid block of metal to save a lot of time and money. Instead, they were manufactured and polished individually before being set carefully into the skull. While you may not consciously notice these imperceptible details, they all add up.