Many things make MB&F special — but one of the most distinctive elements of the mavrick brand’s charm is their ability to shift aesthetics, seemingly on a dime. From bio-organic forms to mid-century sci-fi, MB&F manages to integrate seemingly disparate nostalgic pop-culture tropes into their very serious horology, all while floating past the pitfalls of cartoony pastiche.
But one trend manifests itself more than most across their various collections, and that’s retrofuturism. The idea, born in literature and the creative arts, speaks to concepts of the future realized using antiquated technology. The style is both nostalgic for an imagined past, and skeptical of populist imaginings of the future.
Retrofuturism is a field in which MB&F has played since the very beginning, in both their Horological Machines and the Legacy Machines. One of their most striking expression though, is the HM4, a typically MB&F take on a pilot’s watch, that first took flight a decade ago.
Also called the Thunderbolt, this watch defies traditional case descriptions and instead relies on language cribbed from the world of aviation. Two turbine-like engines sit upon a central chassis, each with a display: power reserve on the left, and time on the right. The whole assembly of this 2010 GPHG-winning watch looks like a wonderfully elevated interpretation of a plane from the golden era of aviation, which is something MB&F leaned strongly into with their 2011 Razzle Dazzle and Double Trouble editions and again here, with the 2020 HM4 Kittyhawk piece unique.
The first thing you’ll notice is the grinning shark’s more on the ‘fuselage’ of the watch. Still, before we delve into the meaning of that particular smiling face, it’s worth noting that this watch, celebrating the 10th anniversary of the HM4 isn’t a limited edition, but rather a piece unique made using MB&F’s original prototype watch.
The titanium case has been finely reworked to celebrate an iconic wardbird, the Curtiss P-40, a single-engine fighter and ground attack plane that was in operational use from 1938 til 1958. Some variants were called the Kittyhawk.
The name, along with the large air scoop under the propeller, and some creative nose art, became one of the Second World War’s most recognised planes, and eventually a legend — even if its efficacy and service history is more contested.
MB&F, with the help of miniature painter, Isabelle Villa created a work of art on the case. A process that involved removing a few microns of case metal in the silhouette of the sharks face, where the vivid and lifelike smiling shark was created and lacquered so that it sits flush with the case.
And as much as we’ve called it an introduction to this piece unique in the above title, chances are the watch has already been spoken for as soon as we pressed publish.
Three-dimensional horological engine developed with Laurent Besse and Beranger Reynard. Manually wound with two mainspring barrels in parallel, with 50 jewels and 72 hours of power reserve.
Titanium, 54mm x 52 x 24mm, five sapphire crystals on the dials and display panels