What’s so special about a Richard Mille watch? We all know about the exclusivity (less than 3,000 pieces per year), the impeccable quality and the celebrity ambassadors. But there are many more features that added up to the success of this highly exclusive watch brand: exclusive materials, astonishing finishing, distinctive complications, innovations and a unique feeling that creates a desirable object. In order to understand what Richard Mille is all about, we’ve visited the famous Parisian shop Chronopassion to discuss the brand, their watches and to get hands-on with one of the most complicated timepiece in the collection, the Richard Mille RM 022 Aerodyne, featuring a tourbillon, a dual time indicator and…. carbon nano-fibers.
No doubt about it, the Richard Mille RM 022 Aerodyne is an extraordinary timepiece. We could have stopped here, showed you pictures and it would have been enough to tickle your love for watches. But here we’re going to try to explain you why a Richard Mille watch is extraordinary and why the RM 022 represents the quintessential of the brand’s know-how in a single timepiece: materials, complications, luxury and quality are all brought together.
Materials used on the RM 022 Aerodyne
First, the materials… The structure you can see through the dial look like a honeycomb – in fact the baseplate of the movement – is a very exclusive component developed by NASA. It’s made of orthorhombic titanium aluminide with a carbon nano-fiber core. The honeycomb geometrical pattern was created by the NASA as core material for supersonic aircraft wings. It allows an extreme resistance to torsion and high temperature, combined with a very low weight. It was actually Hautlence who first used a honeycomb structure as dial on the HL (like the HL Ti that we reviewed for you) and in their last creation, the Destination, however that honeycomb was not developed by NASA.
Impressive right? But what is the purpose? Richard Mille has always focussed on the resistance, strength and the weight reduction of his watches, so new materials can potentially be of use. It’s a bit of a public secret that Richard Mille himself deliberately dropped one of his tourbillon watches on the floor to demonstrate its resistance. Are these super lightweight materials essential? Of course not but it IS impressive and does add to the watch’ exclusivity.
Complications and features
A Richard Mille is not only materials but also complications. And the Richard Mille RM 022 has some impressive specifications. It packs a tourbillon, a dual time zone (with a very clear display), a power reserve indicator, a torque indicator and some pretty cool innovations. The one-minute tourbillon can be seen in the bottom half of the dial, embedded in a spider web structure – a regret concerning this part: the tourbillon is mostly covered by the spider-web bridge. The end-stone used for the tourbillon cage, is made in ceramic, which (again) adds to the durability.
The Richard Mille RM 022 also indicates a second time zone via a transparent sapphire disc. The second time zone is highlighted over a white coloured plate near 3 o’clock and adjustable with the pusher at 9.
The dial also features a torque indicator which provides a visualization of the mainspring’s internal tension, allowing optimisation of the movement’s timing. Below 53 dNmm, the spring is too slack; at the other extreme, above 65 dNmm, excessive tension can adversely affect the running of the movement.
At 11 o’clock is the power reserve indicator, set for 70h when fully winded. The last indication on the dial, positioned just beneath the 3 o’clock index, is the function selector. Using a push-button in the centre of the crown,you can switch between 3 positions – W (Winding) – N (Neutral) – H (Hands, to set the time) – so you’ll never have to pull out the crown – another function guided by the need of durability.
The Richard Mille RM 022 packs some impressive and well thought-through technical features in order to keep accuracy and chronometric performance optimal, during the whole range of the power reserve. First, a fast rotating barrel that makes one full revolution in 6 hours instead of 7,5 hours. Advantages of this type of barrels are, first, to prevent any adhesion of the mainspring in order to increase performance and to give a better and a more regular efficiency curve to the mainspring. The delivery of energy is more constant during the 70h of the power reserve and that gives a better chronometric performance.
Finally, the Richard Mille RM 022 features a free-sprung balance for a better isochronism (accuracy over time) and precision. The balance is built without regulator, such as Patek Philippe’s Gyromax balance or the balance used in the Grönefeld Parallax Tourbillon, and the rate is adjusted by weight screws on the balance wheel’s rim. On less exclusive timepieces you’ll find a the balance spring with a regulator, which allows small changes to the length of the spring, and thus adjusting the precision.
Finishing and design
When looking at the back of the watch, you enter a very unique universe, far from what you may be used to, in classical watchmaking. No Geneva stripes or circular graining here, however the Richard Mille RM 022 is Haute Horlogery ‘to the bone’. Every single component is finished by hand, like for example the screw-heads and slots are polished (all made in titanium, which is exclusive to Richard Mille), and so are the counter-sunk screw openings and the bevelled angles of the bridges. Some features refer to traditional horology, such as the rubies embedded in screwed chatons, here presented in a very modern interpretation. The main plate is made in the aforementioned honeycomb structure. The execution of the whole movement is impressive and fully coherent with the technical looks of the watch.
The tonneau shape of the case, part of the brand’s DNA, is made of satin finished 18K red gold that prevents a shinny effect and gives a more technical look to the Richard Mille RM 022. As simple as it looks at first sight, the satin-finishing is quite spectacular, especially with the mirror-polished angled edges. It can only be made by hand and requires a very specialized know-how. The technical look is completed with the 12 spline screws, made in grade 5 titanium. These spline screws allow for better control of the torque applied to the screws during assembly, and at the same time they are unaffected by physical manipulation during assembly or disassembly and age well. Again a typical Richard Mille design code.
On the wrist it is a medium size watch: measuring 48mm x 39.7mm and 13.85mm in height on the thickest point. The comfort is impressive, and to be honest, it’s one of the most comfortable watches I’ve ever tried. The curved shape of the caseback allows a perfect placement and you totally forget its weight, even in gold.
The RM-022 is available in titanium, white or red gold and in limited edition with a carbon-fibre case. The retail price (including tax/vat) is € 438,000 Euros in red gold, € 397,656 Euros in titanium and € 450,500 Euros in white gold. An impressive price tag that is understandable considering the level of innovation, complication and finishing of this timepiece.
More info: www.richardmille.com