Every product that emerges from the MB&F ateliers inspires a sense of awe and the two new HM9 Sapphire Vision editions are no different. The latest from the HM9 collection, these editions (available in bold green and blue variations) come cased in stunning transparent sapphire crystal shells and continue to remain a tribute to the automotive and aeronautical designs of the 1940s and 1950s.The roots of this instantly recognisable collection date back to 2018, when the Horological Machine N°9 (nicknamed HM9 ‘Flow’) was first presented. A year later, in 2019, MB&F introduced the HM9 in 18 ct red gold and later, in 2021, the brand introduced the limited-edition HM9 Sapphire Vision watches.
Now, in 2023, the two new editions (limited to five pieces each) that join the HM9 Sapphire Vision’s ranks include a PVD-coated blue engine with an 18 ct white gold frame, worn on a brown strap, and a PVD-coated green engine with an 18 ct yellow gold frame, worn on a black strap. They house a manual-winding in-house movement (with a power reserve of 45 hours) that founder Maximilian Büsser has described as “the most beautiful movement we’ve created to date” within a highly original hull of sapphire crystal and precious metal, precisely curved and fitted together in three parts, sealed with a proprietary combination of patented three-dimensional gasket, and a high-tech compound bonding process. Two fully independent cantilevered balances channel data into a differential that turns two heartbeats into one coherent time-pulse. Ultra-precise conical gears efficiently turn the engine’s energy and information current through a 90° angle to feed the time display on a sapphire crystal dial, marked with Super-LumiNova. On the reverse, co-axial beneath each of the balances are propellers: twin turbines that spin freely as a striking element of pure visual interest.
The highly unusual case of the HM9-SV measures 57 mm x 47 mm x 23 mm with a total of five sapphire crystals that are treated with anti-reflective coating: three crystals for the main components of the case, one crystal covering the dial, and one for the dial itself. MB&F fans will recognise the HM9 with its double-balance system with differential that has descended from the similar mechanism in Legacy Machine N°2, though the aesthetics vary greatly. While the LM2 focused on the purity of design, the HM9-SV does not shy away from flamboyance.
Sapphire watch crystals — owing to their exceptional hardness (corundum commonly known in its gem-quality form as sapphire crystal is one of the hardest minerals known to man) — are virtually scratch-proof and this allows them to facilitate unparalleled legibility, and ensures that a high level of material integrity is maintained over the long term. But this also means that sapphire is rather challenging to incorporate into three-dimensional shapes, especially when the process of watchmaking warrants making use of very minute, precise details. In fact, preparing the crystals for a single case of HM9-SV requires approximately 350 hours of careful machining and polishing.
In terms of the exterior of the new HM9-SV editions, the design — as of their predecessors — draw from fluid dynamics, although the hydro-governed objectives allow HM9-SV to take a more lenient approach to the sharp inward angles/curves of the previous Flow versions. From a technical standpoint, the reworked dimensions were necessary to account for the differences in material properties of sapphire crystal; the smoother lines of HM9-SV also help minimise potential areas of mechanical vulnerability while simultaneously reinforcing an aesthetic that brings to mind the depths of the oceans. In the words of the brand, the HM9-SV “is an exploratory vessel from Atlantis, powered by a divergent technology both familiar and strange to our eyes”. For onlookers, painting that picture isn’t a difficult task.
The limited-edition watches are now available worldwide, retailing at a price of CHF 420,00/US$ 490,000.