The MB&F website describes the timepieces in the Horological Machines collection as “contemporary machines inspired by our childhood.” Spaceships, space platforms, flying saucers, air crafts and automobiles are the inspiration behind the extremely complex and innovative horological creations in the guise of playful things.
The latest example to join MB&F’s Horological Machines (HM) collection is the HM8 Mark 2. Coming a decade after the first automotive-inspired HM timepiece was unveiled, HM8 Mark 2 is the fourth and the most technologically evolved model to date.
MB&F’s line of car-inspired timepieces began in 2012, with the HM5, followed by the HMX in 2015, and the HM8 in 2016. Each of these iterations is linked by its instantly recognizable speedometer-style display on the side of the case, an aesthetic that recalls the daring and futuristic design of the Amida Digitrend from the 1970s.
Working on a concept similar to the Amida Digitrend, MB&F employed a sapphire prism for its HM5 design. This allowed the jumping hours and sweeping minutes to be indicated vertically when, in reality, they were flat disks on top of the movement. The time was indicated in a window that resembled an old-style speedometer on the front of the case. Unlike the Amida, with its discs next to each other, the MB&F HM design features discs that are one on top of the other. This allowed larger size digits to be displayed, therefore, improving legibility.
The numerals of the HM5 model look almost digital or electronic thanks to the sapphire disks being coated with a black metallization, leaving the numerals clear. Super-LumiNova was then added underneath the sapphire disc so that the luminescence would be completely flat, and not bulbous as it appears when it is applied to the dial. The numerals had to be created back-to-front as they get reversed in the prism.
The HM5 had opening and closing slats that allowed the light into the movement to charge the luminescence. These slats were inspired by Marcello Gandini’s design for the Bertone Lamborghini Miura with its louvres on the rear window that gave the car its futuristic aesthetic.
These slats were dropped in the following model – the HMX – in favour of a sapphire crystal cover that gave a partial view of the engine beneath. This piece was inspired by another Italian coachbuilder – Touring Superleggera – and was equipped with miniature oil caps that could be unscrewed and filled with watchmaking oils.
Next came the HM8 ‘Can-Am’ with a sapphire crystal that also allowed a view of the spinning rotor. This movement, based on a Girard-Perregaux calibre, is the base for the brand-new HM8 Mark 2. The HM8 took its design cues from Can-Am cars from the famous Canadian American Racing Championship. The cars’ unusual design and distinctive roll bars became the inspiration for the watch’s two titanium roll bars.
The HM8 Mark 2, on the other hand, finds inspiration in the Porsche 918 Spyder for the shape of the body and the Zagato double bubble for the sapphire crystal. Moreover, the construction of these timepieces also borrowed from the automobile world. The HM5 and HM8 Mark 2 are built from an independent water-resistant chassis to which the body panels of the watch are added, while the HMX and HM8 favoured a monobloc construction.
For the new HM8 Mark 2, the “coachwork” comes in a choice of white or British racing green CarbonMacrolon. The latter has a matt finish on the top and a high polish on the sides. The white version is paired with a green CVD rotor and light green minute markers, while the green version comes with a red gold rotor and balance wheel and turquoise minute markers and is limited to 33 pieces.
CarbonMacrolon, developed specifically for MB&F, is a composite material composed of a polymer matrix injected with carbon nanotubes, which add strength and rigidity. Carbon nanotubes offer superior tensile strength and stiffness than traditional carbon fibre reinforcing. Weighs eight times less than steel, CarbonMacrolon is a hard material that is also versatile. It can be coloured, polished, bead-blasted, lacquered and satin-finished.
As with most MB&F creations, a lot of the technology inside the HM8 Mark 2 is not visually obvious, starting with the titanium chassis, which is extremely complicated to mill. Even in stainless steel, it would have been extremely complex to make. The same is true of the CarbonMacrolon body panels, which due to the small production quantities, could only be milled from a block.
A long line of MB&F timepieces has pushed the limits of what is physically possible in terms of sapphire crystal production, and the HM8 Mark 2 is no exception. The complexity involved in producing the double-curved sapphire crystal makes it 30 to 40 times more expensive than a dome sapphire. According to MB&F, only one supplier agreed to take on the challenge because the risk of breakage is exceptionally high. Once safely completed and fitted into the timepiece, however, it is just as robust as a regular sapphire crystal.
The battle axe rotor that powers the movement is incredibly complex to make as one of the 22-carat gold blades is only two-tenths of a millimetre thick. It cannot be machined, so it had to be stamped, with the engraving already incorporated into the stamp.
The HM8 Mark 2 debuts a brand-new type of crown, which MB&F claims has a sort of “double de-clutch” system. It works by pushing the crown in and turning it three-quarters of a turn to release it. This has the advantage of gaining space and providing additional security to the system.
The HM8 Mark 2, in effect, takes everything that MB&F’s clients have loved about the “automotive” series over the last 10-plus years and has made it more technical, more legible, sleeker and easier to wear.