Years Roll Away, The Frog Still Jumps – Introducing the new MB&F HM3 FrogX
Editor’s note: This is a Mind (stats), Body (design features) & Soul (what’s special) review of the new MB&F HM3 FrogX watch. For our detailed reviews, please head to our dedicated review section here.
Jean Edmond Cyrus Rostand was a French biologist and philosopher. He once said; “Theories pass. The frog remains”. A decade after releasing a mechanical timepiece that resembled a frog, MB&F is jumping back with a naked version of 2009’s HM3, the new MB&F HM3 FrogX.
What is it: The new MB&F HM3 FrogX released in three variations: blue, purple or turquoise with rotors, case gaskets and lume to match
Why: It marks the 10th anniversary of the release of a three-dimensional horology icon that is ready to bare all by shedding its previous metallic skins for a case entirely crafted in sapphire crystal
When released: 10 November 2020
Where: Global release but limited to 10 pieces each in three different colour avatars. You can also find them at their eShop here.
Who is it for: For those whose heart hops and jumps and skips a beat when they are in the presence of out-of-the-box horological marvels. It’s for those who have a sense of humour and a child-like curiosity when it comes to collecting watches, and for those who like art on their wrists. It will also be a good coming full circle piece for those who have the originals from the last decade.
How does it do: Technically there is nothing novel about the new MB&F HM3 FrogX. The use of sapphire crystal cases we have see before; the exact design from MB&F has also been seen before, roughly spanning a five-year run starting with the HM3 and spawning into 19 prior variations. The Bulldog earlier this year again belonged to the same type of wrist art making inspired by nature and animal kingdom. And the fairly high retail costs — 138’000 CHF + taxes — for an off-beat, non-mainstream design is certainly not pandering to popular conventions.
So why does this work?
There is a Westlake Taylor Purkiser — an American preacher, scholar, and author — quote that pretty much sums up why: “Faith is not jumping to conclusions. It is concluding to jump”.
Just like the amphibian it is named and designed after, the MB&F HM3 FrogX takes this leap of faith that there is more to the world of watchmaking than simply producing divers after divers. And it works. Distinctively shocking, mechanically awe-inspiring, aesthetically intriguing, visually out-of-this-world, suffice to say, the Frog machines by MB&F have become a force to reckon with. It may not be strikingly different than their previous work, but in my opinion it’s quirky and limited enough to warrant a re-release. And boy, you got to watch the video below to see how cool the night lume shots look!
Missing: When independents release watches, just like the new Urwerk UR-100V Iron, with eccentric strap and lug designs, there should be an unwritten rule that all these would come with a few ‘complimentary’ strap changes because I for one love to change my straps regularly and trying to find after-market straps for watches like the new MB&F HM3 FrogX is simply a pain. Though to be honest it’s not even the independents, watch brands I think in general, like to make it hard to swap out straps.
The new MB&F HM3 FrogX features a Sowind Group base — read Girard-Perregaux — movement designed by Jean-Marc Wiederrecht/Agenhor for MB&F. It is an automatic movement featuring the brand’s battle-axe ‘mystery’ winding rotor in 22k gold and titanium with blue, purple or turquoise CVD coating matching the case gasket. The rotor is a ‘mystery’ because it appears to defy the laws of physics in being symmetrically balanced instead of having a visibly off-centred mass.
The movement is comprised of 277 components — less 27 parts compared to the 2010 Frog machine owing to the removal of the date complication — 36 functional jewels, beats at the frequency of 4Hz (28’800 A/h), and features a 48-hour power reserve. It transmits the hour and minutes information to rotating domes via ceramic ball bearings.
To me, at different angles, the watch becomes more reminiscent of Disney’s Mickey Mouse than a frog. And this perhaps is good, working in their favour, because the watch it appears can be worn either way, and if I was wearing it, I would see frog from one end and Mickey Mouse from the other. Like I said, one needs to have an open mind and a childlike curiosity to truly appreciate these pieces.
The 48.3 mm x 52.7 mm x 17.5mm sapphire crystal case showcases the dial that depicts the functions of hours on one dome — aluminium dome rotating in 12 hours — and minutes on second dome — aluminium dome rotating in 60 minutes, and these domes along with the bezel and case-back all feature an anti-reflective treatment. The case also has a “secret message” crown that reflects light rays to project the MB&F battle-axe icon developed for MB&F by Rayform, a Swiss company whose technology has various applications including anti-counterfeiting measures.
The best part for me is the hidden symbol in the crown. Just like the Princess and the Frog story, when the Princess kissed the Frog, magic happened, in this case, just as the sunlight kisses the crown of the new MB&F HM3 FrogX, magic happens and revealing itself is a hidden secret symbol, the MB&F battle-axe.
And just like you dissect frogs or look at the naturally transparent to a certain degree ‘glass frogs’ of the Centrolenidae family that are mostly found in Central and South America, MB&F allows the wearer to look at its turned upside down — to allow for an uninterrupted view of the enlarged 22k gold and titanium winding rotor and the oscillations of the balance wheel — movement marvelling at the ‘dissected’ three-dimensional horological engine workmanship by master watchmaker and award-winning movement genius Jean-Marc Wiederrecht.
Overall, I think it’s at its best under the darkness, with the lume.
There is an old proverb that says “you can’t tell by looking at a frog how high he will jump,” and true to that, I believe that you can’t judge the marvel of a timepiece like this simply off the press photos. As much as I would like to write more on this, this is one of those timepieces that require a hands-on review to truly appreciate it. And if that happens, we will be back with a much more detailed review. Until then, and apologies for the silly puns, but talking about that child-like curiosity I mentioned earlier and the fact that frogs jump, all I can say is that my heart leaped in joy at its release and when I looked at the watch’s big, goggly eyes, it made me hop about in merriment.
For more information on this and other MB&F watches, please to their website here. All images used unless stated otherwise are © MB&F SA 2018.