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Hands on Review and Analysis of the MB&F HMX

by Peter Chong on June 2, 2015

We have always been impressed with the works of Max Büsser, and have been eagerly following his career since he ventured out from Jaeger LeCoultre to start the Opus Project for Harry Winston, and then later on his own with Max Büsser & Friends (MB&F). Although personally, we have not been a fan of every single watch he has introduced, we loved many of his creations. And we have always admired the man for his creativity, his imagination and most of all his ability to tell a good story. So it is always with great anticipation that we await the launch of any new product from him. The MB&F HMX is a classic case in point.

Excitement for this 10th Anniversary piece has been building up since the last quarter of last year. As recent as barely a month ago when Max attended The Hour Glass’ Rebels with a Cause event and showcased Melchior and the LM101 Frost, the fervour of the excitement grew and grew. During the Rebels event, we heard many of our friends committed to buy the watch. Max himself refused to show any pictures or give any description of the watch but only made the promise of a good product. The HMX (X as the Roman numeral for 10) was to be a reward for the fans of the brand for their support over the last decade. This promise, and given his track record for producing great watches which are often art pieces of their own right, was sufficient. And so they came in droves, and they bought, sight unseen.

 

MB&F HMX: anticlimax or new zenith?

 

MB&F HMX. The 10th Anniversary Horological Machine. Limited edition of 4 x 20 pieces.

MB&F HMX. The 10th Anniversary Horological Machine. Limited edition of 4 x 20 pieces.

 

You decide. For us, we are less than excited when we finally saw and had our full hands-on session with the HMX for the first time. A tinge of disappointment, perhaps that it seemed to have been a watered down version of the HM5. A very similar looking case, perhaps a bit more rounded but still maintaining the same basic design, the use of a prism to transfer the hour and minute numerals to the side of the case so it can be viewed as one holds the steering wheel of a car are the two very strong visual indicators. Watered down because instead of starting with a Sowind (basically Girard Perregaux C3300) as the base movement, it uses a Selita as a base movement, with additional machining done in-house by Alain Lemarchand.

 

Aesthetics

 

Two of the four variants, each with a different colour detailing viz British Racing green and Bugatti blue. The other two colours available are Lotus black, Ferrari red.

Two of the four variants, each with a different colour detailing viz British Racing green and Bugatti blue. The other two colours available are Lotus black, Ferrari red.

 

But some have remarked that it not only like the HM5, but also like the love child of an illegitimate relationship between the HM5 and the Romain Jerome Subcraft. Perhaps this is a cruel comment, but perhaps not too far from the truth. Interesting also that the RJ Subcraft is a derivative design by Alain Silberstein, from the RJ Spacecraft, which is designed by Eric Giroud. Eric is also the designer for the HM5 as well as the HMX. Might this be the cause for the genetic similarities?

Indeed, it not uncommon for a prolific designer like Eric Giroud to make extensions to original ideas. Gerald Genta, in the 1970s also used his basic idea of an octagonal bezel and lend the idea to the creation of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, the Patek Philippe Nautilus, the IWC Ingenieur and of course his own brand Gerald Genta, whose lineage is now continued with Bulgari.

 

Time indicators

 

The MB&F HMX time display. One the left, a jumping hour indicator. And on the left a trailing minute indicator. This view is a projected view through the built in prism.

The MB&F HMX time display. One the left, a jumping hour indicator. And on the left a trailing minute indicator. This view is a projected view through the built in prism.

 

The HMX displays are bi-directional jumping hours and trailing minutes. The time is displayed by the use of rotating discs on the top of the movement. These are reflected 90° and magnified by two sapphire crystal prisms that project the display to the front of the vertical display. As can be seen in the photograph above, a gap between the two prisms allows light to flood into the movement from the front. Another opening on the top of the case provides light and ability for the owner to examine the movement via its magnifier display glass.

A similar display technique of discs and prism is also used in the HM5. The HM5’s display uses one large prism which is more complicated in design and to manufacture. It is also more complicated as instead of a loupe like glass over the movement top, the HM5 incorporates a set of movable slats which can open or close to allow visibility of the movement.

 

The rotating discs for the hour and minute markers.

The rotating discs for the hour and minute markers. These are laterally inverted, but are made the correct orientation by the prism when viewed from the front.

 

Case design

 

MB&F HMX, side profile.

MB&F HMX, side profile.

 

Setting aside the who begat who story, the design has great aesthetic and technical appeal. We find the design of the entire case wholesome. It seems to be complete, and all the elements hang together.

