I’ve been dying for Max Büsser and his friends to create a timepiece that actually seems wearable. I love the steampunk aestethics and concept of all the Horological Machines, but the superwide aspect ratio of the two first machines looked strange on wrists the HM3 Sidewinder and Starcruiser just felt strange (until the Frog, but more on that later).
The Horological Machine No 4 ‘Thunderbolt’ is looking really nice, I’m not sure that I’ve seen a timepiece utilizing all three dimensions better than this one. It’s probably due to the fact that no other watch is made in the same way with a horizontal balance power reserve with a vertical geartrain. It’s not just depth in a movement, it really is using space. The movement consists of 311 parts, all made inhouse and using two main-spring barrels for 72 hours of manually wound power reserve. It seems to be an awful lot of parts for a watch that displays hours, minutes (right pod) and has a power reserve indicator (left pod). No tourbillons, no astrological complications, no sonneries. My guess is that the architecture makes up the bulk of the components.
The look borders on the crazy japanese steampunk watches but is just taken back enough to look balanced and stylish. The case is impressive, the 65 pieces of satin and polished grade 5 titaium look stunning. It’s massive at 54mm wide, 52mm long and 24mm high but it still manages too look wearable on Max Büsser himself. The inspiration comes from the kit model airplanes Max used to build as a kid, in particular the A-10 Warthog. The twin pods represent the turbine engines on the A-10 and the titanium is a tribute the the armor on the plane. The crown at the end of each pod is used for that dials respective function (i.e. winding it up using the left and setting the time using the right).
I think that they themed it one step to far with the plain and boring dial. It is an homage to the instruments in aeroplanes but it looks like every other pilot watch out there (which I don’t particularly care for), just smaller. Why design it to be retro/traditional when everything else is retro/sci-fi, I just don’t get it. However, I would have just loved an updated contemporary/sci-fi look. Something a bit more like the rest of the watch which I know that designer Eric Giroud (just see his Rebellion timepieces) is capable of.
It’s a step in the right direction for MB&F but it doesn’t quite cut it for me, I’m sure that we’ll se lots of cheap watches with small vertically mounted movements in pods copycatting in the next few years but what I want to see is an updated version with a more exciting dial. I’m hoping that it’ll show up later on and I’m pretty certain that it’ll do just that as a limted edition. It costs $158,000 and they’ll make 25-35 pieces a year, that price and 311 components is just too much for the lack of complications, a more intricat and futuristic dial can save it but I would really like to see a double retrograde display or some kind of mechanical digital time indication.
Right now the MB&F watch to have (in my opinion) is the HM3 Frog, at first I didn’t grasp the HM3 concept with two small compass cones showing up under the shirt sleeve. But when those bulbs became two small mechanical frog eyes it just dawned on me and I love it. Of course, both are out of my reach for the moment and I’m really saving up for a Cabestan Vertical Winch Tourbillon, but that’s another story.