An outrageous idea that a watchmaker dreams up, and developing it into a fully functional timepiece really inspires me. Take for instance the Oculus-mechanism in the Valbray V.01 or the liquid hour marker in the HYT H1 are perfect examples of such out-of-the-box creativity.
Richard Mille in its own right, is a brand not shy of pushing the proverbial envelope as well. Always innovative, always creative, and quite frankly, always stunning to withhold. Even for those who might not find the design appealing, the craftsmanship is most certainly appreciative.
For their latest creation, Richard Mille has embarked on a journey into safety. RM is no stranger to (motor)sports, having already released quite a number of timepieces involving key-ambassadors like racing drivers Felipe Massa and Jules Bianchi. Both of these men represent what RM stands for; cutting edge, high-tech timepieces, developed to befit the wearers most extreme needs. It might seem a bit of a contradiction that they decided to venture into ‘safety’ when supporting a generally high-risk sport like Formula 1 for instance, but bear with me, it makes sense.
Richard Mille recently presented the Tourbillon G-Sensor RM-036 Jean Todt Limited Edition to the public, a collaboration between the brand and Richard Mille’s close friend Jean Todt, president of the Fédération International de l’Automobile (FIA). This may seem odd, but there is a very logical reason to join forces with the stubby Frenchman. Many might consider him to be ‘just’ the former boss of Scuderia Ferrari, the F1-racing team featuring the prancing horse that dominated the sport during the Schumacher-era, but there is more than meets the eye here. Sure, Jean Todt is one of the most successful team managers in Formula 1 in history, having won the constructors title 7 times, and the drivers title 6 times (5 with Michael Schumacher, 1 with Kimi Raïkkonen). Besides these accomplishments, he also clinched two world championships in rallying, two Le Mans 24hrs victories, 4 Paris-Dakar wins, and a Pikes Peak hill climb winner (all as team principal/director). A thus far impressive career one might say.
One of the key focal points of Mr. Todt nowadays is the FIA Action for Road Safety. Jean Todt plays a leading role regarding this campaign, meant to focus on improving road safety throughout the world. A noble cause, but how to incorporate this into a wristwatch? Well, by creating awareness around something that people feel every single time when on the road, but never know the true meaning of; G-forces. We all floor the gas pedal from time to time, stomp on the brakes because the light jumps to red or turning the wheel rapidly in order to make that sharp bend we misjudged. It’s almost inevitable, especially on a racetrack. The human body feels acceleration, deceleration and directional changes very clearly, but it cannot accurately determine whether the amount of deceleration is tolerable, or perhaps even harmful.
In order to work out a solution, Jean Todt’s team joined forces with the watch making eggheads of Richard Mille and came up with the G-sensor. This complication indicates if the G-forces that the wearer is subdued to is safe or not. There is a little mechanism mounted directly onto the baseplate, comprised of more than 50 individual parts but still measuring only 17 mm’s (I’m guessing wide in this case). The G-sensor is capable of recording deceleration of a couple of tens of G’s. The complication was exclusively designed for Richard Mille by Renaud Papi. An indicator (hand and scale) is positioned at 12 o’clock, showing the level of g-forces experienced. The scale is divided in a green zone (safe), orange zone (tolerable but possibly harmful) and a red zone (harmful), and can be reset using the pusher located at 9 o’clock.
Although this is the very first mechanical wrist watch with G-sensor, the idea is not entirely new to the industry. Last year, at Baselword, the Finnish company of De Motu presented a G-force measuring instrument for the wrist, albeit the watch itself had a quartz movement. The accelerometer in the De Motu DMG-11 can record a force of 11 G’s, hence the name.
Back to the Richard Mille we go, because there is more to discover. The G-sensor’s case is made of grade 5 titanium, just like parts of the Christophe Claret Soprano. While being chosen for its excellent resonating capabilities for the Soprano, Richard Mille went for unequivocal rigidity. The renowned tonneau-shaped case is a true trademark for RM, and houses the RM036 movement. This movement has a skeletonized baseplate made of carbon nano fiber, incorporating grade 5 titanium bridges, an ARCAP rigidified central bridge and even a tourbillon (also done in grade 5 titanium).
The tourbillon has a free sprung variable inertia balance, making it more resistant to shocks and shunts, and thus maintaining it’s accuracy. The barrel of the tourbillon is fast-rotating and has a progressive recoil, making it deliver its force in a more constant manner, though nothing like the constant-force escapement designed by Girard-Perregaux.
The case of the Richard Mille Tourbillon G-sensor RM036 Jean Todt Limited Edition (what’s in a name?) is quintessential RM, and is almost 40 mm wide, 48mm from lug to lug, and just over 16 mm thick. A cool feature is that the pusher located in the crown, can set the movement from Winding to Neutral to Hand-setting. A small display at 4 o’clock lets you know what mode has been selected. Nothing new, but I always like a watch with something going on, and something to do, as you all undoubtedly have learned from my previous articles. Furthermore, the time-setting module is located behind the rest of the movement. This results in easy access in case of repairs or servicing.
This once again exceptional RM timepiece was presented at the FIA awards ceremony, in Istanbul on the 7th of December. The RM G-sensor (much more pronounceable isn’t it?) will be limited to 15 pieces worldwide. Nothing yet on a possible price, but all profits will be donated to two key initiatives, close to Mr. Todt’s heart; the global campaign for road safety, and the ICM Brain and Spine Institute.
This article is written by Robin Nooij, contributing writer for Monochrome Watches.