April 5, 2017
by David Bredan
After I went hands-on with the HM6’s caliber as part of our Movement Hands-On Series in 2014, I thought it would be the last time for me to see this unique array of 475 components and 68 jewels. Happily, I was proven wrong the moment the MB&F HM6 SV “Sapphire Vision” watch debuted last year, slipping this “engine” – as MB&F likes to call it – into a sapphire crystal sandwich.
First, as we like to do, a bit of history for you. MB&F likes to praise itself as one of the starters of the sapphire craze, thanks to their mind-bendingly awesome Horological Machine 2 SV that they first launched in 2010. While the HM2 wasn’t a full sapphire watch per se (as you can see above, it still had a metal back plate), its complex single-piece sapphire front with its drilled holes certainly helped push the limits of the sapphire crystal supplier who made it.
Just to recap, sapphire crystal is very hard and, in fact, remarkably stable when you leave it alone (meaning you’re not putting a spinning diamond-tipped drill through it hundreds of times), but is very prone to cracking when it is being machined. It is no wonder, then, that it took a few years for the first fully sapphire-encased watches to appear (the Cecil Purnell Mirage and Richard Mille RM 056 debuted in 2012).
Now, the MB&F HM6 SV “Sapphire Vision” takes the HM2’s complexity to the next level by taking two massive slabs of bulbous-looking (for lack of a better word) sapphire and fits them over the incredible HM6 tourbillon movement. The top and bottom sapphire elements are fixed to a 950 platinum or 5N+ red gold band which features cool-looking lines inspired by the “Art Deco style Greyhound Streamliner buses of the 1950s and ’60s.”
The sapphire crystals feature a total of nine domes, four on the bottom and five on the top – the features they reveal, we’ll discuss soon below. Each piece has been machined from a solid block of sapphire crystal, the second hardest, naturally occurring mineral on Earth after diamonds. Hence, it comes as no surprise that diamond-tipped tools are required to eat away all the material we don’t need in order to leave behind this weird shape that must take dozens if not hundreds of hours to machine.
Once machining is done, sapphire crystal – not just these pieces, but any sapphire crystal used in watches – needs to be hand-polished to remove what is a hazy, non-transparent layer and get to this, yes, crystal-clear final piece. Dropping it or banging it against hard surfaces is not recommended, but you may still rest assured that these massive pieces of sapphire will remain scratch-free as long as you keep them away from diamonds.
The case is a whopping (almost Whopper sandwich-like) 51mm by 50mm by 22.7mm in dimension with a unique swiveling strap attachment system fitted to its very center. As showy and recognizable as all MB&F creations are, this MB&F HM6 SV “Sapphire Vision” unapologetically sets a new standard for large-wearing and showy watches.
Once you manage to get really close to it, though, you’ll quickly forgive its inflated proportions as you get to discover the intricacies of the HM6 caliber. A very complex movement with a flying tourbillon and the typical MB&F “battle axe” cage over it, it is accompanied by two massive aluminum turbines that spin frantically at the slightest twist of your wrist as they are linked to the automatic winding rotor (also “battle ax-shaped” to help satisfy your weapon fixation) through acceleration wheels.
At the other end, you’ll find that the time is indicated by two aluminum semi-spheres with hours on the left and minutes on the right. These work through a clever differential system that you can read much more about (along with many more rather unique images and close-ups of the uncased movement in my movement hands-on article linked to in the first paragraph above), while on the case-back side you’ll find a massive, blue platinum winding rotor that winds in one direction and spins crazy-fast in the other when the watch is mildly shaken.
While so much more can be said about it, again, it really is worth reading the movement hands-on article, as there is no point to taking excerpts from it to explain the remarkable complexity of this, needless to say, bespoke and very unique movement. As with the “regular” HM6 (if you can call it that), you can pull up a titanium shield to cover the tourbillon – to protect it from UV rays and, more so, because it’s fun.
The MB&F HM6 SV “Sapphire Vision” costs a remarkable $368,000 in 18k red gold and $398,000 in platinum, making it plausible only for those in the market for an actual space travel ticket from Elon Musk. Or, you know, if they are Elon Musk. mbandf.com