" Le prix s'oublie, la qualité reste." Michel Audiard
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MB&F HMX : Watchmaking Darwinism

Le 22 June 2015
Malik
Malik "Pifpaf" Bahri
L'auteur.

Caractéristiques

  • 46.8 mm x 44.3 mm x 20.7 mm grade 5 titanium case.30m waterproof.
  • Movement base Sellita SW300 –  centring Valjoux 2892.
  • Frequency  28800 bph for 42h of RdM.
  • Oscillating weight with a 22k gold disc.
  • MB&F module with jumping hour/ dragging minute disc, « Red Ferrari » decoration
  • Prism that pojects the indication of the disc to 90°.
  • Components of the movement : 223. Of the case : 44.
  • Price CHF29000.

Les plus

  • PRICE!! At last a price correlated with reality.
  • But still, a 22K gold oscillating weight.
  • One of the most enhanced HM.
  • Sexier that the HM5.
  • Refined case.
  • Comfort.
  • Racing bracelet.
  • Exclusive presentation of the reading of time.
  • The most beautiful cap watch in history ?
  • The best watchmaking tribute ever paid to the automotive industry ?

Les moins

  • Not ultra-readable.
  • Movement base Sellita.
  • Only 20 copies.

Grooaarrrrgh!!!

When the conditions are optimum, organisms grow to a titanic extent : several dozen tons dinosaurs used to tread upon the antediluvian swamps and savannas. When conditions deteriorate, the heaviest animals collapse in favour of the most mobile species. Life is natural selection, and most of the time the lightest species are more resistant in times of crisis.  After hundreds of millions of years of evolution, a medium-sized species of primate has eventually supplanted the others thanks to its versatility and creativity.

  • The HMX (pronounce HMIX, not HM10) perfectly illustrates Darwinism applied to watchmaking.

Like a few others independant companies (Greubel-Forsey, De Bethune, Hautlence), Max Busser & Friends has just passed the 10 years mark, which is symbolic and very gratifying, given the extreme difficulty in creating a brand that can last in a highly competitive and fickle sector.

MB&F HMX Lotus Black (3)MB&F HMX Lotus Black (10)

As I pointed out in the parody of « The downfall » video, watchmaking is in crisis. This is obviously a consequence of the economic environment, but it is more deeply due to the fact that most of watchmaking companies misunderstand their customers’ expectations.

Those past 20 years, the Watch business has been behaving like a Lotto winner,

recklessly spending like a drunken sailor : the cash has been either burnt (huge wages, outrageous and old fashioned communication, even for a detergent manufacturer), or questionably invested (total verticalization, prestigious outlets, innovative technologies doomed to obsolescence within 10 years, such as silicon).

Consequently, the flow of money dries up while infrastructure costs remain. And some use the strong Swiss Franc to reduce the prices of the common pieces in the catalogue, as Bvlgari. Others ,like Patek, have arbitrarily lowered prices in some Asian regions. Eternal return to concrete. Charging more for a basic watch than for a luxury sedan was bold, but was also a very bad sign if we take the basic rules of luxury market as a baseline: prices must no be lowered, because that implies the customer had overpaid before.

  • That is where the unique understanding of communication, marketing and MB&F collectors comes into the picture.

Since the beginning, like a few other houses, they’ve been practicing a micro-series policy, which guarantees a maximum responsiveness in case of market change.

MB&F HMX Lotus Black (8)

The first HM, 1&2 were mainly critical successes. MB&H had difficulty in standing out within the new wave of  2000’s independant watchmaking…

  • Then came the HM3: smack in the face. A totally innovative architeture, a Flash Goron inspired look: a brand new proposition in watchmaking history.

MBandF has hit its stride with the HM3, achieving one success after another: HM4, LM1&2, LM101 to name but a few. By the way, a HM4 RazzleDazzle has been auctioned for about $250000 a few days ago. To me, the only disappointing watch was the HM5, a compromise with an overlong gestation. Its aesthetic lacked innovation compared to the HM4, and the price seemed too high for its actual quality…

Yeah.

A few days ago, as I was planning to go to the MAD gallery to photograph the pieces of Basel, Charris told me they were presenting a novelty: the HMX.
It sounds a little MegamanX from Capcom on Super Famicom/NES/Nintendo, I like the name.

