Think of the word ‘streamliner’ and images of curvy flowing lines of the motor vehicles of the late 40 and 50s come to mind. MB&F have debuted the Horological Machine N°9 ‘Flow’ which evokes those beautiful curvy lines while concealing the immense complexity and the pioneering engineering techniques required to bring its design to life.
HM9 follows in the pioneering footsteps of the HM4 Thunderbolt and the HM6 Space Pirate, both of which utilised a geometrically complex combination of milled sapphire crystal and grade 5 titanium case elements. The HM9, however, goes beyond its predecessors by redefining what was thought to be possible in case design.
The highly complex titanium case is arranged in an alternating wide-to-narrow conical arrangement while the finishing alternates between polished and satin. Because the HM9 was not designed with current manufacturing and finishing techniques in mind, its curves and acute angles required MB&F to invent new manufacturing techniques to obtain a complete milled and finished case. For example, the undulating shell of the HM6 Space Pirate though geometrically complex, its maximum height differential (the vertical distance between contiguous points) remained within 5mm. With HM9, that differential has doubled to create the curves that give the case its highly tactile presence.
If that was not challenging enough, the case features slim bands of mirror polish and wider swaths of satin finish. This was a challenge for existing finishing tools that have fixed diameters. Adjusting the placement of different finishes to accommodate the finishing tools was not an option for the designers, as this would have diminished the aesthetic of HM9. So, new manufacturing techniques had to be developed to bring the design to life.
The unique proportions of the curves on the HM9’s case, which measures 57mm at its widest point and with limited transverse symmetry, made it impossible to install the movement by conventional means. It was necessary to divide the case along two axes and required the development of an equally unique and complex manual winding movement.
The result of three years of development, the HM9 engine was created entirely in-house. It consists of two independent balance wheels that are individually impulsed and spatially separated to avoid resonance, thus ensuring that they beat at their own independent cadences of 2.5Hz each. The twin balance wheels feed two sets of chronometric data to a central planetary differential gearbox which results in one stable averaged reading of the time. The two balance wheels and the gearbox can be viewed through panes of anti-reflection treated sapphire crystal. There are two versions of the HM9 engine, one with a dark NAC coating and another in matte rose gold.
The mechanical pedigree of the HM9 engine, the double-balance with the differential layout, descends from the similar system in Legacy Machine N°2, albeit in vastly different aesthetic form. Another feature borrowed from the LM2 is the curved arms anchoring the balances; their polished steel finish contrasts with the movement bridges.
The dial indicating hours and minutes sits perpendicular to the rest of the HM9 engine which requires the use of conical gears to drive the hands while ensuring precise engagement even when motion is put through a 90° planar translation. The winding and setting crown is located on the rear of the central body. Its deep fluting provides ergonomic grip as well as aesthetic coherence with the overall design.
Two satin-finished air scoops are mounted alongside the pods containing the oscillating balance wheels, evoking the raised vents that allow continuous airflow to high-performance motor engines. A patented three-dimensional gasket ensures water resistance.
Horological Machine N°9 ‘Flow’ debuts in two titanium editions limited to 33 pieces each: the ‘Air’ edition comes with a dark movement and aviator-style dial while the ‘Road’ edition has a rose gold movement and a classic speedometer-style dial.
A wide range of MB&F Horological Machines and Legacy Machines can be viewed at MB&F M.A.D.Gallery at Al Quoz 1, Dubai. It is a captivating universe of kinetic art where Horological Machines and Mechanical Art Devices from around the world reign supreme. The first M.A.D.Gallery opened in 2011 in Geneva on Rue Verdaine, a stone’s throw from MB&F’s offices and atelier in the heart of the city’s old town. A second location opened in 2014 in Taipei, then the third in Dubai in 2016.