The MB&F Medusa Is A (Jelly)fish Out Of Water
The latest in a long line of unusual creations from Swiss watchmaker MB&F, this rather strange-looking object is in fact not a cyborg jellyfish, but a clock. A clock named Medusa, to be specific, after the French word meduse, which means jellyfish.
The Medusa's most striking feature is its delicate hand-blown Murano glass dome, which mimics the hood of the jellyfish. It also comes with glass tentacles, should you wish suspend it from the ceiling like a floating sea jelly, or metal legs should you wish to convert it into a table clock, a configuration that more closely resembles a heptapod. It is available in blue, green and pink—all colours that real jellyfish would have in nature.
What jellyfish do not have, however, is the Medusa's mechanical heart, visible through the coloured glass dome. The mechanics were deliberately designed to mimic the internal structures of a real jellyfish, and include the black rotating discs that are used to tell the hours and the minutes, as well as the movement that keeps the discs running. The numerals on the time display were even painted with SuperLumiNova to allow them to glow in the dark, mimicking the bioluminescence of nature's sea jellies—although no real jellyfish glows in the shape of numbers.
As with all of MB&F's clocks, the Medusa's mechanics were created in collaboration with L'Epée 1839, the premier luxury clock manufacturer in Switzerland. And despite the fact that the clock only displays the time, and not any other complex complication, the movement still took some two years to develop. This is owing to the structure of the Medusa; because the glass dome is heavy (weighing approximately 3.5kg) and is connected to the movement at a single point, it was imperative to develop a movement that could be wound with just one hand—the other hand could be used to stabilise the dome, whether it was hung from the ceiling or not. Plus, the glass dome also meant that the access to the winding mechanism would be limited. Happily, however, L'Epée's expertise means that the Medusa can be easily set and wound single-handedly.
That said, however, the most challenging portion of the Medusa's creation might not be the movement. It is in fact the coloured glass dome. MB&F knew that it wanted to use the finest glass available, so it turned to the famous Italian island of Murano, home to some of the world's best glass artisans. Unfortunately, as with all MB&F creations, the Medusa was not designed with current technology and production capabilities in mind. The shape of the glass dome proved so difficult to create that only one out of the 40 glassblowing houses that MB&F approached was willing to give it a try. The challenge was in creating a dome that looked delicate, but was really strong and robust. To do that, the glass had to be thick, but it could not be so thick as to obscure the clock housed within. There was much trial and error, with the pink Medusa proving especially challenging; to achieve the translucent shade of pink that MB&F wanted, glassblowers had to sandwich layers of red glass between those of transparent glass.
Anecdotally, we were also told that the glass domes had been completed just before for the Medusa's presentation to the press at SIHH 2019, which occured in mid-January, but had been delayed due to severe flooding in Murano, Venice and the neighbouring areas. The jellyfishes almost ended up back in the water. Fortunately, the floodwaters cleared just in time, and the glass made it safely to Geneva. Who knew clockmaking could be such an exciting venture?
(Related: Is This The World's Coolest Table Clock?)