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MB&F Horological Machine 6: Hands on Review

by Robin Lim on November 4, 2014

Mankind has always been fascinated by the universe since the beginning of time. Great men, such as Galileo, Neil Armstrong, and Stephen Hawking, have immersed themselves into finding the answers pertaining to one of the greatest mysteries ever known to humans. While the MB&F HM6 (also known as the Space Pirate) does not give us the answers to these questions, it gives us a glimpse into mankind’s obsession with the world beyond ours.

The MB&F Horological Machine 6., finished in Titanium.

The MB&F Horological Machine 6., finished in Titanium. The top two domes protect two turbines crafted in aluminium. These turbines were originally intended to be used to wind the watch, but it was not to be. Too little torque is generated to wind the movement. An alternate solution to winding was found in the massive platinum battle axe rotor, seen on the reverse side of the watch. To moderate the force of the massively heavy rotor, the turbines are used to use air resistance to dampen the force. They are also very beautiful to look at, and provide a visual treat. The turbines are extremely difficult to manufacture. Each is crafted out of a solid billet of aluminium. And magnificently finished. Awesome!

The MB&F HM6 is the culmination of Maximillian Büsser’s effort after four long years of development and research, ever since he gained an inspiration from a Japanese anime from his childhood: Capitaine Flam. For those folks who are fans of the space-themed anime, they may draw some semblance between the HM6 and the Comet Spacecraft.

Apart from Capitiane Flam, the HM6 was also inspired by the art of biomorphism.

Apart from Capitiane Flam, the HM6 was also inspired by the art of biomorphism. Articulating lugs make the watch comfortable, even on the smallest wrist. The smooth, biomorph nature of the case makes it surprisingly sleek and svelte. Slips under the cuff easily.

One of the first thing that came to our mind when we first saw the HM6 was how different the watch looks, when it is being compared to its predecessors. Watches from the Horological Machine series are fascinating and deviant, but the HM6 is distinctive on a whole new level altogether. It appears as though it is an organism, having a life of its own. Somehow, we would like to imagine that it is an extra-terrestrial creature from another planet. This is thanks to art of biomorphism, a kind of art form which draws inspiration from the natural curves and forms found on living creatures. This is further accentuated by the domes on the case; it looks as though they are the “eyes” of the creature, much akin to the HM3 “Frog”. Absolutely captivating.

One of the more interesting design cues on the HM6: the sapphire crystal domes.

One of the more interesting design cues on the HM6: the sapphire crystal domes. Note the tourbillon cage, made in titanium, and shaped in the stylized battle axe logo used by MB&F.

Well, since we are on the topic of the dome, we thought that it would be excellent to share some incredible facts on it. There are in total ten sapphire crystal domes on the watch itself; five on top and five on the bottom. The manufacturing process of the domes are tedious, due to the robust nature of the sapphire crystals. There is also a need to shape it with consistency, as any subtle differences will cause discerning optical distortions. And that will be awful, or even sacrilegious on such a tremendous timepiece. Finally, the domes are polished to make it transparent, resulting in what we are seeing on the pictures right now.  While the domed sapphire crystals look rather simple, the process behind the entire thing is staggering.

A side view of the HM6, with the spherical shield closed. It is an intricate feature which helps to protect the flying tourbillon from the harmful UV rays, in which it is detrimental to the lubricating oil in the both the movement and the escapement.

A side view of the HM6, with the spherical shield closed. It is an intricate feature which helps to protect the flying tourbillon from the harmful UV rays, in which it is detrimental to the lubricating oil in the both the movement and the escapement.

Thereafter, we picked up the HM6. We were beguiled once again, this time by the mass of the watch. Its lightness awed us, considering how complicated this watch look. The HM6 is an intricate piece, with many complex mechanisms and a hefty looking case. Hence, its paper-light weight surprised us. We were then told that the case is made from titanium. In fact, two solid aerospace grade titanium ingots were used to manufacture the case. The end result is an extremely featherweight but strong piece of horology.

Apart from the use of titanium, an aluminium band is also used in the construction of the case. The band has two functions; it strengthens the entire case, and concurrently allowing the pivotal lugs a position to integrate into the case. This is ingenious, as it is functional and it value-adds to the design of the timepiece. We think that the watch might look a little plain if the aluminium band is removed, or even a little odd if the lugs are on the case of the watch itself.

The aluminium band, and the iridescent green platinum rotor on the HM6.