To make it short and simple: the HMX is a much better version of the HM5, twice cheaper.

  • In detail:

This HM special edition follows the principle of the cap watch (?), which displays time through horizontal discs via a prism that vertically transfers the image on the edge/dial of the watch, equipped with a sapphire.
We shall talk about the problem straigh away: as many MB&F watches, it is not ultra-readable, but this has never been MB&F’s leitmotive, who claims to produce machines that give the hour, and not some ultra readable tool-watches to bomb ships.

IMG_3518MB&F HMX Lotus Black (11)

The watch has two sources of influence: the supercars from the 70’s (Max’s childhood), and the cap watches from the same period. In both cases, we are in the most creative decade in modern history, the pinnacle of history and contemporary culture, between the 1968 revival and the 80’s liberal-anticommunist hysteria.

  • Today’s musical (with the fatfonk), cinematographical or car quality productions are still under the shadow of the 70’s.

The “shutters” on the top of the HM5 kept intriguing us, when was the mystery going to be unveiled?

On the HMX, the “shutters” are replaced by a sapphire glass and, surprise: it reveals the bridges that hold the hours/minutes discs (they were steamlined on the HM5). Those are reminiscent of the cylinder head covers of supercars’ V engines. The colour varies: Lotus Black, British Racing Green, Bugatti Blue & Ferrari Red.
As you know, the red go fasta, so it is my favourite one. The black is too sober. It is not a discreet watch, so we should accept it!

MB&F HMX (10)MB&F HMX Lotus Black (5)

It is actually difficult to play the card of discretion with such an UFO on the wrist, even if, compared to the HM5, the case hase been refined (yet the latter was already pretty “aerodynamic”). There’s no way this watch could go unnoticed. This piece achieves the rare combination of being both a little showing off and made of real watchmaking content.
This grade 5 titanium case measures 46.8 mm x 44.3 mm x 20.7 mm, two millimeters less than the HM5. But the “refining” effect mainly comes from the flanks design, which are no longer ogive-shaped, but (flying of course) saucer-shaped. Thus we’ve gone from the space rocket to the saucer, yum!
Don’t let the 20.7mm thick fool you, the watch is very fine. The height value comes from the kind of base which integrates the horns and the 22K gold oscillating mass. But on the wrist, it is very light and slender. And let’s say it, it will not suit amateurs of fat 47mm bronze watches ( category C weapon). You can take the plane with this watch without having it confisticated by security guards.

Carrying on with this 22k gold oscillating mass, here’s the indirect defect of this watch. Let me explain: it is intrinsically superb and it provides warmth to the whole. But in order to reduce the costs MB&F simplified the whole (less components for both the case and the calibre: the expensive volets (?) have been replaced by a sapphire, the calibre is less dressy,ect…). But that’s ok. The problem is that the base calibre Girard Perregaux has been exchanged for a Sellita SW300, a clone of the Valjoux 2892 (28800 bph for 42h or PwR)…
Personally, I would have preferred production cost saving to have been done on the costly 22K gold mass (20 or 30 grams of gold), in favour of a less common calibre: a Technotime for instance.

MB&F HMX (5)MB&F HMX Lotus Black (9)

 

If the calibre side is a bit weak, the closing definitly makes this watch the most accomplished HM, with the HM3, and I do think it is even more harmonious than the latter.

But the great strenght of this watch is its price: CHF29.000, $30.000,

it positions itself on the intermediate market, where the competition is lower. Higher, around 50-60k, it is the pinnacle of desire: Lange Zeitwerk, De Bethune DB25/28, Datograph, ect…
But between 25 and 30k, we find some beatiful watches, but no watches of exceptional quality: IWC Portuguese 75th anniversary, ROO Offshore limited series Bozo-le-Clown, Vacheron American 1921, ect…

The strenght of MB&F is to propose the right product as soon as the market declines: MB&F simplifies the product, proposes an even finer design, erodes margins, adapts itself. The watch responds to all the criticisms I made in my “The downfall” video.

  • MB&F is the Purgatorius “mouse” that weaved in and out of the titanosaurus’ legs to cower in a hole, 65 million years ago, just before the comet “CrisisHorologis” hit the valleys.

Run for shelter!
Tyrannosaurus Pifpafex.