The Fifth Element puts an otherworldly spin on the desk weather station
In a modern sci-fi take on a decorating classic, MB&F has come up with an updated mechanical version of the desk weather station that the company calls The Fifth Element. Taking cues from classic UFO stories, The Fifth Element combines a clock, barometer, hygrometer and thermometer in an open-frame brass clockwork flying saucer piloted by a tiny metal alien named "Ross."
Before digital technology saturated modern life like milk in a bowl of corn flakes, weather stations were a common sight on desks in homes and offices. Shaped like ship's wheel, simple plaques, globes, cubes, discs, and mysterious domed scientific devices, these semi-ornamental pieces helped people to keep an eye on the temperature, make sure the room wasn't too humid, and decide whether they'd need an umbrella with just a casual glance.
Today, such instrument packages are either the denizens of auctions or kitschy relics of jumble sales and thrift shops, but there is a certain romantic, scientific air to the better made examples that a paperweight simply cannot match. MB&F founder Maximilian Büsser apparently had similar feelings, and when he couldn't find a vintage station to meet his tastes, he decided to create his own with the help of then intern-designer Stefano Panterotto.
Based on research on vintage desk weather stations and UFO-related films, books, and comics of the 1950s and '60s, the designers wanted to make as much of the device as possible visible and the individual elements to be interchangeable to suit the owner's wishes.
The final design was handed over to high-end Swiss clockmaker L'Epée 1839 for hand fabrication from solid blocks of brass. The result is a 376 mm (14.8 in) wide by 209 mm (8.2 in) tall framework that weighs in at 15 kg (33 lb), holding the four instruments like landing craft in a saucer mothership. The base structure, called the Fifth Element, also included an independent clockwork mechanism supported on bearings, When activated, the manually-wound, air-regulated movement causes the alien Ross to rotate about the ship as if keeping watch on the weather.
The Clock Element is based the L'Epée 1839 in-house designed and manufactured eight-day movement that has been reengineered and skeletonized for maximum visibility and includes an Incabloc shock protection system to minimize the risk of damage when the clock is moved. One interesting innovation is that L'Epée had to rotate the balance and escapement at right angles to the rest of the movement to improve the owner's view of the mechanics.
Like the other four elements, the clock is 124 mm in diameter and 92 mm in height. Its movement contains 161 components, including 11 jewels, and weighs 1.35 kg.
The barometer element measures air pressure between 960 and 1060 hPa (28.4 and 31.6 in Hg). It's 73 laser-engraved parts include a curved red readout hand and it has a calibration screw in the base. The thermometer element is also laser engraved, as is the hygrometer.
The Fifth element sells for CHF 52,000 (US$54,800) and is available in limited edition of 54 units with 18 each in black, silver, and blue motifs.
The video below introduces The Fifth Element.