I remember the pain like it was yesterday.
My parents took me on a rare weekend trip to the Chesapeake Bay area. I was about eight years old and didn’t yet know how to swim, but liked walking along the beach with my legs in the water up to about my knee. My folks did their very best to teach me the art of being nervous; they weren’t what you’d call, a “daring” bunch. Still aren’t, really. They won’t get on an airplane. Won’t go out for sushi. To them I’m somewhat of a mystery, or at the very least, an anomaly. But on this late summer day along the Mid-Virginia coast, they were fine with my exploring the sunset sea and all the beauty that accompanied it.
Until, of course, they heard the scream.
My mother wasn’t exactly the most athletic person I’d ever known, but as I sat in the wet sand of the outgoing tide, holding my now bright purplish-red shin, I saw her headed toward me like she was Flo-Jo circa 1988. I was wailing in pain and it was the first time as a child I remember having an in-depth conversation with my psyche:
8-year-old Me: “WAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!! WHAT THE HELL???!!! OH MY GOD I’M GOING TO DIE!!! SHARK!!! I’VE BEEN BITTEN BY A SHARK! OR A WHALE!”
8-year-old Psyche: “Could you be a little more dramatic, please? I hear Little House on the Prairie is holding auditions nearby. And most whales don’t bite, moron.”
8YO Me: “And with this, your struggle with empathy begins. HELLO!?! Have you seen my LEG? They’re going to have to amputate it! Not a doubt in my mind. I am not even nine and I’m going to be legless. OH MY GOD THEY’RE GOING TO CALL ME LEGOLAS AT SCHOOL. I knew we were too young to start reading The Hobbit.”
8YO Psyche: “Okay, okay, back it up a minute, sister. First of all, before we get into what actually happened to you, let me just say… well done on the use of your vocabulary words! I mean, empathy and amputate in the same breath? Good job, kid. You might just be a writer someday. Your teacher must be very proud.”
8YO Me: “Hey, thanks. Yeah, Dad made me write a few pages in the dictionary as punishment for forgetting to make my bed again. Good to know it’s sinking in.”
8YO Psyche: “He’s creative with the punishments, I’ll give him that. So, back to what exactly happened… you were stung by a jellyfish, dipsh*t. Not a shark. Or a whale. Or a turtle. Or a crab. Or an oyster. It was a jellyfish. You’ll survive, I promise.”
And while that may have been the last time I would listen to my psyche for decades, it was right; I did survive, and without amputation, but my childhood fear of the jellyfish’s sting stayed with me the rest of my life…
… that is, until now.
If there’s one thing the watch world continuously awaits, it’s whatever Maximilian Büsser and his friends think of next. Speaking for myself, I feel my pulse quicken whenever an email comes through from Charris Yadigaroglou – MB&F’s Chief Communications Officer – and not just because everything about him is cool (including his font choice. How is that even possible?). An email from Charris means that something new, quirky, abstract, or extraordinary is either coming from MB&F or has already arrived, so when the teaser message came through about the release of the MB&F HM7 at the upcoming SIHH, I prepped my camera and held my breath, which was a good thing, because the company decided to take us all for a swim.
Press presentation videos can sometimes be – to put it politely – drab. Throw in a darkened, uncomfortably warm room and some jet lag and one might find oneself struggling to stay awake through them. But as I looked around at my American colleagues while they watched the beginning of the HM7 movie, I could plainly see that there was nary a sleeper in sight, in spite of Charris’s newfound raspy voice, thanks to a severe sore throat likely caused by (but not limited to) recycled expedition hall air conditioning.
The movie took us through the stages of MB&F’s story – of Max’s story – and put us all in touch with our inner curious and youthful selves. It started out by reminding us of our obsession with outer space through the creation of the HM2, HM3, and HM6 Horological Machines. It then carried us on the wings of an airplane through the skies of imagination via the HM4. Once landed, however, it threw us into the passenger seats of the HM5, HM8, and HMX models and drove us fast and far to the shores of our childhood – and in my case, to that beach on the Chesapeake Bay – so that we could strap on our tanks and dive deep into a realm not yet explored in the microcosm of highly mechanical timekeeping; the water.
The HM7 Aquapod (as it is so appropriately named) draws its design inspiration from the jellyfish, and symmetry is key when comparing the timepiece to its sea creature muse. The Aquapod is equipped with radially symmetric rings displaying the hours and minutes as a nod to the jellyfish’s brain, which is made up of an evenly spaced circle of neurons (MB&F had to develop extra-large ceramic ball bearings to support the watch’s spherical hour and minute displays). The watch’s sapphire crystal “bell” houses a flying tourbillon which regulates the power generated by the tentacle-like automatic winding rotor, transforming it into its time display. That prominent flying tourbillon makes for a beautiful visualization by day, however the three panels of AGT Ultra Lume (originally seen in the HMX Black Badger) around the inside of the movement give the watch its jellyfish-like bluish glow at night. But it’s what the rotor’s tentacles are made of and how they are made that adds another level of complexity to this already extravagant yet whimsical wrist machine. Each rotor is crafted from a solid block of Grade 5 titanium which – as any metalsmith knows – is extremely difficult both to work with and to polish evenly and properly, but it’s that same characteristic that adds to the timepiece’s nearly light-as-a-sea-cucumber feel.
The Aquapod’s “floating” curved bezel is created with laser-etched ceramic filled with metalized titanium at the numerals and markers. The watch – which IS NOT a dive watch – is water resistant to 50 meters, has a 72-hour power reserve, two crowns, and an automatic winding movement conceived and developed in-house by MB&F. The engine comprises 303 total components and 35 jewels, and its strap is made in aircraft-grade Fluorocarbon FKM 70 Shore A elastomer with a buckle that matches the material of the case. The HM7 is being issued in 18K rose gold in a limited edition 66 pieces, or in Grade 5 titanium in a limited edition of 33 pieces, and before we had left the press conference there were already two pieces sold.
To say that I, once again, was amazed by a horological creation conceptualized by Maximilian Büsser is like saying that I was going to have three glasses a glass of Champagne with my carpaccio every day during the SIHH lunch. In other words, YA THINK?? But then to see Max’s concept designed by the wonderfully talented Eric Giroud, and brought to life by a team of his extraordinary “friends” is something I don’t think I’ll ever tire of as long as I find myself writing about watches. And to know that Max – just like I – had been stung by a jellyfish while on family holiday many, many years ago makes me give one of those “of course he was” chuckles, for it takes someone with a mind like Max Büsser to turn that potentially horrifying childhood experience into a positive and creative one, (whereas I, in turn, simply avoided going into the ocean pretty much ever again).
So thank you, my dear Max Büsser, and thank you to your friends. Thanks for making me have to recount a terrifying memory and face my fears so that I could appreciate the natural joys of sea life again. That doesn’t mean I’m going to go diving anytime soon, mind you, but it does mean that I might just take a trip to the aquarium more often now. And maybe I’ll find myself hanging around the jellyfish tank. Who knows… it might just be good for my soul to spend a little extra time there.