Beware, there is also a dark side
Balthazar is a sophisticated and imposing high-precision robot rotating
clock displaying jumping hours, retrograde seconds and a 35-day power
reserve. Weighing in at over eight kilograms and standing nearly 40
centimetres tall, Balthazar is L'Epée's latest creation, in
collaboration with MB&F.
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 miniscule 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 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’Epéefirst cobranded 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.
Every detail that makes Balthazar unique in its genre required many
hours of research and development. Examples include the complex
machining on the breastplate, the spurs on the feet with their
telescopic effect, or the mobile arms and hands. Balthazar?s shield,
which cleverly incorporates the key while facilitating its operation,
also proved a real challenge for the Manufacture. To quote Maximilian
Büsser, MB&F founder, “L’Epée 1839 are amazing, a joy to work with,
They always step up to the plate, no matter how original, how
challenging the design”.
Balthazar : A robot-cum-table clock
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
watchmaking 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.
With a normal jumping hour indication, between five minutes to the
hour and five minutes past it can be difficult 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 five minutes
before the hour. The jump is so gradual that it can be easily seen.