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Balthazar, MB&F's Latest Robot-Themed Clock, Has A Split Personality

Meet Balthazar. He's a slightly terrifying robot-shaped clock that has a smiling face on one side and a grimacing skull on the other. Balthazar is the latest collaboration between MB&F and L'Epée 1839, a traditional Swiss clock maker. The two first worked together back in 2014 on the Starfleet Machine and have since made quite a few unusual, sci-fi inflected timekeepers that won't quite fit on your wrist. Balthazar is the latest and it almost might be the most fun.

Like the other robot clocks that came before it (more on those in a bit), Balthazar is a table clock designed by MB&F, and manufactured by L'Epée 1839. When facing one direction, you see a friendly looking robot with jump-hour and continuous minute discs on its chest. There's a small power reserve dial below those, and above the cheerful smile the eyes act as 20-second retrograde seconds counters. But, you can twist Balthazar at the waist and reveal his "dark side." The grinning face becomes a skull and the eyes recall the Terminator. On this robot's stomach sits a dual-hemisphere moonphase indicator, with each of the two faces occupying one of the moons.

Balthazar does also have a friendlier-looking side.

It's a bit tough to tell from these pictures, but Balthazar stands 40 cm tall, weights 18 lbs, and is made of 618 individual components. There are five barrels for power, which combine to get you 35 days (yes, days) of energy. In addition to swiveling at the waist, the shoulders and elbows are opposable and the claw-shaped hands can grasp objects (though you probably shouldn't loan him your LM101). The shield that mounts on one arm doubles as the winding key, so you know you won't misplace it.

Balthazar's "dark side" has a moonphase complication and a sinister face.

The nice side of Balthazar tells you the time with a slow jump-hour display and continuously-moving minutes.

MB&F is calling Balthazar the big brother to Melchior, the robot clock it first launched at Baselworld 2015. The clocks have the same basic structure, each with discs for the time and the escapement in the dome on the robot's head (unlike the smaller cousin clock, Sherman, which uses a more traditional display). If you know your New Testament, you'll know that Melchior and Balthazar were two of the three magi to visit Jesus in the manger on the night of his birth ?will we be seeing a Caspar clock sometime soon too? Personally, I'm hoping yes.

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While Balthazar and Melchior certainly look like brothers, they're far from twins. The movements start with the same base, but L'Epée had to solve a few problems to bring Balthazar to life. The most obvious was the adding a moonphase complication without completely sapping the power reserve. Balthazar is 30% taller than Melchior, so additional gear train had to be integrated in order to connect all the way up to the regulator in his domed head.

The moonphase display shows off Balthazar's two faces as well.

MB&F first branched out from making replica watches with the MusicMachine in 2013 (of which we're obviously fans over here) and has since done a number of music boxes and clocks with outside collaborators. This could easily have been a disaster for a company with such a strong identity and niche spot in the larger luxury market. It turned out to be anything but. Max Büsser's vision and creative identity is more than strong enough to carry through to these other products and it doesn't matter whether it's on a wrist or a wall or a table, it's tough to look at an MB&F creation and not smile. Even if, like Balthazar, it's grimacing back at you.

Balthazar is available with four different colors of armor ?black, silver, blue, and green ?each limited to 50 pieces. All colors will retail for 52,000 CHF (approximately $52,875 at time of publishing). For more, visit MB&F online.

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