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The spaceship has landed
MAXIMILIAN Busser & Friends (MB&F) has created watches that look like a spaceship. Now, the independent Swiss watch brand founded by Maximilian Busser has put a crew in one of these horological machines.
The spaceship-like timepieces belong to the MB&F Horological Machine Number 6 line, inspired by a 1970s and 1980s Japanese anime TV series called Capitaine Flam, which featured the eponymous captain and his improbably bulbous spaceship. The aesthetic of Captaine Flam was closely associated with contemporary designers such as Luigi Colani and his love of curved, organic forms.
HM6 borrowed against this decidedly provocative design philosophy, delivering unexpected sensuality in a biomimetic shell of brushed titanium.
The first HM6 model launched in November 2014 was all biomorphic curves and brushed metal, in titanium and red gold/titanium. Then came HM6 Sapphire Vision in early 2016. The watch was defined by a sapphire crystal case in its uppermost and lowest sections; the middle segment was in platinum or red gold.
HM6 Sapphire Vision took graphic elements from a travel icon of the 1950s and 1960s - American Greyhound buses of the so-called Streamline Moderne era, recognisable by their lateral grooves and bright metal sidings.
"Every aspect of the HM6 engine (the movement) is constructed to intersect neatly with this retro-modernist take on space travel and technology, from the sleek whirling turbines with curved fins to the cinematic flying tourbillon with its manually operable shutters," MB&F says in a press release.
The signature MB&F battle-axe on the movement appears in single-headed form for the rotor and double-headed for the upper tourbillon cage.
HM6 Sapphire Vision, with its transparent case, was intended to showcase the mechanical complexity of the HM6 self-winding movement - the result of three years of intense development and made of no less than 496 finely-finished parts. The movement's centrepiece was the flying tourbillon.
While all three HM6 models are powered by the same movement, the first two are unmanned vehicles. HM6 Alien Nation has a crew of six aliens, including one sitting in the captain's chair on the case's front. The remaining crew scurry around the HM6 engine, fixing the turbines in the aft, adjusting the gears, hand on throttle, scanning the space ahead.
Each of the aliens, whose arms and necks are finer than grains of sand, is individually modelled and hand-sculpted in white gold by accomplished engraver Olivier Kuhn of Atelier-Creation Kuhn. It takes up to 34 hours to finish one alien and up to a month of full-time work for all six.
The idea at first was to make the third HM6 model totally transparent - the Sapphire Vision is only partially transparent, according to MB&F's head of communications Charris Yadigaroglou. So the watch is made entirely of sapphire crystal. This is done by putting 12 separate blocks of sapphire crystals together, reinforced by titanium. It's not easy as it seems. The 12 blocks of sapphire crystals must come together perfectly to form a seamless whole.
"Up until recently, sophisticated shapes such as those used in HM6 would have been impossible to achieve in sapphire crystal," the MB&F press release says. "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."
HM6 Alien Nation is so difficult to make that MB&F has limited it to four unique pieces. These are in green, blue, purple and turquoise.
The horological machine's interior is shot through with thick bands luminous AGT (Ambient Glow Technology) Ultra material. The high-performance material has a startling, near-electric glow that highlight the extreme transparency and smooth curves of the timepiece.
Despite the total transparency, MB&F had felt the watch was still lacking in something. What? The answer was found when the brand's founder suggested the crew.
"I first came to love watches because I saw them as these machines that were imbued with life," Mr Busser says. HM6 Alien Nation is the literal expression of this metaphor.
- HM6 Alien Nation is priced at S$816,800 apiece. All four watches have been sold.