For all the troubles 2020 presented for many watch brands, a few of them, like Swiss independent MB&F, nevertheless had a landmark year in terms of releases. The fan-favorite maison unveiled an array of new projects and collections, among them new yellow gold and sports-focused Legacy Machine Perpetuals, collaborative watches and clocks with H. Moser & Cie. and Watches of Switzerland, respectively, and two animal-inspired catalog updates, the HM3 Frog X and HM10 “Bulldog,” MB&F and its well-regarded founder, Max Büsser, frequently found themselves at the top of watch collectors’ minds and in headlines during the turbulent year.
Büsser and his team, many would be heartened to know, show no signs of slowing down in 2021. Last week, revealed its latest “Horological Machine,” the HM9 “Sapphire Vision.” Longtime readers of WatchTime and fans of the brand may remember the original HM9, dubbed the “Flow,” from 2018. This latest model, the HM9-SV, uses that same base design, differing — quite obviously — in its use of a primarily sapphire case in place of the previously mostly metal construction. The brand calls its previous HM9 movement “the most beautiful movement MB&F had created to date.” With that being the case, “What other logical step was there to take [then], if not to encase the engine in a transparent sapphire crystal shell?” And that is just what MB&F did.
The new model is being launched as a series of four limited editions of five pieces each, differing in terms of their materials and colors. Two are in rose gold with either a NAC-coated black or PVD-coated blue engine; two others are in white gold, using either a PVD-coated purple or rose-gold-plated engine.
A closer look at the watch reveals that its namesake sapphire case is secured via various pieces of precious metal, providing the 57-mm x 47-mm x 23-mm oblong timekeeper a very cool, mechanical look. Its most prominent aspects include its dueling balance wheels that operate independently of each other and are found on each flank of the watch. A central body piece hosts the majority of the movement and hence the rest of the watch.
In regards to the HM9’s overall aesthetics, some have remarked it looks like a cactus with two arms; others, like a jet; others, like a rocket ship; and still others, like something to be found on one of the various erotic-oriented automaton watches produced by Ulysse Nardin, among others. Aside from whatever its fans (and critics) infer, the brand itself has said only that the watch’s inspiration is drawn from the “automotive and aeronautic designs of the 1940s and 50s,” including the Streamline Moderne style (1938 Phantom Corsair automobile pictured below, via Hemmings), considered a derivative of the art deco style most popular in the decades prior.
Other details on the case include a top-side crown to wind the hand-wound movement and adjust the time, securing screws through the edges to hold the sapphire shell together, and a combination of a patented three-dimensional gasket and high-tech compound bonding process to provide this horological sculpture with a 30-meter water resistance.
While the case itself uses three pieces of sapphire for its construction, two more sapphire facets are used on the bottom-side timekeeping element of the watch: one covering the dial, the other for the dial itself. The placement of the timekeeping aspect is significant because it carries on the original HM9’s partial inspiration as a “driving watch” — so named because its side-oriented display of the time helps a driver tell the time without needing to roll his wrist or otherwise lose focus on the road.
It likely goes without saying, but the star of the show is undoubtedly the movement underneath that stunning sapphire glass structure. The hand-wound mechanism is beautifully finished throughout and will easily keep any wearer engaged with its colors, mechanics, and craftsmanship for countless hours.
The movement is composed of 301 individual pieces, including 52 jewels, and features the two aforementioned, fully independent balance wheels with planetary differential on either side, dual spherical propellers on its bottom side, and shock-absorbing helicoidal springs linking the movement to the case. The caliber is powered via a single mainspring barrel storing a 45-hour power reserve, and has a slower frequency than most watches, beating steadily at 18,000 vph.
The HM9 “Sapphire Vision” models are available now, with inquiries being taken directly through MB&F’s online store, the Mad Gallery, here. Some of the models will likely be seen at boutiques later in the year. As of now, pricing is set at $440,000.
To learn more, you can visit MB&F’s website, here.