The aluminium band, and the iridescent green platinum rotor on the HM6. The movement side of the watch. The watch can actually be worn this side round by flipping the bands. The hour and minute markers can still be read, but out of sync with the front by 6 hours and 30 mins. But adjusted to take care of this, is another way, we think, to wear this piece….tongue in cheek, of course.

The HM6 is powered by a movement made in collaboration with David Candaux, the man who was famously behind JLC’s Hybris Mechanica. It features a self-winding movement consisting 475 components, including a flying tourbillon and two aluminium turbines. Despite its lack of complications, the HM6 is actually an enthralling and complex timepiece. Kindly allow us to explain further.

One of the main elements of the HM6 would be aluminium indicating domes. While is looks deceivingly simple to produce, the process behind it is actually incredulous. Solid aluminium blocks are actually reduced to paper-thin thickness, to ensure that it does not require too much torque to turn the domes. Also, it is to ensure that it is wide enough to fit the complex gearing and drive train system that is required to allow the domes to rotate perpendicularly to the movement.

A close up picture of the retractable shield in action.

A close up picture of the retractable shield in action. Max told us the blades for the tourbillon shield is the most difficult piece of this watch to machine. The shield comprises of 6 movable blades, each carved out of a piece of titanium. To be able to open and close without catching, the blades must be machined to very small tolerances. Hence the very high level of difficulty. But the beauty of the shield in operation makes it worth it. Reminds us of the eye of a dinosaur opening and closing.

Another interesting feature is the retractable spherical shield, which lies a flying tourbillon beneath it. The retractable spherical shield can be operated by turning a separated crown, placed at the nine o’clock position of the timepiece. The spherical shield is to protect the UV radiation from potentially damaging the movement, since the rays are capable of oxidizing the lubricating oil on the movement and the escapement. The blades are manufactured using solid titanium ingots, in which it is reduced to paper-thin thickness. In total, the mechanism requires six of such overlapping and curved blades to fully protect the flying tourbillon.

The flying tourbillon on the HM6.

The flying tourbillon on the HM6. The cage is particularly of interest. Made from titanium, it is almost a skeletonized sphere, stylized to the shape of the MB&F battle axe logo.

When the spherical shields are hidden, the glorious flying tourbillon that is perched on the middle of the timepiece will come basking in for all to see. Adorning the flying tourbillon is the battle-axe motif that many fans will find it familiar on certain MB&F pieces. The choice of a flying tourbillon is clear; there is no place for a tourbillon bridge to support the mechanism in such a constricted space. The end result is phenomenal: it makes the watch so much more modern, which compliments the design of the timepiece.

One of the ten sapphire crystal domes on the case of the HM6; this one features the aluminium turbine.

One of the ten sapphire crystal domes on the case of the HM6; this one features the aluminium turbine.

At this point in time, I guess many readers are now puzzled with the two aluminium turbines present in the HM6. While these two turbines give the watch an aesthetic edge, it actually serve a very important purpose. According to MB&F, the turbines are driven from the rotation of the winding rotors, by a gear train, to amplify the number of rotations. It also counteracts to prevent wear and tear of the movement; it attempts to slow down the winding of the watch through air friction which will reduce the speed of the turbine when the platinum rotor is spinning excessively.

A mandatory wristshot of the HM6. It actually sits really comfortably on the wrist, thanks to the pivotal lugs.

A mandatory wristshot of the HM6. It actually sits really comfortably on the wrist, thanks to the pivotal lugs.

MB&F, or rather the Horological Machine collection, is no stranger to controversies. Most of the watches in the collection are distinctive, with unique design cues. It is a “love-it-or-loathe-it” collection, and the Space Pirate is no exception either. Some people might consider it to be a peculiar timepiece, or even exotic in some extreme cases.  But that is what makes MB&F such an interesting brand, and that is why people buy MB&F pieces. It is unparalleled and extraordinary in terms of its appearance. There are not many watchmakers out there who are daring enough to be deviant. But Maximillian Büsser did. The result, needless to say, is amazing. And the HM6 is a testament to that. We feel that HM6 is remarkable, and indeed it is one of the more outstanding pieces in the world of horology. Only 50 examples are available at the moment though, and they are all finished in titanium. According to MB&F, there will be another 50 HM6 movements, in which we reckon that it will be cased in precious metals. Or will they come up with something different once again? Only time will tell.

 

Additional caption comments by Peter Chong.

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