From intergalactic travel and aviation to science fiction and automobiles, the themes that revolve around MB&F are essentially the childhood fantasies of founder Maximilian Büsser. More than just a radically creative outfit that produces its now-iconic wristwatch collections termed Horological Machines and Legacy Machines, MB&F has also built a reputation over the years for dreaming up an impressive line-up of fantastical design objets d’art inspired by the same themes, in collaboration with various traditional Swiss craftsmanship maisons.
Also called Machines, these complicated and often tongue-in-cheek kinetic sculptures or mini robots take the form of music boxes made in partnership with Reuge, and clocks with L’Epée 1839. The latest of such an effort is the MB&F Astrograph, a writing instrument inspired by space exploration, in collaboration with yet another heritage Swiss institution, Caran d’Ache, which was founded in 1915 and manufactures art and drawing materials, office supplies, and luxury writing instruments and accessories.
Channelling the very essence of a schoolboy’s astronaut dream of blasting off into outer space, the Astrograph is a mechanical rocket pen designed to be comfortable to hold, complete with rocket-shaped fuselage, miniature astronaut, shock-absorbing “switchblade” landing gear and a case designed like a launch pad.
This odyssey began in 2012, when Büsser revealed his idea of instilling the spirit of space travel into a writing instrument to Caran d’Ache’s creative teams. Despite the challenge, the Swiss manufacture, which is renowned for its impeccable quality and technical sophistication, took on the project with enthusiasm.
The result, after four years of gestation and discussions: an exceptional writing instrument with a futuristically designed body comprising a total of 99 components and a host of innovative features. These include the vertical stabilisation system, launch pad box and magnetic figurine. The epitome of perfection in design and production, each writing instrument takes 500 manual operations to manufacture, and has the honour of being the most complex ever made.
At first glance, the Astrograph is indeed a miniature space rocket. It flaunts a slim, curved body, with a fluid design accentuated by a chequered pattern and enhanced with anthracite lacquer. This feature is a particularly delicate process carried out by expert craftsmen, and a speciality of Caran d’Ache. Maintaining its integrity as a fine writing instrument, it is also given immaculately balanced proportions so that it rests comfortably in the hand.
Cementing its appeal as a boy’s toy is its architecture: its structure is articulated by an ingenious mechanism inspired by penknives—with the entry door to the rocket concealed in the ring of the pen, while a miniature lever activates the simultaneous and symmetrical lowering of three stabiliser legs. There is even a miniature ladder that runs alongside the “thruster engines”. Once the stabiliser legs have been deployed, the Astrograph can stand up vertically, in preparation for take-off.
And what’s a rocket without a pilot? The Astrograph comes with a rhodium-plated and magnetised miniature astronaut figurine that is able to attach to any part of the instrument, ready for action. Just for fun, a presentation box in the form of a launch pad has also been specially devised for the Astrograph. Upon lift off, the instrument unscrews to reveal a fountain pen inside the fuselage.
The Astrograph is a limited edition available in three finishes and four versions: a high-gloss rhodium fountain pen; a sandblasted matte rhodium fountain pen or roller pen; and an anthracite ruthenium fountain pen. The fountain pen boasts a gold tip and is fitted with an ink pump, but may also be used with cartridges. While the size of the pen nib is M, other sizes are available upon request. Meanwhile, the roller pen is fitted with a Caran d’Ache roller pen cartridge. As an homage to the 99 special components, only 99 pieces are produced for each version.