Picture this; at the beginning of last week I was working in front of my computer, writing about some of the new watches being launched at SIHH 2017, headphones glued to my ears, listening to a Quartet for Strings by Gustav Mahler. Nothing out of the ordinary so far. Then, an email arrived in my inbox from MB&F, entitled “Horological Machine N°7“. This called for a drastic change in music, so I switched to rock and roll. Once I opened the email though I had to change to alternative-punk-rock as I found myself gazing at what was basically a huge “jellyfish-like-aquatic-sports-watch” with MB&F printed on the dial. Yes, you read that correctly, what you’re looking at is the brand’s first attempt at a sports watch. But hey, this is Max Bûsser & Friends, so of course we had to expect something hyper-creative and different. And that’s exactly what this new MB&F HM7 Aquapod is.
The wait is finally over, the MB&F HM7 Aquapod reveals the vision of Max and his team of friends of an aquatic sports watch. Don’t call it a dive watch though, it’s not strictly speaking. Don’t be discouraged by that though as there is much more to this watch than first meets the eye. Don’t expect a traditional sports watch however. Don’t expect a traditional movement in a designed-case either. No, the HM7 Aquapod is much more. You want a tourbillon? There you go. You want vertical architecture of the movement? There you go too. You want an usual display of the time? Be my guest. You want a shape that recalls a dive watch and yet at the same time is nothing like a traditional dive watch? We’ve got you covered. To put it simply, the HM7 is an ultra-creative, ultra-complex, ultra-ultra piece. In fact, the HM7 is so complex that it actually comes after the HM8…
Enough superlatives though, let’s dive into the details, starting with the inspiration for the watch. The idea for an aquatic watch originated from MB&F founder Maximilian Büsser and his memory of a jellyfish. The underlying goal was to create a watch that feels both like an MB&F and as a sports / dive watch at the same time. Thus, it means mixing elements like sapphire bulbs, disc-driven display of the time, 3-dimensional architecture of the movement with a 60-minute diving scale, water resistance, usability underwater and maximum legibility. So, you could say the HM7 is the union of a Submariner with a HM6, which sounds a little creepy. You could easily imagine a monster, right? Instead what we have is one hell of a watch. Can we say that it’s beautiful and elegant? Maybe not. Can we call it timeless and pure? Again probably not. Can we call it an impressive and properly bold, cool and unique piece of independent watchmaking? Yes, most definitely.
The MB&F HM7 Aquapod is actually comprised of 2 modules. First, the central part of HM7 Aquapod is basically a three-dimensional sandwich comprising two hemispheres of high-domed sapphire crystal on either side of a metal case band. Inside is the movement and the display of the time – more on that in a minute. Then, comes the “sports section” with one element that all serious aquatic watches possess: a unidirectional rotating bezel. However, unlike every other dive watch on the planet, the MB&F HM7 Aquapod’s bezel isn’t attached to the case, but floats apart. Like a Sub, it is made out of ceramic (in black or blue depending on the edition), features silver numerals and tracks coating in metal and has a 60-minute dive track and a triangular pointer to track dive sessions. Who could have imagined that on an MB&F watch… But still, the integration is surprising, yet sublime. In-between these two modules are dual crowns: the one on the left is for winding the movement (if necessary) and the crown on the right is for setting the time.
What about the dimensions? If you consider the central part alone, this watch would be rather small. However, with its floating rotating bezel, it measures a massive 53.8mm diameter. Don’t worry though, as seeing the strap attachment system and the lugs, it seems that it will fit around most wrists. Now, what about the sports / dive side? Well, to be called a dive watch, this kind of timepiece must have several things, including a minimum 100m water and an indication of the running of the watch (most of the times, a second hand). Neither are present here, even if the HM7 Aquapod is 50m water resistant and something in the middle ticks. Still, call it an aquatic watch. Another feature of such watches is night visibility and here, MB&F has done well, as the HM7 is fully legible at night or underwater.
What about the movement of the HM7? Well, you can forget about the usual 3-hand automatic flat calibre. Whereas the vast majority of watch movements are developed horizontally to be as flat as possible, the Engine of the HM7 goes up, not out, with all of its components arranged vertically. The movement of HM7 was entirely developed in-house by MB&F. Right in the center is a one-minute flying tourbillon with a razor-shaped cage. Underneath is a series of gears and wheels which drive the display of the time and transfer the energy of the barrel and the rotor to the tourbillon. This concentric architecture allows something else: the hours and minutes discs can be displayed around the periphery of the movement. Still, this was challenging. How to support such a massive display? The answer was to develop extra-large diameter ceramic ball bearings, to support the spherical segment hour and minute displays and rotate with a very low coefficient of friction.
On the back side of this impressive engine is a rather remarkable view. The winding rotor’s tentacles are machined from a solid block of titanium. Their curved, three-dimensional nature is a manufacturing challenge, both for machining and for finishing, which alternates between polished and satin-finished sections. Hidden underneath the lightweight titanium tentacles is a sector in much heavier platinum that ensures that the HM7 Engine is wound efficiently.
The MB&F HM7 Aquapod is a stunning, surprising, creative piece of independent and unchained watchmaking by Max Bûsser & Friends. Clearly, it deserves to be seen in the metal before we can even conclude about the style or the wearability. The HM7 Aquapod launches in 33 pieces in grade 5 titanium with blue bezel (Price: 98,000 Swiss Francs before taxes), and 66 pieces in 18K red gold with black bezel (Price: 118,000 Swiss Francs before taxes). mbandf.com.