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The MB&F HM6 Space Pirate

The MB&F HM6 Space Pirate protects its flying tourbillon with a sapphire sphere and a wink –and conquers the universe.

Visions of space travel have again inspired Max Busser to design a new horological machine. His latest vision, the HM6 Space Pirate, was inspired by Busser’s nostalgia for a 1970s Japanese anime TV series known in French-speaking countries as Capitaine Flam, developed from a 1940s-1950s American science fiction character called Captain Future. The good Capitaine’s spaceship was called the Comet, and it was designed in a somewhat biomorphic shape that consisted of two spheres joined by a connecting tube.

This shape explains why spheres dominate the design of the new MB&F HM6, which features five globes, an incredible ten sapphire crystals and two large crowns linked with a matte and polished titanium skin. Two of the globes echo the earlier MB&F HM3 Frog. On that model, a set of bugged-out eyes became the watch’s hours and minutes indicators just as they again do on this new HM6. Also, one edition of that earlier model was made with a titanium skin, just like the new HM6.

But that’s where the similarity between the two Machines ends.

Where the earlier model was strictly terrestrial, this Space Pirate, as the name explains, is at home in distant galaxies. And as emphasized by MB&F’s Charris Yadigaroglou, space is an extremely hostile environment.

Therefore, to protect the HM6’s flying tourbillon as it is strapped to the somewhat less dangerous space on a collector’s wrist, MB&F designers have built into the watch a retractable, semi-spherical, titanium protective shield. When closed, the cover blocks UV light from prematurely oxidizing the lubrication oils in the tourbillon within it. Like a blinking eye, the cover opens and closes at the turn of the left-side crown. The cover itself is a complex micro-engineered component. Its overlapping, curved blades are paper-thin and had to be machined from a solid ingot of titanium.

That tourbillon under that sapphire dome is of the flying variety because traditional tourbillons require an upper supporting bridge. There is no space under the HM6’s central sapphire dome for such a bridge. Yadigaroglou adds that the curved lines of HM6 are more organically shaped than its predecessors. The inspiration for the rounded case came from the biomorphism art movement, which takes its cues from design elements based on the shapes of living organisms.

Four domes

Surrounding the tourbillon and its blinking eye cover are the two time indicator domes and two turbine domes. The paper-thin aluminum hour and minutes domes are machined from solid blocks of metal and revolve on ruby bearings. They rotate vertically via bevel gears that transfer the automatic movement’s power from a standard horizontal plane to the vertically rotating dome.

Just opposite each of the time indicator domes are two identical turbines that spin while the movement’s rotor spins. They are driven from the 18,000-bph rotation of the rotor by a gear train designed to amplify the number of rotations. With each shake of the wrist, these turbines spin at a much faster rate than the rotor rotates. The effect recalls a hypnotist’s spinning spiral, which only underlines the kinetic sculptural appeal of the HM6 Space Pirate. These two oft-spinning turbines are each composed of fifteen curved vanes machined in two hemispheres from solid blocks of aluminum. Their purpose, outside of their quite effective aesthetic role, is to govern the speed of the rotor to ostensibly minimize wear.

The technical purpose of the also aesthetically pleasing polished titanium belt (seen across the front and back of the titanium case) is clearer however. The unusual stretch of metal secures the thin, strong case to the movement. This band both strengthens the case as a whole and acts as a support to the free moving lugs. MB&F will make fifty of the titanium-cased HM6, with fifty additional movements destined to be housed in yet-to-be revealed metals.

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