MB&F - HM6 Space Pirate MB&F
Luc Virginius / Chronopassion
MB&F - HM6 Space Pirate MB&F

HM6 Space Pirate MB&F

MB&F

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HM6 Space Pirate

Space is an extremely hostile environment. To survive you need protection against powerful accelerations, dangerous thermonuclear radiation, extreme temperature fluctuations and constant risk of unexpected collisions.

Horological Machine N°6 (HM6) ‘Space Pirate’ has been designed to operate in the hostile environment of space: the space on your wrist.

In each of the four corners of HM6's biomorphic case is a 360° sphere, capped top and bottom by transparent sapphire crystal domes. Up forward, two semi-spherical indications rotate vertically (90° to the Engine), respectively displaying hours and minutes in large, highly legible numerals. Back aft, driven through multiplying gearing by the automatic winding rotor, twin spherical turbines spin horizontally, automatically regulating the winding system in case of excessive speed to reduce stress and wear.

The central dome houses a 60-second flying tourbillon, the precision regulator of HM6's Engine. The flying tourbillon is functional − the fact that it looks sensational is a bonus. There is no room at the top of the domed crystal for an upper support bridge and a flying tourbillon requires no upper bridge. A case of function following form.

But, a transparent dome on a spacecraft – even a spacecraft of the wrist – offers the control cockpit little protection from the sun's destructive thermonuclear radiation. So Space Pirate has a retractable, semi-spherical, titanium protective shield. When closed, the cover blocks harmful rays (especially UV light) from prematurely oxidising the Engine's lubrication oils. A crown at 9 o'clock opens and closes the cover in – and like – the blink of an eye.

While the transparent cupola on top of HM6 Space Pirate offers a tantalising glimpse into the sophisticated Engine below, the sapphire crystal display portal on the back reveals more of the 475 finely finished components making up the highly complex movement, which required over three years of development. Also visible through the display back is part of the winding mechanism and the high-grade platinum 950 winding battle-axe rotor.

While Horological Machine N°6's gentle curves and bulging "eyes" may give it the appearance of a friendly extra-terrestrial life form, the strength of its exoskeleton is formidable thanks to the aeronautic grade Ti-6Al-4V titanium case, a metal stable at over 400°C. A titanium brace runs longitudely around the central circumference of the hull, reinforcing the structure and supporting the lugs.

With its lightweight titanium case and spherical corners, HM6 comfortably hugs wrists of all sizes.

Horological Machine N°6 ‘Space Pirate’ is a limited edition of 50 pieces in Ti-6Al-4V titanium. There will only be 100 HM6 movements made in total.

The initial inspiration for HM6 Space Pirate came from a Japanese anime TV series from Maximilian Büsser's childhood: Capitaine Flam (Captain Future in English). Capitaine Flam had a spaceship called the Comet that consisted of two spheres joined by a connecting tube. Büsser imagined combining two such craft and the seeds of Space Pirate were planted.

The curved lines of Horological Machine N°6 make it a softer, more organically shaped Machine than its predecessors. The inspiration for this came from the biomorphism art movement, which takes its cues from design elements based on the shapes of living organisms.

The Engine of HM6 required more than three years of development due to the demanding challenges that had to be overcome. The aluminium indication 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 eye-catching central tourbillon perched high above the movement is a flying tourbillon developed by MB&F specifically for HM6. The choice of such a sophisticated regulator was necessitated by the restricted space under the top of the sapphire crystal dome, which could not accommodate the upper supporting bridge of a standard balance wheel.

The flying tourbillon can be protected from UV radiation, which speeds up oxidation of lubricating oils in the escapement and movement, by a retractable spherical shield that envelopes the tourbillon with six overlapping, curved blades operated by a crown on the left side of the case. These blades are paper-thin and had to be machined from a solid ingot of titanium.

The two spherical turbines, each composed of no fewer than 15 curved vanes, are each machined in two hemispheres from solid blocks of aluminium. These turbines are driven from the rotation of the automatic winding rotor by a gear train designed to amplify the number of rotations. As (air) friction increases exponentially (squared) as a function of velocity, if the winding starts rotating too quickly – most likely due to highly active movement of the wrist – air friction on the turbines increases and helps counteract the excessive speed to minimise wear.

As may be expected with such sui generis movement architecture, nearly every component and mechanism had to be developed from scratch specifically for Horological Machine N°6. The result speaks for itself.

The case of HM6 Space Pirate was machined from two solid ingots of aerospace grade Ti-6Al- 4V (Grade 5) titanium. It has a chemical composition of titanium alloyed with 6% aluminium, 4% vanadium, 0.25% (maximum) iron, and 0.2% (maximum) oxygen. This high-tech titanium alloy is both strong and light, has high resistance to corrosion and low thermal conductivity.

While the strength of this titanium alloy makes it ideal for a space-age watchcase, polishing and satin finishing Space Pirate's complex curves requires more than 100 hours of work.

A titanium band wraps lengthways around the case, with a circular aperture on top circumventing the central dome. On the back, the flat band is fixed to a metal disc in the centre of the display back crystal. This band both strengthens the case as a whole and acts as a support to the free moving lugs.

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 organic curved lines of Horological Machine N°6's case derives from an early 20th century art movement labelled "biomorphism", in which art is modelled on the naturally occurring shapes and forms found in nature and living creatures. Biomorphic expressions can be found in art: Matisse's eminent work, Le bonheur de vivre (The Joy of Life); architecture: The Sagrada Família church by Gaudí; and the work of contemporary designers including Marc Newson. But few have been as influential or as passionate about biodynamic forms as German industrial designer Luigi Colani, whose oeuvre spanned cars, furniture, electronics, a grand piano and even a ballpoint pen.

