Few brands in the world of watchmaking know how to arouse such conflicting emotions and sensations as Richard Mille does. There are those who love it madly and are willing to spend mind-boggling amounts to wear the latest RM 27 Rafa Nadal, and there are those who struggle to even consider them part of the so-called “Haute Horlogerie”.
I have asked myself several times why there is such a strong difference of opinion around this brand and I have come to the conclusion that there is a substantial lack of basic knowledge and understanding of the Richard Mille product. Understanding and fully understanding an ordinary RM is by no means simple because it is born according to design criteria that are profoundly different from the practice of canonical haute horlogerie.
If Vacheron Constantin or Patek Philippe, for example, conceive their watches through the pursuit of the most traditional beauty, Richard Mille designs following a logic oriented to a specific goal, such as the possibility of use during a formula 1 race, during a tennis or golf match. The concept, the purpose, defines the components that characterize the watch. Every detail is optimized, extreme and nothing is left to chance.
Richard Mille, therefore, is not primarily the diamond-encrusted watch you happen to see worn by wealthy social media personalities, but it is a complex product resulting from years of research and innovation, son of the desire of its founder, Monsieur Richard Mille, of overcoming the limits of watchmaking itself and setting new standards. The main feature of these watches is not reduced to mere beauty or their preciousness, but to the technique that has conveyed their entire development and, at the discretion of the buyer, their use.
The above was evident from the first models of the brand (i.e. the RM-001, the RM-002 and the RM-003), which immediately departed from the concept of luxury watch to which one was used to thinking. , creating a strong moment of rupture.
RM-001, the watch that revolutionized watchmaking
The RM-001 was the first prototype presented by Richard Mille, back in 2001. Hand-wound tourbillon, this watch has been designed with the aim of being used in everyday life and to accompany its owner in any type of activity without being damaged.
Legend wants that to prove the validity of this product in front of potential customers and retailers, Richard threw the RM-001 he wore on his wrist, dropping it and demonstrating that the mechanism was not affected in the least by the shock and impact..
The great resistance demonstrated was achieved thanks to the adoption of rather particular and innovative solutions by Renaud & Papi, very famous company owned by Audermars Piguet, which still collaborates with RM in the development of the mechanics.
The use of shock absorbers in the anchor points of the caliber to the plate combined with a design of the Tourbillon bridges, inspired by the world of Formula 1, such as to allow the damping of the vibrations transmitted to the Tourbillon itself, it allowed to reach a resistance never seen before for any other watch of the same finish and technical level.
The possibility of using such a complicated object in a disinterested way together with a captivating and incredibly modern design have then decreed the success of this model and given the brand the opportunity to carry on its philosophy.
RM-002, a custom-built car at your wrist
After only 17 examples, the RM-001 gave way to the RM-002 (2002). The latter will become the real laboratory with which Richard together with Renaud & Papi will experiment with various innovations.
It is in fact with the RM-002 that theuse of a titanium plate (2002), an extremely difficult material to work with and easily damaged when covered with a technique PVD (Physical Vapor Deposition), and, subsequently, in nano-carbon fiber (2005), thus introducing composite materials in the sector. The news did not end there.
In any mechanical watch (whether automatic or manual) the action of winding the barrel spring is particularly stressful for some components and potentially critical in the event of an overload of the spring itself. R&P thus introduced a clutch that disconnects the movement from the winding pin, at 4 o'clock there is in fact a selector that shows the active function on the crown (H à Hours, N à Neutral, W à Winding).
RM-003, an unstoppable evolution
The development process of this first RM collection culminates with theRM-003, model that introduces the first real additional complication compared to the Tourbillon, the power reserve and torque indicator already present on previous models, namely a second time zone.
It is indicated by a sapphire disk, suspended and mounted concentrically with respect to the spheres, whose second time is displayed through a small window in contrast with the dial which allows the black colored number to stand out. The watch is obviously designed for travelers. Richard Mille also proved to be a pioneer inuse of sapphire inside the movements, a practice now used by several brands, including Cartier with its Mysterious Tourbillon.
As you have been able to see from these few examples, the real understanding of such complicated and technologically advanced objects is not at all simple and requires transversal technical knowledge, ranging from mechanical processing to materials engineering. Even if you don't have this technical mastery, you have to recognize Richard's audacity and idea in launching a truly different and innovative product on the market compared to the competition. He was able to create a new market segment within the highest luxury watchmaking, chapeau Richard!