Maximilian Büsser & Friends, better known as MB&F, debuted the Horological Machine 6 (aka “Space Pirate”, or simply HM6) last fall. This new model takes the domed look introduced with the HM3 “Frog” to new heights. MB&F timepieces are always creative on many levels. Here are six things to know about HM6.
The HM6 design comes from a Japanese anime TV series from Max Büsser’s childhood called Capitaine Flam (or “Captain Future” in English). Capitaine Flam had a spaceship called the Comet that consisted of two spheres joined by a connecting tube. Büsser says he imagined combining two such craft, and the seeds of Space Pirate were planted.
The gently curved lines of the case is inspired by the early 20th century art movement known as “biomorphism”, which emphasized naturally occurring shapes, including forms found in living creatures. MB&F cites as examples of this movement Matisse’s Le bonheur de vivre (The Joy of Life), the Sagrada Família church by Gaudí, and various works of the German industrial designer Luigi Colani.
The movement in the HM6 required more than three years of development. The aluminum domes displaying hours and minutes are machined from solid blocks of metal to an ultra-light paper thickness and revolve on ruby bearings. The domes rotate vertically, i.e. 90° to the plane of the movement, which is extremely rare in a wristwatch due to the complexity of the drive train and gearing required.
The central regulator is a flying tourbillon developed specifically for this movement. The lack of space beneath the domed crystal meant that no upper bridge could be used. A retractable spherical shield made from six separate paper-thin blades can be closed via a crown to protect the tourbillion from UV radiation, which speeds up oxidation of lubricating oils. The elements of this shield are machined from a single ingot of titanium.
As may be expected, nearly every component and mechanism had to be developed from scratch specifically for Horological Machine N°6. The 475-piece movement runs in 68 jewels at 18,000 vph.
The two spherical turbines, each composed of 15 curved vanes, are machined from solid blocks of aluminum. These turbines are driven from the rotation of the automatic winding rotor by a gear train designed to increase the number of rotations. The turbines do not supply power to the movement, but instead use air to slow the rotor’s rotational speed in the event it should begin to spin too quickly, for example due to a sudden movement of the wrist.
The HM6 case is machined from two solid ingots of aerospace grade Ti-6Al- 4V (Grade 5) titanium. The alloy consists of titanium with 6% aluminum, 4% vanadium, 0.25% iron, and 0.2% oxygen. MB&F says this alloy strong and light, with high resistance to corrosion and low thermal conductivity. And while alloy’s strength makes it ideal for a space-age watch case, polishing and satin finishing the complex curves requires more than 100 hours of work.
The pivoted lugs enable the strap to fit snugly around the wrist and, along with the lightweight titanium case and form-fitting spheres in each corner, ensures that HM6 is an extremely comfortable watch to wear, even on smaller wrists. The case consists of 80 components and measures 49.5 x 52.3 x 20.4 mm.
The HM6 is fitted with a total of ten sapphire crystals, including four for the hour and minute indications, four for the turbines, one for the tourbillion, and a flat one for the display back. Each of the nine domes is first machined from a solid block of sapphire crystal. Because the hardness of sapphire is exceeded only by that of diamond, is it incredibly difficult to shape into complex forms. Diamond-tipped tools machine the crystal into perfect domes, and the walls must be absolutely uniform in thickness, otherwise optical distortions will be evident. Once machining is complete, the domes are frosted, then polished inside and out to perfect clarity.
6. Production and Price
Horological Machine N°6 “Space Pirate” is a limited edition of 50 pieces, priced at $230,000.
This article was originally published on November 30, 2014, and has been updated.