MB&F HM8 Mark 2: Horological Hypercars!
Design and automotive progress have always gone hand in hand, ever since the earliest decades of the 20th century. As cars moved beyond utilitarian machines designed to get you from point A to point B and into the realm of personal displays of style and taste, the ways that cars could look evolved faster every year. It didn’t take long for the concept of form before function to take over, only to then be replaced by ideas of function over form.
Of course, the space age filled designer’s minds with visions of a future that would never come to pass, but they made every attempt to will it into existence through ever more complicated automotive concepts of speed, aerodynamics, and shape. It couldn’t last forever, and as the design concepts moved away from a rocket with wheels, we started to get visions of strength as swooping curves became more angled and chiseled. The late sixties and seventies saw an era of automotive design offering a chance to drive an extension of your desire for power.
It wasn’t exactly an era of elegance but a time filled with a lot of energy. We were treated to shapes that had never been imagined before and, regardless of performance, you could have a vehicle that tried something new. Performance and muscle cars of the era were quite possibly the least subtle with design choices, while concept cars peaked in wildness (one of my all time favorites being the Bertone Lancia Stratos Zero).
But style continued to evolve as design was forcibly pushed into economy for production cars while concept designers could still make their wildest dreams come true. Flat panels were everywhere as if no designer had ever heard that metal could be bent. The 1980’s was the best example of this while the 90’s saw a shift into the smoothest shapes imaginable, leading to the era affectionately being known as the “bar-of-soap” styling when it came to regular passenger cars.
Once the new millennium arrived we saw the widest gap between concept cars and production cars as every passenger vehicle became a clone of each other, while hypercars were the last bastion of interesting design choices.
Luckily the trend has shifted the other way a little bit as many vehicle designers are now realizing that we could be in the last few decades of the ubiquitous passenger car so they might as well shoot for the moon. In a very short century from the age of glorified motor coaches all the way to production cars that can go over 400 km/h and physically morph at high speeds, there are mountains of inspirational designs for every taste.
And for watches inspired by the automotive legends, it’s easy to shape something that instantly elicits visceral excitement in the same part of the brain that lights up when we go really, really fast.
Max Busser needs no introduction to fans of this genre of watchmaking, as he has been using automotive history as an inspiration for decades. Looking over the back catalogue of MB&F and their over 20 distinct model designs, 4 are directly inspired by specific car designs and 12 are members of the “drivers” watch category. That means that automotive history is directly responsible for more than half of MB&F design in one way or another.
It’s latest release, the HM8 Mark 2, is clearly derived from the hypercar realm, while not forgetting the key 1970’s core that is so important to Busser himself.
MB&F HM8 Mark 2
As the name suggests, the HM8 Mark 2 is a follow up to the original HM8 with an inspiration distinct from its forebearer.
While the former looked to the Can-Am race cars of the 60’s and 70’s, the Mark 2 looks more modern. The design language could easily be seen to be from something like the 2013 Porsche 918 Spyder, seat cowls and all, though it is still integrated with classic styling, including hints possibly drawn from the 1972 BMW E25 Turbo with it’s scooped rear deck and full-length body ridge, seen in the HM8 Mark 2 on the central titanium housing.
Design inspiration aside, the Mark 2 follows in the footsteps of many other MB&F pieces and functionally displays time like a “drivers” watch. That means a display that is either rotated or angled toward the driver while they would be holding the steering wheel, in this case with the display tilted vertically thanks to a pair of prisms sitting over top of the hour and minute disks. The prism display is also magnified to make up for the depth of the angled view, all integrated into the prism body.
Core mechanics of the HM8 Mark 2 are largely the same between the original and the Mark 2, simplifying the build and allowing attention to other details. The crown has been updated with a unique “double de-clutch” mechanism that requires a push and three-quarter anti-clockwise turn to unlock, securing the crown against bumps and accidental adjustment. It isn’t as secure as a screw down crown for high amounts of water resistance (the Mark 2 sports 30 meters of resistance) but it makes a much more tactile experience for the user, and channels even more automotive easter eggs into the design.
On the top of the Mark 2 we get a full view of the movement, classic battle ax rotor, and a peek at the rear of the display prisms. The sapphire crystal follows the shape of the display cowls and reminds me of the classic Hurst Hemi Under Glass, an exhibition car that purposefully had the rear mounted engine visible under a giant glass window. Now fairly common in super and hypercars, the origin was solidly in the 60’s and 70’s muscle car scene. But this is juxtaposed by the CarbonMacrolon body panels on the top and bottom of the case, a construction technique more modern than any classic car.
Mixing old and new
Taking a central case and bolting rigid body panels on the outside is definitely inspired by much higher end vehicles of the modern era, especially when you take into consideration what CarbonMacrolon is. As a composite, CarbonMacrolon is a “dense polycarbonate resin reinforced with carbon nanotubes” meaning that it is essentially a cast material that is extra rigid and can be shaped and colored in almost infinite ways.
Making a material like CarbonMacrolon still requires a lot of planning because stiff materials have a tendency to crack when impacted, so the right formulation of the material will allow some flex to prevent a catastrophic failure while protecting the case and crystal from the all too common bumps of life.