With an incredible ten sapphire crystals, including two domes each (top and bottom) on the time indications and turbines, the Space Pirate posed quite a challenge. Each dome was first machined from a solid block of sapphire crystal. After diamond, sapphire crystal is the second hardest naturally occurring mineral on earth and is an incredibly demanding material to shape into complex forms.

After machining each block of sapphire inside and out with diamond tipped tools to create perfectly shaped domes with walls of uniform thickness – the slightest inconsistencies would result in disconcerting optical distortions – the domes, which are translucently frosted after machining, have to be highly polished, both inside and out, to make them transparent.

 

Technical specifications

ENGINE

Three-dimensional horological engine developed exclusively for HM6 by MB&F with David Candaux Horlogerie Créative

Flying Tourbillon with retractable shield
Iridescent green platinum 950 battle-axe automatic winding rotor Twin aluminium turbines driven by winding rotor
Power reserve: 72h
Balance frequency: 18,000bph/2.5Hz
Number of components: 475
Number of jewels: 68

FUNCTIONS / INDICATIONS

Hour and minutes on separate semi-spherical aluminium indications Crown to open/close tourbillon shieldp

CASE

Manufactured by Les Artisans Boitiers Ti-6Al-4V (Grade 5) titanium
Dimensions: 49.5 mm x 52.3 mm x 20.4 mm Number of components: 80

Water resistance: 30m / 90’ / 3atm

SAPPHIRE CRYSTALS

10 sapphire crystals: 9 domed (4 for the hour and minute indications, 4 for the turbines, 1 for the tourbillon) and one flat (display back)

STRAP & BUCKLE

Hand-stitched calfskin strap with titanium custom designed folding buckle

 

Who's who

“Amazing. Maximilian Büsser is definitely an amazing person.” If you ask Laurent Picciotto to go over the main points of his history with the big man at MB&F, you’ll initially be met by a long silence and a pensive look. Where to begin? What about the first meeting, when “Max” was on a work placement at Jaeger-LeCoultre? When he was head of Harry Winston Watchmakers? When he transitioned to become a designer, bringing together the greatest watchmaking talent at MB&F? These are all stages in Max Büsser’s career; yet the person who passed through them has been so different in each role that it can sometimes be difficult to see the continuity. Be that as it may, the link between the two men was indeed first forged in Paris, twenty years ago. Laurent Picciotto had opened Chronopassion three years previously, laying the foundations for a brand that was to become a benchmark, but which at that time was pretty much a complete unknown beyond a tiny number of top watchmaking connoisseurs. Meanwhile the young Maximilian Büsser had just graduated from the Lausanne Federal Polytechnic School and joined Jaeger-LeCoultre. Büsser was enamoured with watchmaking mechanics. When he was in Paris, he went to see Chronopassion in rue Saint Honoré. “He stayed over three hours,” recalls Laurent Picciotto. “He was enthusiastic and inquisitive. He asked thousands of questions – he was an unusual young man and already knew a lot more about watchmaking culture than he was letting on.” Max Büsser worked in Jaeger-LeCoultre’s Marketing department for seven years. He left in 1991 to move to Harry Winston. The 5th Avenue jewellers in New York City had already made some inroads into the watchmaking world, but without any major breakthroughs. The first timepieces dated back to 1989, but had failed to find much success. Output remained tiny, as the young Max Büsser sowed the seeds of high-class watchmaking at the jewellers. He was soon promoted to the position of Managing Director of the Rare Timepieces department. That was when the paths of the two men crossed again. “I was out for a walk in Geneva,” says Laurent Picciotto, “when a man in a car stopped next to me. He was no longer the young apprentice from Jaeger, but the CEO of Harry Winston Watchmakers. I didn’t recognise him – he’d completely changed, even physically! He really had taken on the stature of CEO. It was amazing.” The two men then saw each other every year during the course of Harry Winston business. The watchmaking part of the brand, driven by Max Büsser, gradually took shape, “but I was interested only in the Opuses,” says Laurent Picciotto with a smile. A friendship developed and when Max Büsser left Harry Winston in July 2005, a new chapter in it began. “Max told me about his new project, MB&F, standing for Maximilian Büsser & Friends. I said just three words to him: ‘I’ll follow you.’ He was a little surprised, as he didn’t have any immediate plans to establish the brand in France and he hadn’t even got the slightest prototype anywhere near ready!” Picciotto’s instinct was right, though. The first Horological Machine, HM1, came into being two years later in 2007. “This timepiece is difficult to apprehend – you need to put it on your wrist and wait a good quarter of an hour before being able make up your mind,” remembers Laurent Picciotto. The next part of the adventure is better known: four HMs and an LM, standing for Legacy Machine, a piece that pays tribute to watchmaking inventors. It is more aesthetically accessible but no less technically complicated for all that. Each MB&F item is the fruit of the greatest talents in top watchmaking, in terms of both watchmaking technology itself and design: Jean-François Mojon, Kari Voutilainen, Peter Speake-Marin, Laurent Besse, Jean-Marc Wiederrecht, Eric Giroud, and so on. “At the end of the day, MB&F timepieces really do need to be adopted by their owners. Max adds a touch of humour, born out of his uninhibited approach to watchmaking. It’s definitely a brand that brings a breath of fresh air to the watchmaking landscape, shaking it up to just the right degree,” concludes Laurent Picciotto.
 
Journaliste : Olivier Müller
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