MB & F “Horological Machine N°8 CAN-AM”
In the 1960s, Formula One car racing was mainly European and very regimented, with only small modifications permit- ted within tight rules designed to slow cars down. The engines were only developed up to 600-horsepower. A few North American racers balked at all the restrictions and decided to create their own racing series, the Canadian-American Challenge Cup (which became more popularly known as the Can-Am). The series launched many of the greatest names in car racing, including Lola and McLaren. The Can-Am basically had no rules except to go fast!
The Canadian-American Challenge Cup was a Group 7 SCCA/ CASC sports car racing series running from 1966 to 1987, with two races in Canada and four in the USA each season. Because the class permitted virtually “anything goes” in terms of engine size, power and aerodynamics, the Can-Am was a hotbed of technical innovation. Wings, race turbocharging, ground-effect aerodynamics, and materials like titanium were all honed in the Can-Am. As long as a car had two seats, bodywork around the wheels, and met basic safety rules, it was likely to qualify. At its peak, Can-Am cars had the most advanced racing technology in the world, and with 1,000 horsepower compared to Formula One’s 500-600 horsepower at the time, Can-Am cars lapped some tracks faster than F1 cars.
And those stunning chrome roll bars ensured the driver’s safety if all of that power were to suddenly turn upside down.
While lack of restrictions in Can-Am provided its main attraction, the constant race to develop more power, better handling, and improved aerodynamics was extremely expensive. When you can do anything to a race car to make go faster, it’s expensive to do it all – but if you don’t, the other team might. In 1972 Porsche developed a 917 with a flat-12 motor producing up to an incredible 1,580 horsepower. Porsche called it the Turbopanzer and, weighing in at just 816 kilograms, it was capable of over 380 km/h (240 mph) on the straights. Unsurprisingly, the Turbopanzer was so dominant in 1973 that a minimum fuel consumption rule was introduced the following season.
But by the early 1970s the writing was on the wall. An oil crisis followed by a recession wasn’t conducive to a very expensive racing series, and in 1987 the Can-Am ran its last race.
When he was young, MB&F founder Maximilian Büsser dreamt of becoming a car designer, but that wasn’t an option and he ended up designing watches instead. Or did he? It wouldn’t take much to scale HM8 up to car size, drop a 1,000+ horsepower motor under the sapphire crystal hood and put a set of slick racing tyres under the chassis.
While visually it is those polished roll bars linking HM8 to the Can-Am supercars, it’s the rebellious spirit of working outside restrictive rules that really provided the inspiration for HM8.
CASE, ROLL BARS, AND CRYSTALS
At first glance it may appear that the sapphire crystal covering the HM8 Engine is circular and positioned above the battle-axe rotor, but it’s not. The complete top of the case is one piece of sapphire crystal with sections of the crystal metalized d to create a bluish border. That crystal, combined with the polished roll bars on each side, the oil sumps underneath, and the time displays created by optical prisms high- light HM8’s unrestricted horological creativity.
The roll bars are in grade 5 titanium, which has the desired qualities of being light in weight and high in strength. But that strength comes with a twist: titanium is not very malleable and cannot be bent easily into the desired long curve, which means that each roll bar has to be milled from a solid block of titanium Ti-6Al-4V. This is a blend of pure titanium with 6% aluminum and 4% vanadium as well as trace amounts of iron and oxygen. The Ti-6Al-4V alloy is significantly stronger than commercially pure titanium and boasts an excellent combination of lightness, strength, and resistance to corrosion.
Turning HM8 over reveals another automotive tip of the hat: like most car engines which have an “oil sump” located underneath, HM8 has dual oil sumps under its own Engine.
HM8 Can-Am is powered by an in-house developed bi-directional jumping hour and trailing minute indication module, on a Sowind base movement. The movement is inverted to put the winding rotor on top and modified to drive the prism indicator module. The finishing of the movement is first class, which it has to be as it is completely open to view from the top. The power reserve is 42 hours.
INDICATIONS AND REFLECTIVE PRISMS
The bi-directional jumping hour and trailing minute displays on HM8 are materialized by overlapping discs (one for the hours, one for the minutes), completely covered in Super-Lu- miNova. The effect of large numerals is created by masking all of the lume except for the numbers.
The discs rotate horizontally on top of the movement; they are visible in the corners of the transparent Engine cover. Yet the time indications are displayed vertically in a dashboard d’ at the front of the case. To achieve this, MB&F worked with a high-precision optical glass supplier to develop reflective sapphire crystal prisms that reflect light from the discs 90°. The prisms also magnify the indications by 20% to maximise legibility.
HM8 has separate sapphire crystal prisms for the hour and minute displays, which are wedge-shaped with precisely calculated angles to ensure that light is reflected (and reversed) from the horizontal indications to the vertical rather than refracted (bent). A convex lens at the front provides the mag- ni cation.
Sapphire crystal is much more dif cult to work to optical precision than glass, and it took considerable development and meticulous care in production to create crystals that reflected and magnified light without the slightest distortion. Because the time is reflected, the numbers are printed on the discs as mirror images so that they display correctly on the ‘dial’.
The vertical, forward-facing display makes HM8 Can-Am an excellent driver’s watch, as there is no need to lift your wrist from the steering wheel to read the display.