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The little robot with a big superpowerBASELWORLD 2016: Just say Sherman

It gives us great pleasure to introduce Sherman. He's quite a cute little robot, but to be frank, Sherman doesn't do very much. He doesn't do very much at all.

Sherman doesn't walk, talk, weld cars, or roam Mars. He doesn't try to kill Sarah Connor, help Luke Skywalker, warn Will Robinson, vacuum the floor, star in feature-length films, or enforce the law.
In fact, Sherman really only does two things, but he does both extremely well.

Sherman tells the time. And Sherman makes people smile, which is probably the world's most useful and (emotionally) valuable complication. That's a superpower! Conceived and developed by MB&F and engineered and crafted by L’Epée 1839 – Switzerland's only specialised high-end clock manufacture – Sherman is the result of Maximilian Büsser’s on-going quest to revisit his childhood, during which he hankered for a robot friend.

Sherman's mechanics are based on a L'Epée 1839 in-line eight-day movement, which ensures that the friendly tank-treaded table clock can display the correct time on his chest for more than a week before requiring rewinding.

But Sherman is not simply a clock inside a robot, but an integral and holistic robot-clock. The mainspring barrel bridge extends down to support his tracks, movement spacers act as shoulders for the arms, and his eyes are bolt heads supporting the regulator. The movement plates and bridges of the clock also make up the skeleton and body of the robot.

The transparent blown mineral glass dome on Sherman's head reveals his mechanical brain, which is actually the regulator controlling the precision of the robot's time. It’s mesmerising to watch the little guy "think".

Sherman's arms can be manipulated into nearly any configuration, and his hands can be used to hold items like a pen or his winding key.

And while Sherman doesn't walk, his rubber caterpillar tracks are fully functional and, with a little help from a friend, he can roll over the rugged terrain of a typical office desk. But as cool as Sherman's robotic and horological accomplishments are, they pale in comparison with his emotional superpower of spreading happiness wherever he goes.

“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, man’s best friend was his robot,” says Büsser. “As a ten-year-old fan of Star Wars, I knew that Luke Skywalker could never have prevailed had it not been for droids like R2-D2 – a loyal, resourceful, and brave robot who was always saving his friends. As an only child, I imagined having my own robot companion and Sherman (like Melchior before him) makes that childhood fantasy a reality.”

Sherman is launched in limited editions of 200 palladium (plated) pieces, 200 gilded pieces (gold-plated) and 50 diamond-set gilded pieces. 

Sherman in detail

Sherman's timekeeping: Working from designs supplied by MB&F, L’Epée developed Sherman's body using its eight-day, in-line movement as a structural base.

Located under the transparent dome of Sherman's head, the movement’s regulator – consisting of the balance and escapement – features an Incabloc shock protection system to minimise the risk of damage when the robot is moving or being transported. While shock protection is standard in wristwatch movements, it is more unusual in generally immobile clocks. But then Sherman is no normal clock; he is a robot with a mission: to make the world a happier place.

Sherman's movement features the same type of superlative fine finishing found on the finest wristwatches, including Geneva waves, anglage, polishing, sandblasting, and circular and vertical satin finishing. However, finely finishing a clock movement is far more challenging than finishing a wristwatch because of the greater surface areas of the larger components.

Sherman's superpower

Sherman may be small for a robot, but he has an incredibly powerful superpower: the ability to spread happiness and to make people smile. Sherman's superpower is so dominant because smiling is contagious (one person with a grin sets off a fast-spreading chain reaction); reduces stress and anxiety; releases endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin (our body's natural mood-enhancing chemicals); strengthens the immune system (by increasing the number of white blood cells); makes us more approachable; lowers the heart rate and relaxes the body; makes us look younger; increases longevity; and makes us more attractive to others.

While Sherman isn't, nor does he claim to be, a qualified doctor, he does have the ability to make all those who come in contact with him happier and healthier. That's a power possessed by very few robots… and even fewer clocks.

Sherman's name

Sherman's name – as his continuous tracked undercarriage hints at – is derived from the prolific M4 Sherman tank used by the USA and its allies in World War II. Despite being technically surpassed by larger and more powerful tanks toward the end of the war, the Sherman tank proved to remain effective because it was extremely reliable and easy to produce. Better to have lots of smaller tanks in action than smaller numbers of larger, more complex tanks sitting in the garage.

Officially called the Medium Tank M4; it was dubbed the Sherman M4 by the British, who named it after General William Tecumseh Sherman. Sherman rose to command the Western Union army (succeeding General Ulysses S. Grant) during the American Civil War (1861 - 1865) and then headed the American army when Grant assumed the presidency.

British military historian B. H. Liddell Hart called Sherman "the first modern general". While the name of Sherman may have originated in a war scenario, he is most definitely a robot of peace. Sherman is fitted with the most powerful weapon of all: the ability to spread happiness and unabashed joy.