Back in January 2021, MB&F released what remains one of my all time favorite watches in the “This is Totally Insane” genre of watchmaking. Regular readers will understand that this is actually one of my favorite genres – one that I wish more in our little world would aspire to, because, really, how many black dialed dive watches does one really need? The HM9 SV, short for Sapphire Vision, is, as described, a vision in sapphire. The design of this watch takes the already bonkers HM9 and essentially cases it in an elaborate array of sapphire crystals, with a metal frame holding it all together. The result is an incredible view of the HM9’s movement, which has two independent balance wheels joined by a central differential that averages out their rates for, in theory, more stable timekeeping. And it’s all arranged in a shape inspired by automotive design dating to the 1940s and 1950s, because this is MB&F, and that’s what they do.
Last week, MB&F announced new versions of the HM9 SV, which is noteworthy because component for component, this has to be one of the toughest watches to make in the entire industry. The reason, of course, is because of the extensive use of sapphire, which has to be custom made specifically for these watches to very precise tolerances. And every piece of sapphire used in the HM9 SV is curved. MB&F points out that sapphire cased watches made by some of their competitors are using mostly flat pieces of crystal, held together by screws. That’s not the case with the HM9 SV – all five pieces of crystal for each watch are curved, some dramatically so, and they are also in non-standard shapes, which one would imagine could lead to additional engineering challenges.
The new 2023 editions of the HM9 SV are each limited to just five pieces, just like their 2021 predecessors. One has a yellow gold frame, with the movement coated in a green PVD finish, and the other features a white gold frame, with the movement coated in blue PVD. The overarching design is exactly the same as previous versions of the HM9, with the central “hull” running down the center of the watch, flanked by each balance wheel encased in prominent sapphire bubbles. If you observe the watch on your wrist in the way you would a typical timepiece, you’ll see the entire mechanism on display, with both balances in motion. To actually read the time, you’d tilt your wrist toward the sky, as the dial is located at the end of that long middle section. The HM9 is essentially laid out like a driver’s watch, meant to be easily readable while your hand is on the wheel.
One of the more interesting technical characteristics of the HM9 SV is that, like all watches made by MB&F, it has a minimum water resistance rating of 30 meters. Because there’s so much sapphire and the case is so complex in its construction, ensuring proper water resistance meant creating an all new (and patented) three-dimensional rubber gasket to waterproof the hull, and using proprietary compound bonding technology. We think of MB&F’s watches, particularly those in the Horological Machine catalog, as visual extravaganzas, but this is a great example of how the brand and their partners innovate in ways that are almost invisible.
The new HM9 SV variants carry a retail price of $490,000. MB&F