“It is super high end watchmaking meets super high end micro engineering.”
That’s how Max Büsser sums up the new Horological Machine No.6 that was just unveiled in Singapore today. MB&F has been playing a major role on the stage of high-end watch making for several years now, and its latest reveal, also known as ‘Space Pirate’, looks set to stir things up further. Describing the much-anticipated timepiece as having “tonnes” of micro engineering in its neutral movements that isn’t immediately visible to the eye, he revealed that the project has taken him and his development team four years to produce – a whole year and a half longer than it took them to produce past editions of Horological Machines.
According to Büsser, With the HM6 there’s a lot of that one doesn’t see at first sight. But what one does notice immediately are the five spherical domes on the upper face of the watch, and its sinewy, ergonomically shaped body that boasts soft curves and rounded edges. Given its automotive-like aesthetic, it is no surprise when Büsser later revealed that as a child, he had always wanted to be a car designer. In fact, he pointed out that one of his greatest inspirations while growing up in the seventies was Luigi Colani, a German-born Swiss-Italian who is credited for inventing Biodesign. Colani’s design sensibilities were all about sleek and aerodynamic lines, and his conceptualisations of trucks and cars in the 70s were deemed ‘revolutionary’ and labeled as possessing an emotion that was light years ahead of the times. And it is evident that Busser has borrowed a similar aesthetic for the HM6, which almost resembles an organically-curved gourd when viewed from the side.
“I completely changed my design philosophy on this. I think for HM1, HM2, HM3, HM4 and HM5, even though they are all very different, you can more or less recognize (in terms of design) where I come from. For the HM6, I went back to another childhood souvenir. I had wanted to be a car designer my whole childhood, and this was the man who really impacted me,” he says.
Aesthetics aside, the HM6 boasts a character that is true to the avant-garde spirit of MB&F. Of the five sapphire domes on top, ensconced in the middle and pulsating right at the centre like a heart, is a flying tourbillion. While he had not originally set out to produce one, Büsser says that he had to, given that it is completely out of the movement.
“It is completely out there and turning on a ball bearing system. What is interesting is that as usual, we mixed super traditional with something modern. We have got an 18,000 oscillation per hour, 19th century regulating system, all in a super high-tech titanium cage, which turns at 60 seconds. This then drives the hours and minutes through two sets of conical gears,” he explains.
He goes on to explain that with the HM4, they didn’t have that solution, which resulted in it having a problem of backlash. In order to avoid the same issue with the HM6, they specifically made the conical gears. “These are extremely complicated to do, because if they are not perfectly machined and perfectly aligned, they eat up a tonne of energy, so they have to be perfectly regulated,” he adds.
Those familiar with the Horological Machines might notice that the spherical domes are very much reminiscent of the domes on the Frog, but Büsser points out that the ones on the HM6 are in actuality a lot more complicated because they are not half spheres but two-thirds. At just 0.2mm thick, they also weigh a surprisingly light 0.4 grams.
If you inspect the tourbillion closely, you will notice there is a neat mechanism that looks almost like the armory of an armadillo, and in fact acts as a shield for the tourbillion. On top of the fact that it looks cool and somewhat like a reptile’s eyes, it actually serves a purpose. Located just beneath the sapphire dome that houses the tourbillion, it can be unfolded in clicks to completely cover the tourbillion. This is because in bright sunlight, the shape of the sapphire sphere acts like a magnifying glass and concentrates penetrative UV rays, which could have adverse effects on the lubrication of the tourbillion.
According to Büsser, this actually turned out to be one of the most complicated function and the most difficult part to engineer in the whole watch. Each blade of the shield is between is 0.15 and 0.2mm thick, and is perfectly machined out of a block of titanium in one whole piece including the cogs. This has to be done in order to avoid any rocking effect, and Büsser reveals that it took them almost three years to perfect it.
Attempting to mix this incredible movement with the design proved to be the biggest challenge, but Büsser says that they worked hard with the engineers to make it work. The result is a machine that is incredibly light, although according to him, that was not done by purpose. While it is a pretty big piece, it is still smaller than the HM4 – “which makes it super easy to wear!” proclaims Busser.
The Hour Glass is the exclusive retailer of MB&F. HM6 ‘Space Pirate’ retails for SGD$324,200.
(Photos provided by Zach from watchculture.blogspot.com)