February 25, 2015
by David Bredan
Six greatly different Horological Machines, three Legacy Machines and another six “Performance Art” iterations: this is where MB&F stands in early 2015. While we are awaiting their tenth completely new creation, the time is just right to look back at – and say goodbye to – what has admittedly been their most successful Machine so far: the HM3. Now, with a 25-piece limited edition run of the MB&F HM3 MegaWind Final Edition, Max Büsser and his Friends are finishing off Horological Machine No.3 and its movement family. We had the chance to go hands-on with the MB&F HM3 MegaWind Final Edition, so let’s see what this suitably dark Machine is like in the metal… but only after a quick wrap-up of why the HM3 is important and what it meant for the brand.
Most everyone knows at this point that MB&F started out by creating what they referred to as Horological Machines. Yet, although the first two versions, the HM1 and HM2 (hands-on here for both), were bold in their own way and made for a solid foundation for the MB&F brand, it was the HM3 that really captured the attention of enthusiasts, collectors, and industry people alike. The HM3, owing to its really, really unique and inspired design, put MB&F on the horological map and directed the spotlight at the brand. This was in 2008-2009.
Ever since then, the HM3 has (not-so-)quietly remained in production, having been one of those few highly unusual, and yet wearable creations that represented what the independent scene in horology is capable of. As such, the HM3 very much remains a statement watch – owning and wearing it makes a bold statement about a person’s interest in independent watchmaking (especially the kind that thinks out of the box), as well as perhaps about being a watchnerd in a more rebellish and exhibitionist kind of way.
Much like MB&F itself, the HM3 has many unique details to it that make people either love it or hate it – extreme feelings, fueled by the very same reasons. Nevertheless, the HM3 has admittedly been a massive success: altogether, the original HM3, the MB&F HM3 MegaWind Final Edition, and the limited versions included, there have been around 400 HM3 calibers (and therefore, watches) made since its debut in 2008. With all case material options included, there are 19 different variations, and we have brought you hands-on coverage of most all of them over the years. Just in case you are in the mood for some nostalgia, see our review of the original here, as well as our hands-on with the Frog Zr, and the MoonMachine, created in collaboration with Stepan Sarpaneva.
With that little flashback over, let’s look at the piece with which MB&F retires this collection: the MB&F HM3 MegaWind Final Edition. Naturally, all the trademark HM3 design elements are very much intact; a uniquely shaped case with two large, very three-dimensional towers – housing the two cones done in paper-thin aluminum, used to display the hours and minutes – and a large, semi-circular opening exposing the movement and the enormous winding rotor. The 47 x 50 x 17 millimeter large case this time around is in black PVD-treated 18k white gold and titanium; and the result is without doubt the most stealthy HM3 ever made – even though that is not saying much.
The MegaWind made its debut in 2013 not just as a new version of the HM3, but also as a complete replacement of the original. While the “first-gen” HM3 had smaller and less visible hour and minute markings, it also had a smaller winding rotor, giving space for a date display that was set into the large, semi-circular opening on the dial side. The MegaWind did away with that indication and, instead, it offered a larger “Battle Axe” winding rotor – another unmistakable MB&F design element.
The space which the date wheel used to cover up has remained free in previous MegaWind versions – here, however, it serves a very cool and new purpose. You see, the stealthy looks of the Final Edition are in strong contrast with the extreme amounts of lume that have been painted on the indexes of the time-display cones, as well as on that extra space on the arch of the upper opening, left open after the removal of the date disc. To make the lume really stand out, MB&F used what they refer to as the “latest high-performance Super-LumiNova,” called GL C3 Grade A.
We saw this new piece in the brand’s M.A.D. Gallery in Geneva, and I will say I did bring this watch with me into a dark room and spent some time alone with it. Having charged the lume on the indices and on the periphery of the upper aperture with the LED on my phone I was curious to see how it would look with the rotor spinning so I shook the watch slightly to get the large, axe-shaped rotor in motion. The result was every bit as cool as I expected it to be: the three large sections of charged lume were periodically covered and uncovered dozens of times every second, over and over again, as the rotor spun quickly around its non-winding rotation. Sure, you kind of have to love lume and automatic winding to be able to go as nuts over it as we did – but it really is a unique and cool sight and one I wonder why no one has thought of before. You just really can never have enough lume.
