Four Pièces Uniques combining mechanical complexity, extreme artisanship and a near-to-impossible case in sapphire crystal
MB&F launched Horological Machine N°6 in November 2014, all biomorphic curves and brushed metal in its inaugural edition, known as Space Pirate. Just over a year later, at the beginning of 2016, the HM6 Sapphire Vision followed, with the uppermost and lowest sections of the case in transparent sapphire crystal, sandwiching a centre segment of platinum or red gold. The initial sparks of inspiration for HM6 came from a 1970s and 1980s Japanese anime TV series called Capitaine Flam, featuring the eponymous captain and his improbably bulbous spaceship. Though ostensibly set in the future, the aesthetic of Capitaine Flam was closely associated with contemporary designers such as Luigi Colani and his love of curved, organic forms. Horological Machine N°6 borrows against this decidedly provocative design philosophy, delivering unexpected sensuality in a biomimetic shell of brushed titanium. Here is MB&F HM6 Alien Nation.
The Sapphire Vision edition of HM6 took graphic elements from a travel icon of the 1950s and 1960s — American Greyhound buses of the so-called Streamline Moderne era, with their lateral grooves and bright metal sidings.
THE HM6 ENGINE
An audacious exterior deserves an equally revolutionary movement. If the HM6 engine looks like no other movement out there, it is because there is no other movement like it out there. No less than 496 finely-finished components make up the highly complex movement.
Each turbine comprises two hemispheres; two sets of curved fins coming together to shield the movement from the rough and tumble of daily wear. The turbines are coupled to the winding rotor, providing sufficient air drag to slow the rotor down should its moment of inertia rise above a certain level. As a result, the self-winding system is effectively also self-regulating, which has the advantage of increasing the longevity of the movement.
This is the second tourbillon movement to emerge from MB&F and the first flying tourbillon to do so. A flying tourbillon is a delicate beast at the best of times — which is why they rarely venture far from the movement plate. In contrast, the flying tourbillon of the HM6 engine projects high above the movement, overcoming issues of stability (especially pertinent where the heart of the movement and the source of its chronometric ability is concerned). The HM6 engine defers to the laws of nature in one respect, by providing its flying tourbillon with a retractable shield. It can be deployed to minimise the oxidising effects of UV radiation on the oils that lubricate the regulating organ.
THEY CAME FROM OUTER SPACE
Each of the six aliens on Horological Machine N°6 Alien Nation is individually modelled and then hand-sculpted in white gold by accomplished engraver Olivier Kuhn of Atelier-Création Kuhn. Each one takes up to 34 hours to complete, which adds up to over a month of full-time work for the HM6 engine’s crew of six.
Conventional machining, which is used for all other watch components, is unfeasible in this instance due to the extreme irregularity of the alien bodies and the excessive dimensional variations between contiguous points — for example, going from the large head to the slender neck and then back to a wide torso. The arms of the aliens can measure as little as 0.25mm in diameter, with the neck not very much thicker at 0.3mm. In comparison, the average grain of sand has a diameter of 0.5mm.
Depictions of aliens are as varied as the stories that contain them, from the endearing, wide-eyed, fit-in-a-bicycle-basket extraterrestrials of Spielberg to menacing Giger-esque Xenomorphs. Having grown up in the late 1960s and 1970s, when popular theorising about Roswell and Area 51 was at its peak, Maximilian Büsser had no hesitation about what kind of aliens would inhabit Horological Machine N°6.
IN A CRYSTAL SHIP
Except for some titanium reinforcing elements, which also serve as strap attachment points, the case of Horological Machine N°6 Alien Nation is made entirely of sapphire crystal. Up until recently, sophisticated shapes such as those used in HM6 would have been impossible to achieve in sapphire crystal.
The creations of MB&F have pushed the limits of possibility in this field ever since the days of Horological Machine N°2 Sapphire Vision.
Horological Machine N°6 Alien Nation is formed out of 12 separate blocks of sapphire crystal, which come together to present a seamless whole. The entire process takes up to 510 hours, not including their assembly. During the incredibly difficult machining and polishing process, breakage is unfortunately frequent; in one instance, a crack appeared after more than 300 hours of work, instantly reducing months of work to zero.
WITH A COSMIC GLOW
Highlighting the extreme transparency and smooth curves of the Horological Machine N°6 Alien Nation case are carefully placed bands of luminous material. At the top of the luminosity scale are the AGT (Ambient Glow Technology) Ultra strips that run along the inner peripheral edge of the case middle of the MB&F HM6 Alien Nation.
This high-tech material — with its startling, near-electric levels of glow — was first exploited in watchmaking by the designer James Thompson (aka Black Badger); it was previously used by MB&F in the HMX Black Badger and Starfleet Machine Black Badger editions. The four unique pieces of HM6 Alien Nation each feature a different colour of AGT Ultra: green, blue, purple and turquoise.
For smaller areas in which precise application is required, Super-LumiNova is used. The upper surfaces of the turbine fins, dial markings, friction wheel, the MB&F logo and the upper tourbillon cage are lined with Super-LumiNova, coloured to match the corresponding hue of AGT Ultra in each piece. The MB&F HM6 Alien Nation.