We usually bring you our hands-on analytical reviews on the same day that embargo lifts. But for the MB&F HM8, we were not able to, even though the watches were in Singapore, we did not have access to have our hands-on and photography until the day after. We published the press release details with our impressions when embargo lifted. You can read that here.
For today, we present to you our full review, with our live photographs. Parts of this was the original article we prepared in expectation for the hands-on and photo-shoot.
We can always trust Maximilian Büsser to dream. And when he dreams, he comes up with interesting sculptures which he turns into his horological machines. Watches which are unusual. Some say they are works of art. Some say they are trashy. What we know is they are highly desirable among the watch collecting cognosenti and become the subject of their dreams. Today, we are finally able to give our hands-on analysis on the latest dream from Max: The MB&F HM8.
What’s the theme behind. One always should ask Max this question when he reveals a new dream…um, new watch. Can-Am was the reply. Can what? Those of us who are not motor heads or based in North America, and this author being neither, will have no idea what that is. So a quick consult to the Press Release, and a swift practice of Google-fu, and the answer comes up.
Can-AM, or the Canadian-American Challenge Cup, was a sports car racing series running from 1966 to 1987. Bruce McLaren (yes of McLaren fame) developed his very first car. the MB1 for the Can-Am series. McLaren was a dominant force in the Can-Am, with 43 victories, more than three times its closest competitor Porsche. Class restrictions in the Can-Am were minimal and allowed for unlimited engine sizes, turbocharging, supercharging, and basically unrestricted aerodynamics. Can-Am cars were among the first race cars to sport wings, effective turbocharging, ground-effect aerodynamics, and aerospace materials like titanium. This led to the eventual downfall of the original series when costs got prohibitive. And that the last years the race was dominated by Porsche. During its height Can-Am cars were at the forefront of racing technology and were frequently as fast as or even faster around laps of certain circuits than the contemporary Formula One cars. Noted constructors in the Can-Am series include McLaren, Chaparral, Lola, BRM, Shadow and Porsche.
The HM8 inspiration
We might all already be familiar with the story of Max when he was a kid dreaming of becoming a car designer. So the HM8 carries this dream one step closer. The HM8 features a curved angular case, with dual optical prisms showing the bi-directional jumping hours and trailing minutes. The structure is based on the aerodynamically wedge shape of an Can-Am car, complete with roll bars sweeping from the front of the watch to the tapered back.
“I feel that this is one of the coolest pieces I’ve ever created.”
MB&F founder Maximilian Büsser
The case, roll bars and crystals
The HM8 is wildly reminiscent of a souped up HM5. In fact, the MB&F launch literature states HM5+HM3 = HM8. We go a step further, and think that the reference to HM3 is perhaps not even needed. The reasoning is as follows.
Firstly, the general wedge shape of the case, and the location of the crown, and dashboard is the same as the HM5 and its variant the HMX. The way in which it shows the time via a system of prisms is also similar to the HM5/ HMX. In fact, the engine is the same as the one used in the HM5, but with small modifications required because the movement is flipped upside down.
Gone are the slats above the case which allow light into the watch to charge the SuperLuminova discs carrying the digital time display. In fact, gone is the traditional case. It is replaced on the top with a one piece sapphire crystal with sections metallised to create an opaque blue border. This leaves a circular portion clear to reveal the MB&F battle axe rotor which MB&F literature say to have found its way from the HM3 Megawind. Well, actually not. The HM5 too has a battle axe rotor, but it is on the under-side of the case. Flipping the movement will give this desired result.
The crystal allows a judicious amount of light into the watch, and the entire movement sits in full view.The added light into the watch case provides front and back lighting to the time displays, making it much clearer and more legible than either the HM5 or HMX.
A set of roll bars in grade 5 titanium protect the sides of the curved crystal much like a set of roll bars would be on the inside to protect the cabin of a race car. We say to protect the watch case’s sapphire crystal top, but Max discloses that in practice, the sapphire glass is stronger than the metal bars, and good enough for protecting the movement. The analogy with the car’s roll bars are the inspiration for these roll bars.
Grade 5 titanium is chosen as it is light and high in strength, and indeed it is the titanium of choice when the requirements are for the metal to be milled or machined. However, its high strength of the Grade 5 Ti means that it is not very malleable and cannot be easily bent into the long curve which we see adorning the sides of the HM8. So instead of bending a titanium tube, each roll bar has to be milled from a solid block of titanium.
A set of discs rotate horizontally on the top of the movement, visible in the corners of the transparent cover. This horizontal time indication is reflected through a system of sapphire crystal prisms to magnify (1.2 magnification factor), and deliver the image of the discs to the “dashboard” in the front of the case. This system is very similar to that in a SLR camera’s prism, and to MB&F’s HM5 and in a simplified form the HMX. Although due to the position of the disks as the movement is flipped, a redesigned prism set is needed.
In the HM8, separate sapphire crystal prisms are used for the hour and minute displays. The wedge-shaped prism ensure that light is reflected (and reversed) from the horizontal indications to the vertical rather than refracted (bent). A convex lens at the front provides the magnification.
Sapphire crystal is much more difficult to work to optical precision than glass. The the numbers are printed on the discs as mirror images so that they display correctly when reflected on the ‘dial’ on the dashboard.
Overall, the aesthetics are superb. This is an extremely beautiful watch. The lines are sensuous, suggesting mega sex appeal. The proportions are magnificently selected, and the entire design gel harmoniously. We guess that’s the value of having one of the top designers, Eric Giroud on the staff. Max’s dream can become a beautiful reality. We are truly impressed with the visual impression. Bravo!
The movement, or what MB&F calls the Engine is an in-house developed bi-directional jumping hour and trailing minute indication which uses a set of prisms to reflect the indicators so that they are visible from the case side. The base of the movement is taken from a Girard Perrregaux, a return to the classic GP automatic movements used in many other MB&F watches, including the HM5 although the less expensive HMX used a Selita base movement.
The movement is inverted to put the winding rotor on top and modified to drive the prism indicator module. The finishing of the movement is quite good, and all the usual haute horlogerie requirements are met with ease, although the finissage detailing is not exceptional.
One Deployant friend, Andy Chua hits the nail directly, “its a HM5 Cabriolet”. Touché, we say! This is the most apt description we have come across yet. In the motoring world, the cabriolet is sexier, more sensuous, more beautiful than the base sedan. The very same adjectives apply here. The base sedan being the HM5, and the cabriolet being the HM8. And like in motoring, the cabriolet carries a price premium. The HM8 is priced at CHF 78,000 before taxes and in Singapore S$ 127,800 with GST from The Hour Glass. While the HM5 was approximately S$ 88,000 with GST or CHF 55,000 before taxes.
Having said that, we do find the HM8 to be a real beauty. Stunningly so. On the wrist and off, it exudes sex appeal and even manages to convey class and luxury that few products are able to approach.