Sunday, May 26, 2019

GO WITH THE FLOW

The golden age of aviation finds a futuristic horological expression in the Horological Machine No.9 ‘Flow’, writes Bilal Shadani

The Wright Brothers were the dreamers that led mankind into the age of aviation, a time where man would no longer be restrained by the forces of gravity and his ill-suited form for high altitude flight. Indeed, man would now be able to traverse the clouds freely and with greater ease with each successive generation. At first restricted to the old style bi-planes of yesteryear, aerodynamic design began to take focus on aesthetics, coming from the boxy, carriage-like shapes of previous decades and melting into something more streamlined. No more would the focus be on showing the mechanical functioning of automotive machines, but instead be on the sleek, self-contained shell housing its parts and the ways it could be expressed.

It would only make sense that this same sense of discovery would translate into men’s accessories, and what better accessory epitomizes the purity of aerodynamic experimentation than the latest horological machine No. 9 ‘Flow’ unveiled by venerated horological creators, MB&F?

But what is the MB&F ‘Flow’, exactly? A spaceship? A futuristic race car? Perhaps a jet plane? Depending on your viewpoint, it could be just one or even all of them. As explained by Maximilian Büsser himself, “when the first sketches were shown, our production partners all agreed: it is impossible to achieve.”

The HM9 ‘Flow’ can be best described as a synthesis of the aerodynamic fluidity of the 40s’ and 50s’, a time when aesthetics was the real source of design.

The result of three years of development, the HM9 engine was created entirely in-house, with the accumulated experience that came with MB&F’s 13 years in existence (as of 2018) and previous 14 different movements.

Employing the use of a vertical time display, it allows the wearer consult the time without having to raise their hand, though of particular innovation is how the HM9 specifically necessitated the invention of an original three-dimensional gasket for water resistance which runs along the whole case, including the dial frame. Why make it easy when you can do complicated? Max admits that one out of two cases is rejected to meet the drastic criteria required of his creations. But what a case it is!

Reflecting the imagination of its creator, once the HM9 is in hand, all angles must be examined in close detail. The Streamliner inspiration is plain to see. The profiled fuselage of a plane cannot be missed. The two nacelles on the side force the image of a space rocket or a spaceship in the viewer’s mind. The sleek lines of a race car with a central cockpit are also noticeable. The vertical dial inserted in its jet reactor provides the final touch depending on the edition selected – the Air Edition comes with a typical pilot’s watch dial (with a triangle at 12 o’clock and propeller-shaped hands) powered by a dark NAC-coated movement while the Road Edition features a rose gold-plated movement and a dial reminiscent of vintage dashboard speedometers.

Because, after all, the essence of aerodynamic design is always choice, choice, choice!

The elegant curves of this time-keeper are beautifully emphasized by the large alternating widths of satin finish and slim bands of mirror polish finish. The light reflects on the case intensifying the angles and creating a movement of extraordinary fluidity. The loupe effect enables admiration of the delicate finishing of the wheels, the plates, and the bridges closely. It also adds to the roundness of this horological spaceship. At the back of the fuselage, the crown is deeply fluted providing ease of use as well as an aesthetic coherence to the whole.

Its three-piece construction features no fewer than five sapphire crystals, offering multiple views of the movement inside. Two satin-finished air scoops are mounted alongside the pods containing the oscillating balance wheels operating at 18,000 vibrations per hour, with the scoops evoking the raised vents that allow continuous airflow to high-performance motor engines. These are held under mirror-polished curved bridges reminiscent of earlier MB&F Legacy Machines.

In the centre, a differential averages the rate of the two balance wheels. In order to display the time vertically, data is transmitted to the hands through a conical wheel which can be seen at the back of the central sapphire cockpit. A single barrel offers 45 hours of power reserve to this manually wounded caliber.

Overall, the movement comprises 301 parts, which are all finished with the greatest attention to detail, as is the MB&F creed.

This new MB&F horological creation – though imposing with its 57mm x 47mm x 23mm dimensions – is surprisingly wearable thanks to the lightness of titanium and the curvaceous case, worn on a hand-stitched calf leather strap secured with a titanium folding buckle.

Looking back on their creations, it isn’t a coincidence that the HM9 creation is inspired by the different forms of automotive transport, as most of their creations have drawn inspiration from automation in some form or another. The HM4 Thunderbolt, sporting two large gauges and the same pilot’s watch dial as the Air edition of the MH9, is described by MB&F as “the perfect pilot’s watch”. HM8, the Can-Am, takes its inspiration from the Canadian-American Challenge Cup lasting between the mid 60’s to early 80’s; the frame found on some cars in the Can-Am meant to protect the driver in case the car rolls over is referenced by the MB&F HM8 Can-Am’s titanium “roll bars.” The HM6 Alien Nation, a variant of the HM6 Space Pirate, adds small, specially crafted extra-terrestrial beings to the insides of the machine to immediately evoke the image of a spaceship being piloted through the cosmos and landing upon the wrist of its lucky owner.

Speaking about the challenge of creating something as distinct as the HM9, Max said “This is the first creation where I was adamant I would not let the engineering modify the original concept. We therefore had to work even more than usual over the three years of R&D engineering to get this Machine to life. HM9 took four years to come to life but actually it took twelve years. If we had not previously cut our teeth four years on developing and perfecting the double flying balance wheel movement on the Legacy Machine 2 and eight years of creating insane cases like the HM4 Thunderbolt and HM6 Space Pirate, including working on what was deemed impossible shapes in sapphire, there would be no HM9 today.”

There is no doubt of the HM9 being another masterful creation of Max and his esteemed friends that make up the MB&F brand, and this will not be the final stop for them. If anything, looking back on their history of unique and imaginative creations, their designs will only become more and more inspired as time goes on. When asked what the future held, Max said “The problem has never been the ideas, the problem is finding the time, means and talent to transform the ideas into reality.”

Limited to 33 pieces of the ‘Air’ and ‘Road’ editions, these machines are sure to serve as inspirations in the next ideation of MB&F’s creative line.

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