The HM6 Alien Nation is a full-sapphire limited edition upgrade on the “normal” HM6 – and comes with a crew of little gold men to boot
By Chris Hall
Oh MB&F, how we enjoy your whimsical ways. Through founder Max Busser’s infatuation with classic sci-fi, and aversion to typical watch construction, the Horological Machines series has given us a wildly varied series of watches. (Busser famously said when he started out more than a decade ago that he would never make a round watch; when he U-turned on that pledge it was to create the Legacy Machine series that now sits in our Modern Classic series of designs).
The HM line is the real core of the brand’s creative identity, experimenting with designs inspired by frog-eyed monsters or 1970s sports cars. In more recent years MB&F has given more attention to the world of science fiction, creating rocket ship and robot clocks, as well as of course HM6, which we wrote about here when it came out in 2014. That was updated in 2016 in the form of HM6 SV, which replaced the bulk of the titanium case with sapphire crystal.
HM6 SV was not the brand’s first foray into the world of oddly-shaped sapphire windows, but it was its most elaborate to date. Now the team has taken the idea to its logical conclusion and stripped out even the small amounts of metal that were left on the case, creating this version with an entirely sapphire case. That’s not easy – joining sapphire to metal is relatively straightforward as the metal can be manipulated, but joining sapphire to sapphire requires each piece to be machined with extreme precision. That’s not to mention the risks of pieces shattering – failure rates for complicated sapphire shapes are around 1 in 5. All in all, HM6 Alien Nation comprises 12 separate sapphire parts.
Through all that sapphire you can see the watch at work – and there’s a lot to see. Two rotor vanes at the ‘back’ of the watch, moderating the speed of the tourbillon escapement. The battleaxe oscillating weight. The earbud-shaped domes that bear the hour and minute indicators, theoretically allowing the wearer to read the time (did you forget that’s why we wear watches? Looking at this, you could be forgiven). And of course, that tourbillon itself, which takes pride of place in the middle of the case, under its own sapphire dome with a retractable titanium inner case.
But you could see all of that at work inside an HM6 SV. What’s extra, and unique to the HM6 Alien Nation, is one of those classic MB&F quirks. The shape of HM6 was originally intended to resemble a spaceship (or perhaps some kind of retro-futuristic bathyscaphe submersible). Now, the spaceship has a crew, in the form of six white gold aliens. Hand-sculpted by engraver Olivier Kuhn, they are miniature works of art in their own right. They represent more than a month’s work by Kuhn, and bring the levels of whimsy to “she cannae take it much longer, Captain” heights.
Each little alien is shown engaged in a task, “manning the ship” on your wrist. It’s immensely cutesy, and undoubtedly not to everyone’s taste, but we can say with 100 per cent confidence that MB&F knows its audience – because all four HM6 Alien Nation watches have already been sold. What’s more, they have all been sold to the same collector. Each one is unique, differentiated by the colour of the luminous material contained within (a combination of AGT Ultra and Luminova – if you want to know more about AGT and the wild world of extreme lume, click here); one blue, one purple, one green and one turquoise.
The watches were priced at CHF 500,000 apiece. So, one passionate collector has paid CHF 2,000,000 for all four. They are to date the rarest examples of HM6 – but with MB&F committed to making 100 HM6s in total, there are still potentially eight more waiting to be built. At least they probably know who to call when they’ve built them…