Over the last decade, two indelible forms have often marked MB&F’s Horological Machines: the distinctive angular form and optical prism displays of the revisited 1970s Amida watch, which first manifested in the Horological Machine No. 5 HM5 we reviewed here and then on the HMX we featured here; and the now signature “battle-axe” winding rotor, which took center stage on top of the Horological Machine No. 3 HM3, MB&F's most popular model to date. The new MB&F Horological Machine N°8 HM8 Can-Am designed by Eric Giroud and conceptualized by Max Büsser, takes its inspiration from the cues of those three iconic MB&F Horological Machines and infuses them with high-octane Can-Am car racing inspired design to give birth to a flawlessly executed timepiece like no other.
HM8 rises from the turbo-charged ashes of the Can-Am, a discontinued "anything goes" car racing series that would have celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2016. The Canadian-American Challenge Cup —Can-Am— for short, was a sports car racing series that took place between 1966 and 1987. Bruce McLaren developed his very first car for the Can-Am series; McLaren, Lola, Chaparral, BRM, Shadow and Porsche all ran manufacture teams. Class restrictions in the Can-Am were minimal and allowed for unlimited engine sizes, turbocharging, supercharging, and basically unrestricted aerodynamics. This all led to the development of pioneering technology in many fields. The engines in Can-Am were so powerful that roll bars ensured the driver's safety in case the car were to suddenly turn upside down. The new MB&F HM8 Can-Am features a curvaceous yet angular case, with dual optical prisms vertically displaying bi-directional jumping hours and trailing minutes, while the distinctive battle-axe winding rotor is visible on top. But the real star of HM8 is its Can-Am inspired polished "roll bars" majestically sweeping from the front of the Machine down to the beguiling tapered back. Available in 18K red gold or 18K white gold with a case measuring 49 mm x 51.5 mm x 19 mm, the roll bars are milled from solid blocks of grade 5 titanium and then meticulously hand-polished to gleam like tubular mirrors. The watch is water resistant to 30 meters.
The beating heart powering the new MB&F Horological Machine No. 8 HM8 Can-Am sits in full view under a nearly invisible sapphire crystal engine cover. The open center of the blued-gold battle-axe rotor enables appreciation of the circular wave finish on the movement, while the hour and minute indication discs are visible in the corners. The generous use of sapphire crystal allows unfettered visual access to the movement while its transparency backlits the time displays, making them more legible by day. Light also charges the superluminova numerals on the hour and minute discs for maximum legibility by night. The MB&F HM8’s form amplifies its function rather than simply following it.
At first glance it may appear that the sapphire crystal covering the HM8 Engine is circular and positioned above the battle-axe rotor, but it's not. The complete top of the case is one piece of sapphire crystal with sections of the crystal metalized to create a bluish border. That crystal, combined with the polished roll bars on each side, the oil sumps underneath, and the time displays created by optical prisms highlight HM8’s unrestricted horological creativity.
The roll bars are in grade 5 titanium, which has the desired qualities of being light in weight and high in strength. But that strength comes with a twist: titanium is not very malleable and cannot be bent easily into the desired long curve, which means that each roll bar has to be milled from a solid block of titanium Ti-6Al-4V. This is a blend of pure titanium with 6% aluminium and 4% vanadium as well as trace amounts of iron and oxygen. The Ti-6Al-4V alloy is significantly stronger than commercially pure titanium and boasts an excellent combination of lightness, strength, and resistance to corrosion. Turning HM8 over reveals another automotive tip of the hat: like most car engines which have an “oil sump” located underneath, HM8 has dual oil sumps under its own Engine very similar to the look of grooves on top of the engine in the MB&F HMX.
The new MB&F HM8 Can-Am is powered by an in-house developed bi-directional jumping hour and trailing minute indication module, on a Girard-Perregaux base movement. The 247-component movement is inverted to put the 22K blued gold winding rotor on top and modified to drive the prism indicator module. The finishing of the movement is exceptional with a complete open to view from the top. The movement is equipped with 30 jewels and beats at a frequency of 28,800 vph to provide a power reserve of 42 hours. The bi-directional jumping hour and trailing minute displays on HM8 are materialized by overlapping discs —one for the hours and one for the minutes—, completely covered in superluminova.
The effect of large numerals is created by masking all of the lume except for the numbers. The discs rotate horizontally on top of the movement; they are visible in the corners of the transparent Engine cover. Yet the time indications are displayed vertically in a ‘dashboard’ at the front of the case. To achieve this, MB&F worked with a high-precision optical glass supplier to develop reflective sapphire crystal prisms that reflect light from the discs 90°. The prisms also magnify the indications by 20% to maximize legibility. The new Horological Machine HM8 has separate sapphire crystal prisms for the hour and minute displays, which are wedge-shaped with precisely calculated angles to ensure that light is reflected and reversed from the horizontal indications to the vertical rather than refracted. A convex lens at the front provides the magnification.
Since sapphire crystal is much more difficult to work to optical precision than glass, it took considerable development and meticulous care in production to create crystals that reflected and magnified light without the slightest distortion. Because the time is reflected, the numbers are printed on the discs as mirror images so that they display correctly on the ‘dial’. The vertical, forward-facing display makes HM8 Can-Am an excellent driver’s watch, as there is no need to lift your wrist from the steering wheel to read the display. The video below was produced by MB&F to clearly illustrate the fascination behind this timepiece.
To round out the incredible look of the new MB&F HM8 Can-Am, the watch is fitted with a hand-stitched alligator strap in marine blue for the 18K white gold model and in dark brown for the 18K red gold version, both equipped with the traditional MB&F folding buckle in matching case material.
Sticker Price $82,000 USD. For more info on MB&F click here.