MB&F’s retro-futuristic HM9 sails into 2021 with a sapphire crystal case revealing every component of its anatomy. Like the HM3 FrogX tenth-anniversary editions in sapphire crystal presented at the end of 2020, four limited editions of the HM9 with sapphire crystal cases join the HM9 fleet. First launched in 2018, the HM9 Flow takes its design cues from the 1940s Streamline Moderne school of design characterised by sleek, aerodynamic lines. If you were impressed by the former titanium and red gold editions of the HM9, fasten your seat belts for the even more fluid, bubble-shaped sapphire vessel revealing bursts of colour on the engine of the new MB&F HM9 Sapphire Vision.
Popular in the late 1930s and 1940s, Streamline Moderne was a celebration of the modern machine age. Characterised by smooth surfaces, curved corners and horizontal lines to exalt an object’s aerodynamic potential, Streamline Moderne is often described as ‘Art Deco on the move’. Many objects of daily life were infused with the spirit of Streamline: from clocks and toasters to diners and motels; from ocean liners to marinas; and from cars, planes and trains to Greyhound bus terminals.
The HM9 Flow is a tribute to the fluid aesthetics of this particular moment in design history. With its flowing aerodynamic hull and curvy shapes, the complexity of the HM9 Flow can be broken down into three principal parts: a central canister shaped like a jet engine indicating the time flanked by two inverted jet engines housing the twin balance wheels. According to Max Büsser, founder of MB&F, the “HM9SV is the epitome of what MB&F was created for. The incredibly complex engineering actually serves the artistic purpose. It does not overwhelm it, it does not overshadow it, it allows it to finally come to life”.
The well-defined profile of the three jet engines on former HM9 models has changed dramatically with the substitution of metal for sapphire crystal. Looking at the HM9 from above, you see a more organic, bubbly shape. Measuring 57mm x 47mm x 23mm, the distinct separation of the three bodies on the metal versions have morphed into a single sapphire crystal entity framed with either red gold or white gold. To be precise, the external transparent hull is made from three sapphire crystal parts melded to form a single unit with practically invisible seams. With a total of five sapphire crystals, the additional two are used for the dial and to protect the dial.
Max Büsser describes the challenge posed by confecting a transparent case for the HM9: “When we created the HM9 movement, I was obsessed by trying to develop a sapphire case around it, but all our previous sapphire cases had had to be very angular and in a sandwich construction. The sapphire HM9 needed to keep the voluptuous curves of the original titanium one – it is called FLOW after all. It took us the better part of 2 ½ years and multiple anguishes and deceptions to get to this incredible result. I looooove this piece – it is arguably our most insane and at the same time beautiful HM.”
Getting sapphire crystal to comply with the extraordinary topography of the HM9 was not an easy task. Known as one of the hardest minerals, corundum (sapphire crystal) is virtually scratchproof but extremely challenging to machine into complex 3-dimensional shapes. Over 350 hours of careful machining and polishing went into every case of the HM9-SV. To ensure the 30m water-resistance of the HM9-SV case, the sapphire crystal is sealed with a patented 3D rubber gasket, a feature already deployed on other HM9 models. However, to seal the sapphire crystals with the metallic gold frame, a high-tech bonding compound using a vacuum and high temperature was developed in-house. The beauty of this sapphire crystal hull is that you can follow the interplay of components from barrel to balance and from differential to dial.
The sapphire crystal covering the twin pods at the aft of the ship rises prominently to reveal the full dimension of the balance wheels, each operating at 18,000vph. Two balances beating within the same movement can indicate the phenomenon of resonance. This is not the case here: the mission of including two balance wheels is to obtain two different sets of chronometric data. A planetary differential averages the rate of the twin balances and delivers its results to the dial.
You can see the differential secured under the battle axe-shaped bridge (a hallmark MB&F design feature) in the centre. Like other MB&F driver’s watches, the dial is positioned vertically (at a 90° angle) so that you don’t have to lift your hand from the steering wheel to consult the time. Unlike the other HM9 models, the dial of the HM9-SV is transparent and features green Super-LumiNova on the numerals, markers and hands.
Colours for the Shaped engine
According to Max Büsser, the engine of the MB&F HM9 Sapphire Vision is “the most beautiful movement we’ve created to date.” Reminiscent of a cactus with two arms, the central area of the movement bears the planetary differential and the conical gear transmission to drive the vertical time display. The two arms house the two oscillators. The 301-part engine was purpose-built to follow the shape of the case. With a single barrel capable of storing 45 hours of power reserve, this hand-wound movement is wound via the winding crown located at the opposite end of the dial. To reduce the impact of shocks on the movement, the HM9-SV models are equipped with a new shock-absorbing system composed of helicoidal springs between the movement and the case. Cut by laser from a solid tube of stainless steel, the springs offer excellent elasticity and limited lateral displacement.
The other novelty of the HM9 Sapphire Vision is the burst of colour on the movement. The two models with 18k red gold frames come with either a NAC-coated black or a PVD-coated blue engine; the two models with 18k white gold frames come with a PVD-coated purple or a red gold-plated engine. The reverse view is just as spectacular with twin turbines placed below the twin balance wheels that spin freely.
Availability & Price
The MB&F HM9 Sapphire Vision comes on a hand-stitched brown or black alligator strap with a red or white gold folding buckle matching the case. The four editions (two in red gold, two in white gold) are limited to five pieces each. The retail price is EUR 362,000 (excl. VAT).
More information at www.mbandf.com.
This post first appeared on Monochrome Watches - An online magazine dedicated to fine watches.