A new Horological Machine was released this week in Dubai, marking the 11th numbered edition to the series. The last HM was released in 2020, making this the longest gap between new Machines since Max Busser launched the brand with HM1 in 2007. The new HM11 is simply called Architect, a nod to the inspiration for the unconventional design, which was a particular form of mid-century habitat architecture. Like the Machines that came before it, the 11 is a conceptual wonder, with no shortage of fully bespoke elements that coalesse into something otherworldly on the wrist. What it lacks in practicality, it more than makes up for in pure creativity that pushes horological boundaries in the same way the very first one did.
I’ll start off by saying that this isn’t a watch that’s easy to judge by conventional standards; none of the Horological Machines are. And that’s kind of the point. That said, they all present a surprising level of nuance and yes, even ergonomic practicality. The F, or Friends part of MB&F, aren’t restricted to the usual bounds of mass produced timepieces, but rather work toward the shared goal of expressing an idea and design concept provided by the MB, or Max Busser part of the equation. The end result in the case of the HM11 is a watch modeled after a habitat of another time, or even another world. It tells a story, and offers a landscape of discoveries within its 42mm by 22mm frame.
There is a case here, but it defies simple explanation. A flying saucer-esque mid section hosts the movement, with a tourbillon containing the balance at its center. There are 4 arms of the movement that emanate from the center, serving as anchor points for the baseplate. Within the four cavities created by the movement are pod-like structures that present 4 perpendicular surfaces at their opening points, and present the functional elements of the watch. One displays the time; another the power reserve; another the temperature; and finally the last, which is the crown.
The viewing windows of the 3 display pods take full advantage of the cavities within, offering 3 dimensional views of the titanium and aluminum balls that create the indexes for the hour and minutes, as well as the power reserve. The brighter aluminum balls mark the cardinal positions, while the darker titanium balls fill out the remaining points. The temperature port is filled with a spring that contracts or expands with the shifting temperature, and is attached to a block that moves a hand across an index that can be either celsius (from -20 to 60°) or fahrenheit (from 0 to 140°).
Finally, the last pod contains the crown at its end, which can be pulled out to adjust the time. That is its sole purpose, as the winding is handled by twisting the entire case clockwise. Given that the displays are set across the perimeter of the case, a rotation system makes a good amount of practical sense, and also serves the purpose of winding in a single direction. If all of that is a bit difficult to envision, here’s is a slick video produced by MB&F to put the watch into proper thematic context:
The HM11 is being offered in 2 colorways, one blue and one sandy brown, each within a titanium case. Just 25 examples of each will be produced, and are priced north of $200,000. That might sound like a lot, and it most certainly is, but it’s important to keep in mind that MB&F develops entirely bespoke movements to bring their vision to life, something Stephen McDonnell spoke about during an emotional presentation in Dubai during the show. We’ll talk more about that on an upcoming episode of the podcast, but suffice to say, a lot of work goes into creating these movements and very few examples are built. And here, it’s not just the movement that’s complex, the case itself is just shy of 100 components (92 to be exact), each unique to this watch.
So what do we make of a watch like this? The best, likely most obvious analogy I can make is to a piece of art. It tells a story which can be interpreted in unique and perhaps unexpected ways. It’s been the same story for every Horological Machine, and while each is certainly interesting in their own ways, I haven’t personally found recent additions to be as compelling as early examples, notably HM2, HM3, and HM4, which represent the peak of the series if you ask me. HM11 takes a notable step back toward the magic that was captured in those early years, and indeed shifts back to more rigid structures in its inspiration.
All that said, I’m far from the target market for this watch. But I do think watches such as this offer enthusiasts (and even other brands) a healthy dose of excitement and optimism. These watches are an important part of the foundation for many enthusiasts, whether they have the means or not. It’s a watch that cuts to the root of what makes watches great, and that they can be things which carry more meaning than merely telling the time. MB&F