Our new contributor Angus Davies got hands-on experience with the Richard Mille Tourbillon Chronograph Diver’s Watch RM 025 and wonders if it’s too good for diving…
I stood in the Richard Mille Boutique in the Hotel Kempinski adjacent Lake Geneva. My charming host Elio chatted to me about the wonderful timepieces on display whilst I sipped a delicious espresso. Watches and caffeine, a heady mix, guaranteed to make me hyperactive and over talkative.
Richard Mille are the revered brand which has won plaudits since it was founded in 2001. They have not followed the path of horological convention but trod on virgin snow, finding their own way to navigate the creation of high-end watches.
Rafael Nadal’s favourite watch brand has sought inspiration from Formula One. It has harnessed space-age materials and cutting edge technology within its neoteric timepieces. Painstaking attention to detail and first-rate finishing compare with haute horology offerings from the traditional watchmaking establishment.
The vast array of splendiferous Swiss wristwatches was a delicacy to be savored. The charming nuances of each model had to be carefully appraised. Richard Mille are mechanical masterpieces but demand an inquiring mind of reasonable intellect to comprehend all the abstruse details.
Those who have had only a fleeting exposure to the brand may mistakenly dismiss them as fashion. This would be wide of the mark. They are modernistic and chic but certainly not frivolous or transient like some brands which bear the brand name of a perfume or fashion house.
Many will think of Richard Mille as a brand synonymous with the tonneau shaped case. However, the brand offers watches displaying different forms of architecture to appeal to varied tastes.
A round-cased watch caught my eye for several reasons and this is the focus of my article. Richard Mille Tourbillon Chronograph Diver’s Watch RM 025 signals its intended use with the chosen soubriquet and the unidirectional bezel staring back at me.
I am always heartened by the site of a sapphire case back as it allows me to indulge in horological voyeurism. The first thing you notice with this watch is that the wearer is afforded a view of the mechanized magnificence within the case not only via a sapphire crystal on the case back but also through the glass to the front. I love this aspect of the watch as it fulfils my working-class need to see what I am paying for.
The hour and minute hands are partly skeletonized, tipped in white. A power reserve indicator is located to the upper left hand side of the dial adjacent the barrel. A torque indicator is positioned to the right of the barrel, between 12 and 1 o’clock. This shows the tension of the mainspring, ensuring the chronometer function of the movement. Below 53 dNmn there is inadequate tension in the mainspring, which may impair the watches time keeping accuracy. If the tension of the mainspring is excessive, above 63 dNmn, the indicator hand enters a red zone signaling the potential for harm to the movement.
A function indicator is located at 4 o’clock. It is reminiscent of a gear selector indicator often found in a road car fitted with an automatic transmission. As the crown is pulled out, the indicator shows whether the crown is positioned for winding (W displayed), neutral (N displayed) or hand setting (H displayed). It is an added complication bound to delight the fortunate wearer.
The hours are marked with white dots. Arabic numerals supplement these white markings at 3 o’clock, 9 o’clock and 12 o’clock. A tachymeter scale, using smaller Arabic numerals, frames the perimeter of the dial. A series of minute markers in a red hue, feature between 12 o’clock and 3 o’clock and match the tincture of the five-minute markers on the first quarter of the bezel.
Chrono counters are located at 6 o’clock and 9 o’clock. The pushers for the chronograph are located on the left hand side of the case at 8 o’clock and 10 o’clock.
Richard Mille have bestowed this watch with its unique tripartite case. The caseback is arced to comfortably contour the wearer’s wrist. Grade 5 titanium spline screws feature on the bridges and the case. The screws punctuating the case front hold it in a vice-like grip. They play a game of peekaboo with the wearer as they turn the bezel.
The bezel is a critical element of any diver’s watch and this watch features two safeguards to prevent it being inadvertently disturbed and the important timing function lost.
Firstly, the bezel is unidirectional and secondly prior to turning the bezel the wearer has to simultaneously press the pushers marked with a red triangle and the number 30. The risk of timing miscalculations has been substantially reduced with these inspired features.
The case is available in three finishes; 18-carat red gold, white gold or titanium. I prefer the latter. All variations of the model, feature 18-carat red gold lugs with screws for affixing the strap securely to the case.
I seldom mention straps, but typical of this brand, this is no ordinary strap. It is made of perfluoroelastomer Kairez. A material typically used in the pharmaceutical and aerospace industries it provides significant benefits over a conventional rubber strap. The material offers improved longevity due to its superior tolerance to the sun, water, heat and chemical agents.
Water resistance of 30 bar (300 metres) confirms this is a diver’s watch worthy of its nomenclature.
If you look through the sapphire case back you will notice the base plate is as black as the Nordic sky in winter. This is because the base plate is constructed from a composite material, carbon nano-fibre.
I recently visited the Richard Mille manufacturing facility and was fascinated by this lightweight material. It has been subject to incredibly high pressures and temperatures during its manufacture. The result is a base plate with high physical and chemical stability in all directions. This material affords the movement incredible stability, preventing any unwanted influences on the watches’ going train.
The balance wheel has variable inertia which can be fine tuned to the individual wearer. The watch does not have a conventional index adjuster as a result. Moreover, apart from superior chronometric results the balance wheel has enhanced shock resistance.
The finessing of all aspects is bewildering, all aimed at optimizing every technical aspect of the watch. I am a fan of finissage and delight in seeing blued screws and the Côtes de Genève motif on bridges. However, no such details appear on the RM 025. Some readers may assume that I would be disappointed by this. They would be mistaken.
The finishing is exemplary but employs a modernistic approach which still creates a toasty tingle in the pit of my stomach. The movement is hand finished with august anglage and breathtaking burnishing. The gear wheels are flawless with circular finishing. The exalted engineering of this watch is immediately obvious when you hold it in your hands.
- Felipe Massa was wearing a Richard Mille when he had his high speed crash at the Hungaroring back in 2009. The watch was said to bear no scars from the sudden deceleration of the car and the g-forces it was subjected to as the car encountered the tyre wall.
- A Richard Mille copes with the ferociously forceful backhand of Nadal and Bubba Watson’s prodigiously powerful swing.
- Pablo MacDonough can wear the RM 053 confident in its ability to shrug off impact during a competitive chukka.
I am sure that the RM025 can shake off the perils beneath the ocean’s surface and adequately perform everything required in a subaquatic emprise. However, here’s the rub for me. This watch has been exhaustively engineered with all aspects of the watch relentlessly refined like a triple distilled single malt. The result is a supreme demonstration of watchmaking know how. It some how feels like sacrilege to expose the RM025 to hostile seas.
I appreciate this watch is designed to tolerate deep seas and potential harm from the occasional impact on rocks residing on the ocean floor but this timepiece is the consequence of skilled manufacture by a team of talented individuals and somehow it feels disrespectful to actually use the watch for diving. I would use a diving computer when scuba diving and carefully cosset my RM 025 whilst standing on dry land, lovingly caressing its charming contours. It is too good for diving.