Only a few brands in watchmaking industry can cause so conflicting feelings and emotions as it happens for Richard Mille. There is who totally loves it and pays an enormous amount of money to wear the latest RM-27 Rafa Nadal, and there is who does not consider it as part of the “Haute Horlogerie”.
I’ve asked myself why there is a so strong opinions’ divergence around this brand many times and I come to the conclusion that there is a substantial lack of basic knowledge and comprehension of Richard Mille’s products. Fully understanding whatever RM is not an easy task since it was born by following different design criteria compared to Horology’s canonical approach.
If Vacheron Constantin or Patek Philippe create their watches through the research of traditional beauty, Richard Mille designs by pursuing target-oriented logics, like the possibility to use the watch during a F1 race, during a tennis or a golf match. The concept defines the components which characterize the watch. Every detail is optimized, extremized and nothing is left to chance.
Therefore, Richard Mille is not the diamond studded watch which can be seen on the wrist of rich characters from social networks, but it’s instead a complex product which results from many years of researches and innovations. It directly comes from the desire of its founder, monsieur Richard, to exceed Horology’s limits and to define new standards. The main characteristic of these watches can’t be reduced to beauty or preciousness, but it is instead the technique which has driven its development and, according to the owner, its application.
What It is written above resulted to be clear since the first models of the brand were presented (RM-001, Rm-002 and RM-003). They were extremely different from the luxury watch concept we used to think about, creating an important breaking point.
RM-001, the watch which revolutionized Watchmaking industry
RM-001 was the first prototype presented by Richard Mille in 2001. It was a manual winding tourbillon designed to be used every day and to accompany its owner during his routine, without being damaged by whatever activity.
A legend tells that to demonstrate the goodness of this product, Richard threw the RM-001 on his wrist on the floor in front of potential customers and retailers. He demonstrated that the movement hadn’t been damaged by the experienced shock and collision.
The great demonstrated resistance had been reached thanks to the adoption of particular and innovative solutions from Renaud & Papi, the famous company property of Audermars Piguet, which continues to strictly collaborate with RM to develop mechanics.
The adoption of shock absorbers on the tourbillon’s anchor points on the baseplate together with an innovative design of tourbillon’s bridges, inspired by F1 world and able to damp the vibrations transmitted to tourbillon itself, allowed the watch to reach a never seen before resistance for any timepiece with the same finishing and technical level.
The possibility to use a so complex object in a completely disinterested manner combined with an engaging and incredibly modern design ratified the success of this model and gave the brand the opportunity to continue its philosophy.
RM-002, a super watch on your wrist
RM-001 gave way to RM-002 (2002) after 17 samples only. This model will become the real laboratory that Richard and Renaud & Papi can use to test several innovations.
Indeed, along with RM-002 it was introduced for the first time in the entire horology’s history the adoption of baseplates made by titanium (2002), a material extremely difficult to be machined and easily damageable once covered through PVD technique (Physical Vapor Deposition), and successively by carbon nano-fibre, introducing in the industry the use of composite materials. But the innovations weren’t enough.
For every mechanical watch (manual or automatic) the winding action of the barrel spring is highly stressful for some components and potentially critical in case of overloading. R&P introduced a clutch able to cut off the movement from the winding shaft, at 4 you can see a selector which shows the operative function on the crown (H à Hours, N à Neutral, W à Winding).
RM-003, unstoppable evolution
The development process of this first RM’s collection culminates with RM-003. This model introduced the first additional complication, apart from the already shown tourbillon, power reserve and torque indicator, that is a second time zone.
It is bespoken through a suspended sapphire disk which is concentric with respect to hands’ axis and it is displayed through a small contrast white window able to let the black numbers stand out. This watch is clearly engineered for travelling people. Richard Milles revealed itself also as a pioneer in the adoption of sapphire within movements, a quite common practice nowadays for some high-end brands, such as Cartier with its Mysterious Tourbillon.
As you can understand from these few examples, the real comprehension of so complex and technologically innovative timepieces is not easy and requires cross technical knowledges, from machining to materials engineering. Even if you do not have this technical competence, you should recognise Richard’s courage and idea of launching on the market a so innovative and different product. He has been able to create a new market segment inside the very high-end watchmaking industry, chapeau Richard!