Clearly, Max Büsser drew on his own childhood experiences when he commissioned his friend, Eric Giroud, to capture the 1970s period and create the MB&F HM5.
This detailed review of the MB&F HM5 includes live images and specification details.
I remember the early 1970s. A new age seemed to be dawning. Neil Armstrong had taken a few steps on the surface of the moon only a few years earlier and it seemed anything was possible.
Society embraced the space-age and like many children of my generation, I listened to my transistor radio and conjured various images in my mind. Fanciful thoughts of a new world populated with alternative forms of life on distant planets, emanated from within my cranium. David Bowie perfectly crystallised the moment with his iconic album, “Space Oddity” .
Wherever you looked there was modernity to design. I still remember a 1970s swivel chair in my parent’s home. It was clad in a nylon-like material and was incredibly uncomfortable. Moreover, with chain smoking parents, I now look back and ponder whether it may have presented a fire risk. I suspect it was sufficiently flammable to power the aforementioned Mr Armstrong to his vanilla-coloured crescent-shaped destination.
Our chimney breast was decorated with a washable wallpaper which would now induce nausea in the majority of people exhibiting a modicum of taste. The profusion of orange, green and gold shades, was with hindsight, awful yet at the time it perfectly matched the ubiquitous orange lava lamps of the period.
Not all aspects of design were blighted by what we now consider as questionable taste. Take the Lamborghini Miura of 1971, it had headlights which seduced like the fluttering eye lashes of a femme fatale. The rear window of the car featured louvred slats which would afford a rearward view from the driver’s seat whilst mitigating the sun’s rays, beating down on the car’s occupants. The model is regarded as a design classic and is much sought after in classic car sales around the globe.
Clearly, Max Büsser drew on his own childhood experiences when he commissioned his friend, Eric Giroud, to capture the 1970s period. This era represented a time of optimism from Büsser’s youth and the MB&F HM5 evokes a sense of well-being and innocence from a bygone era.
The styling influences of the MB&F HM5
Looking at the MB&F HM5, it would seem I was not alone in thinking of the Miura’s rear window when handling the watch. Indeed, as I subsequently perused the press release and viewed the brand’s video, both mediums referenced the gorgeous Miura. However, influences are not restricted merely to the automotive industry.
The hour and minute functions resemble many of the digital clocks of the 1970s, albeit I am, once again, reminded of a Citroën CX of that era. This car had a speedometer similar in style to a bathroom scale display. As a young boy, I thought it was incredible and adequate reason for my father to trade-in our modest Citroën GS.
The display of the MB&F HM5 employs two discs which feature reversed and inverted Arabic numerals. They are viewed through an optical sapphire prism which is further magnified for enhanced legibility. This takes the values shown on the horizontal discs and presents them in a highly legible vertical form. The result may appear simple, but much ingenuity will have been necessary to realise this inventive presentation of time.
The case does not follow convention
The construction of the case is innovative. It does not follow convention and it is for this reason I have come to admire MB&F. The HM5 consists of a case within a case. Whilst the outer case of the watch is not water resistant, the inner case resists the perils of moisture. The MB&F HM5 is fitted with exhaust pipes to facilitate drainage should water ingress ensue, each outlet residing either side of the crown.
The rear profile of the case resembles the previously mentioned louvred slats of the Miura. However, in this instance, rather than mitigate the influx of light, they do the opposite. They charge the SuperLuminova numerals, depicted on the two discs within the case, with sunlight thus enhancing their legibility. The slats are operated with a slide button on the side of the case.
The crown resides to the rear of the case, nestling in the midst of the thinnest flank of the outer case.
The engine within
MB&F refer to the self-winding movement as “an engine”. It seems the brand has an obsession with octane-inspired descriptions and visual metaphors. However, the oscillating weight is unique in appearance, further differentiating the timepiece from the majority of watches on the market.
I am accustomed to seeing a semi-circular-shaped rotor, hence the sight of an oscillating weight formed into the MB&F logo, a battle-axe motif, presents a welcome change. It is crafted from 22-carat gold and revolves with remarkable alacrity, capturing the slightest movement of the wearer’s wrist.
Mr Büsser called on the help of further “friends”, Jean-François Mojon and Vincent Boucard to develop the movement. This is not the first time Mojon has worked with MB&F; he was involved with the movement that powers the gorgeous Legacy Machine No.1.
The movement is complicated, with jumping hours which can be adjusted in either direction. In addition, the triangular form of the movement and compact dimensions further demarcate the engine.
Close examination of the movement reveals matchless finishing. The hand-finished bridges are decorated with Côtes de Genève motif and feature finely bevelled edges. Whilst MB&F is a relatively young brand, it draws on traditional Swiss watchmaking prowess to deliver fine finishing.
The limitation of photographic images is they can often fool the observer into forming an incorrect opinion. I recall receiving the initial images of the HM5 and feeling a sense of disappointment.
A few months ago, I saw the video from the brand and had opportunity to place the watch upon my wrist and my earlier opinion was turned upside down. I adored the blue-sky thinking and numerous examples of innovative design. Furthermore, the watch wonderfully replicates the mood of the 1970s when there was a thirst for modernity and space exploration proffered an abundance of optimism.
Some people like the lava lamps of the 1970s and describe them affectionately as kitsch. They look at them sentimentally. This watch is not kitsch, the design is too resolved to be labelled in such a way. Yet, the watch does remind me of my youth and would perfectly suit the wrists of the spacemen I dreamt of emulating as a young boy with unbridled ambition.
- Model: MB&F HM5
- Case: Zirconium case; dimensions 51.50 mm x 49.00 mm x 22.50 mm; water resistant to 3 bar (30 metres); sapphire crystal to front and caseback.
- Functions: Jumping hours; minutes.
- Movement: Self-winding movement; frequency 28,800 vph (4 Hz); 30 jewels; 42 hour power reserve; 224 parts
- Strap: Rubber strap on titanium pin buckle.