Given the complex shape of the cones, their angled and round surfaces needed to be hand-painted by a specialist, who was able to paint the indices and numerals in a way that allowed for the application of just the right amount of lume while also maintaining a uniform font for all the numerals throughout. Her efforts were every bit worth it: the cones do stand out high and bold from the plane of the case, and legibility of the numerals and stick indices is in fact quite good. One thing about C3 Super-LumiNova is that, yes, it does provide the brightest glow when fully charged, but, in my experience, it lags somewhat behind BG W9 in terms of “glow reserve,” meaning that it fades somewhat faster than the blue-ish W9. Nevertheless, the green of the C3 works beautifully with the stealthy black PVD coating of the case.
The movement inside every MB&F HM3 MegaWind Final Edition is from the very last batch of HM3 calibers; when this run is over, there will be no more HM3s made again. The caliber was designed by Jean-Marc Wiederrecht and it is built on a gear train and automatic winding layout from Sowind. The movement comprises 270 components, including two large (15 millimeter wide) ceramic bearings, displayed on the case back side, responsible for transferring the drive from the mainspring to the timekeeping cones at the top.
This design was chosen for its very low friction when compared to standard pinions set in jewels, as seen in traditional movements, and also since they require support at the base they also allow for a thinner movement. While the double-circular sapphire display on the case-back is a very subtle and rather awesome hint at the MB&F HM1, at least for this MB&F HM3 MegaWind Final Edition, I feel it would have been nice to see a larger opening that revealed a larger portion of the back of the movement.
Nevertheless, as Max told me in one of our conversations, all MB&F Machines were designed to be worn – and the HM3 is no exception; and when you have it on your wrist, you immediately forget about the case-back. While the case is as large as expected, because the mounting points for the lugs are under it and located more or less inside from the edges, the lugs do not protrude far away from the edges of the wrist. This, in turn, allows the strap to wrap around the hand nicely and comfortably, making for a secure wearing experience.
When the HM3 is on the wrist, the cones remain every bit as amazing as they were some seven years ago: it just never gets old how they work aesthetically when one moves one’s hand around. The elevated cones and how they cover each other and the rest of the watch from some steeper viewing angles is a fascinating sight. Many brands out there put a lot of effort into creating dials that have a visible depth to them, and the reason for that is simple: flat, boring dials may look sleek and restrained in some instances, but more often than not, they tend to become boring after a while. By contrast, watches with depth to their dials and movements provide enough eye-candy to help the piece remain a visually interesting item to behold and appreciate – so what can we say about a watch with two cone-shaped titanium towers sticking out of it? To this day, it remains every bit as fascinating and unusual as it was when I first saw it – and just as showy and attention-grabbing as ever.
It is perhaps because its unusual design – and what that represents – never got old that the HM3 could remain such a strong model in the brand’s portfolio. It has by far outlasted its successor, the HM4, which saw its Final Edition (hands-on here) over two years ago and has lived on to have far fewer versions than the HM3. Whether you love or hate its design, with the HM3, Max Büsser, Eric Giroud, Jean-Marc Wiederrecht and the rest of the teams behind MB&F have created an iconic, instantly recognizable watch.
Despite all that has been said, it actually is a timely retirement for the HM3. While major brands can keep on producing the exact same model – with or without minor updates and different versions – for several decades, for a small brand that wants to maintain its exclusivity, that option is out of the picture. Discontinuing the HM3 is not just because the last 7 or so years saw around 400 HM3 calibers made for the 19 different variations, but also because MB&F needs to cut back on the number of movements it is presently producing. With the HM3, HM5, HM6, LM1, LM2 and LM101 they have been making six extremely different movements – keeping such a diverse production efficient and after sales services under control requires some rationalization.
Having started with a quick glance at its past and present importance, followed up by a hands-on look at its last hurrah, we have wrapped up Horological Machine No. 3. And although it would be a fitting ending to say goodbye to it, I am sure we will for long be seeing it in one of its many versions out in the wild, worn by collectors and enthusiasts. The MB&F HM3 MegaWind Final Edition will be limited to 25 pieces, priced at $98,000 each. mbandf.com