First presented in 2018, the MB&F HM9 is one of many Maximilian Büsser & Friends creations inspired by outstanding automotive and aeronautic designs — in this instance some from the 1940s and ’50s. The latest couple to join the extended family of Horological Machines, the MB&F HM9 Sapphire Vision watches show that there are few better ways to dial up that retro-futuristic 1950s aesthetic than adding the soft, translucent glow of sapphire crystal.

Since the age four, Büsser had set out to become a car designer. Thankfully, wristwatches need not comply with nearly as many strict regulations as cars do these days, leaving all the more room for designers to truly express their creative vision. MB&F’s Horological Machines have been with us for over 15 years now, since 2007, complemented by Legacy Machine watches since 2011. These two main pillars of the MB&F brand have formed the backbone of its daring character as a company. Still, some Horological Machines have been less outlandish than others — such as the more recent HM8 Mark 2 — so it is great to see another “spaceship for the wrist.”

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As stunning as the HM9 is from every angle, perhaps it is this profile view that impresses the most from a design-execution perspective. The proportions are spot on; every curve and bulb appears perfectly organic, while the exposed screws and strips of metals lend it a vivid retro-futuristic vibe most often attached to film props and sci-fi artwork. But the MB&F HM9 Sapphire Vision is real, and that is a testament to the frankly incredible abilities of today’s most advanced watch case manufacturers. MB&F remains largely unique not just by its creations, but also by openly crediting those individuals and companies who help bring these watches to life. This is exceedingly rare in the deeply secretive Swiss watch industry. The case is crafted by Aurélien Bouchet of AB Product, and the sapphire crystals come from Alexandre Gros / Novo Crystal and SaphirWerk.

The case of the HM9 Sapphire Vision watch is crafted from 18K gold, and (you guessed it) a total of five sapphire crystals — three for the main components of the case, one to cover the dial, and another for the dial itself. Until today, the HM9-SV had been available in four different versions — in 18K red gold and 18K white gold with black or blue, and purple or red gold-plated movements, respectively. These four iterations are now joined by two new 2023 editions with an 18K yellow gold case with a green movement, and an 18K white gold variant with a blue movement. Such information is available down to the smallest details, including the ball bearings or the name of the people at MB&F who performed quality control on the HM9-SV.

The 52-part case is, of course, absolutely huge at 57mm-long by 47mm-wide by 23mm-thick, but don’t let that fool you. Sure, the HM9 won’t be anyone’s daily wear, but it isn’t as terribly uncomfortable as those measurements might suggest. One of the less frequently discussed, albeit important ingredients to the success of MB&F has been the relatively wearable nature of its watche. These are wearable enough to feel comfortable during the scope of a dinner or an event, or lounging around the house on a lazy Sunday. Banging the expansive and expensive case into things will likely be the main point of concern for most.

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As befits a true Horological Machine, the large case encapsulates a bespoke movement, or “Engine,” as MB&F likes to call it. This “engine” follows the specific layout of the case ,and does so not with some superfluous plates or other cheap solutions, but by extending various functions of the caliber into the furthest corners of its sapphire cage. The 301-part movement is handwound and operates with two fully independent balance wheels that drive the hands through a planetary differential. The two suspended balance wheels — held by beautifully arced arms as seen on Legacy Machine watches — are tucked into the two bulbous corners of the case. All the components are impeccably finished, as one would expect with a price tag near half a million dollars.

Time is displayed on a vertical dial that faces the wearer. The pilot watch-style sword hands and Arabic hour markers are relatively large and lumed, making this as odd a pilot’s watch as there has ever been. It well and truly belongs on the wrist of a cartoon character. We could say that this time display makes for the only feature on the HM9-SV, but we’d be wrong: There are also two turbines on the flip side of the movement, directly under the balance wheel assemblies. These propellers spin freely “as an element of pure visual interest.” The brand explains: “After the initial HM9 Flow ‘Air’ and ‘Road’ editions conquered land and sky, HM9-SV takes us to the depths of the ocean — the last realm on Earth that still holds a wealth of untold secrets. Before you is an exploratory vessel from Atlantis, powered by a divergent technology both familiar and strange to our eyes.” Furthermore, the HM9 Sapphire Vision introduces a new shock-absorbing system in the form of helicoidal springs placed between the movement and the case, offering elasticity and limited lateral displacement.

That said, it is mind-boggling to think that the MB&F HM9 Sapphire Vision is a watch. It looks utterly unhinged, and yet complete, and it is this combination that truly drives its stunning effect home. It is painstakingly conceived and beautifully realized, further enforcing the rule that every die-hard watch collection should feature at least one Horological Machine. The world of watches cannot be fully described without referencing the breathtaking new dimension of case and movement design that is unique to MB&F.

The new MB&F HM9 Sapphire Vision watches are priced at a cool $490,000 — before taxes. You can learn more at the brand’s website.

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