If you judge only by images, it’s hard to know what to expect from the latest Horological Machine from MB&F originally announced back in March of this year. Dubbed the “Bulldog,” the new HM10 follows MB&F’s fauna-friendly format of basing a design on something borrowed from the animal kingdom. And, while we’ve seen inspiration come from jellyfish and frogs in the past, the Bulldog is somewhat more specific, in that, it looks a lot like a tiny grinning bulldog.
At a certain point (now, for example), it no longer feels accurate to surround the latest of the Horological Machines with endless descriptors like those I would have used in the past (think: quirky, fun-loving, whimsical, child-like, playful, avant-garde, etc). While entirely accurate – and quite likely to be found peppered throughout this very post – those words are best understood as synonyms for MB&F. The brand is all of those things, and much more.
Want proof? Just take a closer look at the Bulldog. As mentioned above, this isn’t the first time that MB&F has leveraged a sort of bio-design inspiration, but while past options might have had the silhouette of a jellyfish or a stylized impression of a frog’s face, the Bulldog is, well, a bulldog – but like one from The Jetsons. With a stout frame, four legs, two big eyes, and a happy tooth-filled maw, you almost want to give the little guy a name. I’m partial to Ricki, or perhaps Darrel, but also understand that naming rights go to whoever gives one of these pups a good wrist to call home.
For those of you who might have missed Jack’s original introducing post, I suggest that you get your act together but am willing to offer a quick refresher. Aside from looking like a tiny dog, the HM10 is 54mm (snout to tail), 45mm across the shoulders, and 24mm at its thickest. Its case is available in titanium or 5N red gold, water resistance is 50m, and its “legs” form the lugs that connect to a calf leather strap. Like with many conventional watch designs, the HM10 offers a front (dial) view and a rear (movement) view, but in this case, those apertures are mated into a sort of head for the watch that is formed by two highly domed sapphire windows.
Offering hours and minutes on two aluminum domes that create the Bulldog’s eyes (much like the eyes of the Frog-like HM3), the Bulldog gazes up at its owner as small triangular indicators point to the current time. Adding animation to the topside view and tying in a key element from MB&F’s Legacy Machines, the HM10 also sports a floating balance wheel that hovers above and behind the “eyes.” MB&F call the movement the Bulldog caliber, and it’s a hand-wound movement with a 45-hour power reserve that ticks at 18,000 vph. Oh, and it has a power reserve indicator, but not like one you have ever seen before.
If you flip the Bulldog over, you will reveal a belly you certainly don’t want to scratch and a smile only a mother could love, but no instantly recognizable power reserve. Well, that’s because the Bulldog’s mouth is the power reserve. A fully wound Bulldog will have an open smiling mouth and one in need of winding will have a closed mouth. MB&F folks… who else does anything like this?
Set further back on the body, at the mounting point for the rear legs, we find the crowns which form a sort of ear shape for the design and offer winding (left) and timekeeping (right).
This is almost certainly the first time I’ve ever seen a watch with a design brief informed by the body and shape of a dog, and perhaps you’re thinking the same thing I thought when I saw the original intro: Do I want to wear a little dog on my wrist? And, how could it be comfortable? Is the HM10 another one of those watches with an appealing design that doesn’t translate to the real world? Or even to my own wrist?
Thankfully, no. Unlike some sports cars, many hats and, indeed, most other people’s shoes, the Bulldog fits nicely on wrist. In fact, a handful of HODINKEE employees in the office (when these photos were shot in early March), tried it on and were surprised by both its high level of comfort and the considerable lightness of the titanium model. Despite its considerable size, the Bulldog’s lug design ensures that it sits properly on any wrist, and Cara even noted that the effect was similar to that of the larger DeBethune models, which also use articulating lugs to make a large watch much more wearable.
Like with many watches from MB&F, the highly domed crystal feels sculptural, but it is also very much out in the open – so, be wary of door jams and the like. I also think that there is a mix of design cohesion and finishing that speaks to the knowledge gained by the team at MB&F over the past several Horological Machine creations (also, working with Eric Giroud never hurts). Take a close look at the polished “legs”, the matte case finishing, the open and airy nature of the display, and the contrasty finishing on the toothy power reserve. I really love the way the domed crystal seems to break free of the metal surface and the way the upper and lower case elements meet at a polished band.
While I find the orientation of the branding on the dial confusing to the wearer (it appears upside down if the Bulldogs face points towards the wearer’s view) and the time display somewhat hard to read at a glance due to the font used on the display, the Bulldog remains no less loveable, distinctive, or special. Much like its namesake, the Bulldog sits on your wrist, looking up at you with a mischievous glint that says, “I’m here to have fun and to make you happy”.
And fun it is. On wrist, the Bulldog’s mix of space-age design and canine qualifications makes it a unique experience, and certainly one that is difficult to compare to anything else (even other MB&F models). Yes, it’s certainly big, but it sits where it is told and offers an appeal entirely separate from that of a conventional watch. To a Bulldog owner, conventional watches will seem like so many golden retrievers at the park: commonplace and indistinguishable to all but their own people. Again, this is what MB&F does best. It is why they are successful and, more importantly, noteworthy to an audience that is vastly larger than those that number among their clients.
Speaking of clients, I was able to get this far into a hands-on without even mentioning the price – which is more than I’ve spent on anything short of a home – because I don’t see MB&F watches as being those that compete with much else on the market. The specific and intentional extent to which they are not conventional retail products (even within the sphere of high-end watches) offers a double-edged sword of both insulating a watch like the Bulldog from direct competition while also ensuring that overall conversion will be both limited and indicative of an appeal that would be best described as deeply niche.
Highlighting competition is one of my favorite parts of writing about watches, but I just have trouble imagining someone trying to cross-shop between $ 105,000 for a titanium Bulldog ($ 120,000 for the red gold) and anything else. What else is on this list? Normal, non-dog themed watches? I mean, this is not a bad problem to have (and I want to see that list), but there are some watches you just want in a vacuum, and I figure that is how people get into a brand like MB&F.
In his introduction post, Jack highlighted the imagination, daring, and conviction required to create the sorts of watches that MB&F makes. I totally agree, and you’ve got to give it to MB&F as, despite the Bulldog representing the brand’s 10th take on a Horological Machine, it’s clear evidence that the old dog of horology can still learn a new trick.
The MB&F Horological Machine HM10 “Bulldog” is available in titanium or rose gold and measures 54mm x 45mm x 24mm. Timekeeping is provided by an in-house hand-wound movement that offers 45 hours of power reserve and a rate of 18,000 vph. The Bulldog is priced from $ 105,000 in titanium and $ 120,000 in red gold. For more, visit MB&F online.