In the case of the HM8, the bottom CarbonMacrolon panel is not on the outside but sandwiched between the outer titanium case back and the central case body. In this area it extends past the central case and acts like a bumper more than a shell, but the upper section is like a colored hard hat. The limited edition in British Racing green shows off the vibrancy possible with the material, though the non-limited version still opts for white which just glows on the wrist. This is also where it is clear that aesthetics are such a strong influencing factor for the team at MB&F.
The white version incorporates a British Racing green anodized rotor, sparkling under the sapphire fastback window, meaning that both versions lean into the racing history with a widely beloved color. For the limited edition, the rotor is a more traditional gold, yet green and gold are one of the most popular color combinations in racing thanks to famous liveries from Jaguar, Aston Martin, and Lotus. There is a reason, after all, it’s called “British” Racing green.
It’s also an example of how classic automotive history and the more modern side of research and development have come together in a single watch, and why it follows in the footsteps of some of the most successful car designs. The simple shape of the upper “body panel” with its twin cowls and flared bulge over the crown are just enough elements to demonstrate careful consideration of shape and the proper flow of the case.
Shape drives experience
One could even be excused for thinking that this case looks like it has been designed with the aid of wind tunnel testing. The way the panel flows and wraps around the central case it almost feels like a layer of pie crust being carefully wrapped over a filling of fruit, smoothly taking the shape of the apples below. But alas this is no pie but a stunning horological machine that is relatively easy to read while driving.
The sapphire crystal and sapphire prisms both give form and flow like perfectly clear water over the desired shape of the case, like an invisible skeleton supporting the bonnet. Underneath the hood the movement stands poised waiting for you to hit the gas. Okay, perhaps the automotive allusions don’t always capture the Mark 2, but when you flip over the watch you still find the module main plate with machined ribs just like an engine or oil pan cover, depending on your specific make and model.
While it is much more subdued than the even crazier shapes of the original HM8, it feels more in line with the inspiration than its predecessor. Taking the Mark 2 as a part of the entire MB&F adventure, one can see how the exploration of shape is one of the driving forces behind the brand, especially in the Horological Machine collection. The “steampunk future” vibes of the Legacy Machine dabble a bit with wilder shapes, but only in the three models that are domed and would be considered a driver’s watch.
Those pieces do reiterate how much automotive culture has inspired the brand, stemming from Max Busser’s love of car design that consumed his life from age 4 to 18. He clearly grew up in the right era to be enamored with automotive design and luckily applied his passion to our favorite industry years later. With the HM8 Mark 2, Busser once again returns to his roots to deliver a watch that deftly captures the automotive spirit, even going so far as to make the strap and buckle a single loop with Velcro, turning it into a tool for the wrist of an enthusiast in a hurry.
As always, the Horological Machines are not the perfect aesthetic for everyone, but the HM8 Mark 2 is an amazing exercise in the design language of the automotive world for people that enjoy it. Pieces like this are what keeps MB&F at the top of my list of favorite brands because after dozens of machines I am still able to be blown away by the variation and experimentation found within the brand.
It also shows that the ability to design a clean, simple watch on a complex foundation is still entirely feasible. We haven’t seen a watch this streamline since the HM5 or the HMX (which I am not complaining about) and it’s great to see that MB&F doesn’t suffer the Hollywood blockbuster syndrome of always needing to go bigger and wilder to keep people interested. The HM8 Mark 2 might not be my favorite MB&F of all time (which is currently a 3-way tie) but it is definitely in my top 5 favorite MB&F pieces to date!
Risking the HM8 Mark 2 from racing away from me at high speed, I’ll try my best to break it down!
- Wowza Factor * 9.2 The wild automotive style is enough to draw a wowza from even the mildest mannered of collectors!
- Late Night Lust Appeal * 92 » 902.212m/s2 The amount of desire for this watch is only trumped by how it manages to do so much with such a simple design!
- M.G.R. * 64.8 The base movement is less wild than the module on top that includes a ninety-degree prism and magnifying lens to better see the time making this a darn geeky movement!
- Added-Functionitis * N/A A common feature of MB&F pieces is that there is so much going on with the aesthetics that the watches themselves are simple time only pieces, so once again you can skip the Gotta-HAVE-That cream and just take a ride in this automotive inspired machine!
- Ouch Outline * 9.9 Sleeping on a small pointy stone in the forest! When camping one must always clear the area underneath their tent of any sharp or bulbous debris otherwise it will definitely risk puncturing the tent or worse, poking into your back all night. But if it meant getting the HM8 Mark 2 on my wrist I would gladly sleep on a whole tent full of rocks!
- Mermaid Moment * That shape is so… enticing! The biggest draw for many MB&F watches is the aesthetic shape of the piece and the HM8 Mark 2 is so cool that it’s enough to make you start browsing rings!
- Awesome Total * 693 Start with the hours of power reserve (42) and multiply by the number of pieces for the British Racing green (33), then divide by the number of variations on offer (2) to land on a numerically awesome total!
For more information, please visit www.mbandf.com/en/machines/horological-machines/hm8-mark-2.
Quick Facts MB&F HM8 Mark 2
Case: 47 x 41.5 x 19 mm, grade 5 titanium and CarbonMacrolon in white or British racing green
Movement: automatic HM8 caliber (Girard-Perregaux base), 42-hour power reserve, 28,000 vph/4Hz
Functions: Jumping hours, trailing minutes
Limitation: British Racing Green limited to 33 pieces, white limited by production capacity
Price: 73,000 CHF
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