Pre-SIHH 2018: MB&F Kelys & Chirp Mechanical Toy By Music Box Maker Reuge

By Carl Scutt

If you’ve never heard of MB&F you’re probably not alone. The Maximilian Busser and Friends brand, normally shortened down to MB&F, is a Swiss watch brand founded in July 2005 by Maximilian Busser and presumably his friends.

This Geneva based watchmaker specialize in their unique futuristic designs inspired by science fiction to bring you what they call Horological Machines that clearly capture the design cues of their objects of inspiration.

Leaving The ‘Time Machines’ Behind

If you’ve been on the planet as long as I have you’ve already realized fun is subjective and the latest release of the Kelys & Chirp Mechanical Toy is a fine example of this. It may not to be everyone’s taste but that’s exactly why we should tip our hats to MB&F and Reuge, in particular Nicolas Court, the (Techniques Horlogères Appliquées) micro-mechanic responsible for the Breguet Sympathique clocks, and the tortoise’s mechanism for the Chirp Mechanical Toy. Also a shout out to Reuge for creating the Singing Bird complication that combined has created something with a limited appeal just because they can.

Previously, the partnership has also seen the development and release a series of “Music Machines,” that include the first to play Star Wars and Star Trek themed music, something that suggests a deep interest in science fiction.

Moving Away From Science Fiction

Unlike previous designs the main difference is that the MB&F Kelys & Chirp Mechanical Toy does actually tell the time. Developed as a co-creation between Reuge a musical pocket watch specialist, and MB&F, the Chirp Mechanical Toy gives you an automaton tortoise complete with singing bird lives in the shell, and pops out.

I know, the mind boggles, right?

What To Expect

What you will see when this piece jumps into action is the tortoise (“Kelys” in Greek) moves both slowly and life like in a asymmetrical fashion, its head moving side to side as the body moves forward. As the Chirp is activated she appears from beneath Kelys’ upper most scale to flap her wings.

During her routine she moves her tail, pivots left to right and opens and closes her beak in time with the bird song created using a system of bi-directional bellows.

The materials used in construction of the tortoise are rhodium-plated brass, with a mixture of grained, satin brushed and polished finishing, while his shell is covered in hand-made leather scales. The tiny and complicated Chirp uses 18k polished white gold with sapphire eyes, featuring a clever protective mechanism.

Should the bird or cover be pushed down during the singing routine the mechanism allows safe retraction of the Chirp without any damage.

Other clever safely features include a friction clutch security system” that detects surface edges to prevent Kelys walking off the desk or table top, otherwise the ‘tail switch’ can be activated to prevent Kelys moving while the bird song is activated.

All in all Kelys & Chirp Mechanical Toy includes 480 hand assembled components with both mechanisms using the twin cam spring barrel providing power reserves for 3 cycles turtle walking and bird singing.

Final Word

Without a doubt this is a fine example of attention to details, precision engineering and love of everything mechanic. The craftwork, skill, and the quality of the materials alone speak volumes to its desirability for anyone with an interest in tortoises, birds, and automatons.

That being said, it’s not clear how big this particular demographic is when you consider the price of this objet d’art.

The Kelys & Chirp will be available in 4 limited editions of 18 pieces in blue, green, yellow, or ochre, commanding a retail price of 49,000 CHF + VAT

While this piece may be charming and fun, it’s expensive and somewhat exclusive so may be its future rests in the hands of wealthy and eccentric collectors of rarities. It most assuredly will not be seen on coffee tables near you.