Friday, 25 October 2013

#8 Richard Mille RM-035

Richard Mille is a brand renown for its unique approach to watchmaking. Albeit its youth, the use of highly sophisticated materials, eccentric design and innovative movements fuelled its breakthrough to the industry that is very monopolistic in nature. 

I once read an interview where Mr. Richard Mille describes his journey and his philosophy behind watchmaking. I recall him saying "I hate the idea of a watch you put in a safe... A watch has to be worn, and if it has to be worn, it must be comfotable on the wrist" - and he has a point. 
Hence this is the reason why you see Richard Mille use such light materials even though they are "a nightmare to work with". They were the first house to use titanium base plates -  I say "nightmare" because quite literally, they are so hard to work with. Apparently, 70% of their productions end up in the bin whilst the other 30% turnout to be something quite special.
This use of unusual materials not only makes their pieces so practical but also niches themselves in the market - there simply isn't a viable substitute for an RM as of yet.

Richard Mille proudly sponsors one of the greatest tennis players of the current generation - namely, Rafael Nadal. There are currently 3 models produced under his name: RM027, RM27-1 and RM035.

Unsurprisingly, exceptionally strong and light materials are used for RM035 (pictured below). To be a little bit more precise, an alloy of aluminum and copper, known as aluminum 2000.  is used for the casing for extreme ruggedness and lightness. It is a material that is quite often used in F1 machines to make pistons - you get the sense of how tough it is, right? 
And the electro-plasma oxidation treatment is given for extra toughness, which coats the case with cristalline oxide ceramic and it is finished with 12 grade 5 titanium screws and 316L stainless steel washers.

image source:

The chronofiable certified skeleton manuel winding movement with 55 hour power reserve is jointly developed and produced by APRP (Audemars Piguet Renaud Papi. and if you didn't know, Audemars Piguet owns a substantial chunk of Richard Mille) and weighs at staggering 4.3g. 
The movement adopts the double barrel system which helps torque stability through utilising more turns of the barrel, reducing pressure and wear on the teeth, pivots and bearings. As for the complication, this movement provides hour, minute and second and it beats at 28,800 vph or 4 Hz.

So moving aside from all the techy aspects, how does it wear?

The whole thing, including the PU strap and the titanium folding clasp, weighs only 50g - it literally feels as though you are wearing nothing. That's how light this thing feels. The PU strap is extremely soft with ventilation holes and thus provides extra comfort. 

All in all, I have to admit this is one special piece. It has got an unusual design combined with extreme wearability - but some people ask me, "is it really worth that much money?" and my answer is "well... depends". At such a high price range, one might expect more complications and features and sure, quite rightly so... but, that's not the point with RM. The philosophy behind this brand, as aforementioned is ergonomics, not mechanical complexity as such (I am saying this very carefully!). Mr. Richard Mille himself once said "A watch needs to be easy to wind and easy to read the time and have useful functions. That's why I will never do a minute repeater...". 
So coming back to the question, "is it worth the money?". For those who are inline with RM's philosophy, it would be a definite "yes" but others may form completely opposing opinions - and this is what I love about Richard Mille. They are a pioneer and a rebel in the horological society - that's what gets them the tick and what gives them their competitive edge and the platform to innovate and produce something very unusual. 

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