 

MB&F HMX detailing. The crown bears the emblemetic battle axe of MB&F. Case finish is beautiful, with a nice, smooth organic feel as one runs one's fingers on the case.

MB&F HMX detailing. The crown bears the emblemetic battle axe of MB&F. Case finish is beautiful, with a nice, smooth organic feel as one runs one’s fingers on the case.

 

There is a certain organic feel to it. Perhaps a bit reminiscent of the awesome MB&F HM6, which we adore. Attention to detail is at an astonishingly high level. Every line, curve is refined. The case is made of Grade 5 titanium and stainless steel.

 

MB&F HMX through the top covers showing the movement and the colour detailing. This oen is in Bugatti blue.

MB&F HMX through the top covers showing the movement and the colour detailing. This oen is in Bugatti blue.

 

A carefully designed loupe-like opening reveals the movement from the top of the case, showing off the detailing with the painted stripes, much like the dual overhead rocker covers of a supercar’s racing engine. The detailing goes on to two functional oil caps, used in the car engine to pour oil into the engine, and for the watch movement unscrews: to allow the watchmaker acces to oil the jewelled bearings for the indication discs. Very neat!

 

MB&F HMX from the top.

MB&F HMX from the top. Showing the loupe like sapphire glass which reveals the painted “dual overhead rocker covers” of a supercar racing engine. Shown here is the detailing in British Racing green.

 

The feel of the watches on the wrist is rather comfortable. Worn with the wrist positioned on the steering wheel of the car, the indicators turn to face the driver, allowing easy reading of time at a glance.

 

MB&F HMX on the wrist. Very comfortable. The strap is very flexible and the detailing of the dots filled with the colour matching the watch's "engine covers" is a nice detail.

MB&F HMX on the wrist. Very comfortable. The strap is very flexible and the detailing of the dots filled with the colour matching the watch’s “engine covers” is a nice detail.

 

Concluding thoughts

 

MB&F HMX movement case back. Showing the 22k automatic winding rotor, 42 hours power reserve beating at 28,800 bph.

MB&F HMX movement case back. Showing the 22k automatic winding rotor, 42 hours power reserve beating at 28,800 bph.

 

We feel that on its own, without considering the similarities to its own brethren and other brands, the MB&F HMX is certainly a beautiful watch, with an enormous care and attention not only to the aesthetics, but also in the techniques. The use of a Selita as the movement train is perhaps the only negative in this scenario, but we are assuaged and appreciate that MB&F is building a watch to meet a specific price point. On its own, the technical marvel of the use of prisms, of jumping hours, and the magnificent case design is a great achievement. Taken as a whole, considering its close similarity to the HM5, it begins to feel like a watered down version. And taken into consideration with the similarity with the Romain Jerome Subcraft, we add a tinge of disappointment.

Perhaps its greatest saving grace is that this will be the cheapest wristwatch to bear the MB&F name so far. Retailing at S$47,800, its closest sibling in pricing is the LM101 which retails at S$90,100. The badge of honour being the derivative of a great, innovative, and ultra creative Independent house is perhaps enough. And the fact that only 80 examples (20 in each colour) are going to be available, will practically guarantee that it will fly off the shelves. If we stick our necks out to make a prediction, it will do well in auctions in the coming years.

 

MB&F HMX Technical Specifications

Limited edition of 4 x 20 pieces in grade 5 titanium and stainless steel. Retail price: S$47,600 inclusive of GST in Singapore.
ENGINE
Three-dimensional horological engine, composed of a jumping hour and trailing minutes module
developed in-house by MB&F, powered by a Sellita gear train.
Mechanical movement, automatic winding
22K gold automatic winding rotor
Power reserve: 42 hours
Balance frequency: 28,800bph/4Hz.
Number of components: 223
Number of jewels: 29
FUNCTIONS/INDICATIONS
Bi-directional jumping hours and trailing minutes, displayed by dual reflective sapphire crystal prisms
with integrated magnifying lens
CASE
Grade 5 titanium and stainless steel with detailing in Lotus black, British racing green, Bugatti blue
or Ferrari red
Dimensions: 46.8 x 44.3 x 20.7 mm
Number of components: 44
Water resistance: 30m / 90’ / 3atm
SAPPHIRE CRYSTALS
Sapphire crystals on top, front and display back treated with anti-reflective coating on both faces
Dual reflective sapphire crystal prisms with integrated magnifying lens
STRAP & BUCKLE
Partially perforated calfskin strap with colour complementary to Engine, titanium tang buckle.

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