The RM 001 Tourbillon, the first watch ever to bear the Richard Mille name, literally and figuratively launched the millennium: the year was 2001, and the model marked the beginning of a new era in watchmaking. Today, the collection’s more than eighty models point resolutely towards the future, whilst holding steadfast to the time-honoured traditions of fine watchmaking.
Like that landmark watch, the RM 001, Richard Mille’s success is a product of three crucial elements: the best of cutting edge innovative technology, a strong artistic and architectural dimension, and watches designed to be robust and easy to use, yet also highly sophisticated. Each piece is finished and assembled by hand, reflecting the very best in Haute Horlogerie.
From the very inception of the brand, Richard Mille endeavoured to apply to watchmaking techniques and materials found in the most innovative sectors, such as Formula 1 race car development or the aerospace industry, always with the goal of creating an extreme timepiece that was both uncompromising and gimmick-free.
The brand has laid claim to a number of world innovations in the application, use and design of new technological materials that have vastly extended the field of horological knowledge and invention.
'I wanted to design utterly innovative products that would break with the prevailing classicism and adhere to a single principle: nothing is too good for the result.'
This first timepiece, the inspiration for the many to follow in the ensuing years, was consciously intended to serve as a landmark for the brand, an embodiment of concepts that could outline a vision for 21st century watchmaking.
Within a short time, the terms futuristic and high-tech became buzzwords shared by public and press in attempting to decipher the emotional attraction exerted by the RM 001.
From avid collectors to specialised journalists, not many failed to immediately recognise that the philosophy behind this watch represented a critical rupture with the past, all the while demonstrating a deep respect for the culture, skills and traditions of fine watchmaking.
'A Richard Mille watch is the expression of our love for all things technical, and for automobiles and aeronautics in particular.'
A watch designed by Richard Mille is characterised by the absence of superfluity.
Just as we find in today’s high-speed racing cars, function dictates form; there is neither use nor room for an approach driven solely by aesthetics. For the brand, every pinion, lever and spring must fulfil its mission, meeting the highest standards of security and precision.
This conviction is manifest not only visually, but in every design choice at every phase of production. Even the famous spline screws, highly visible on the watchcase exterior and used throughout the movement, are the outcome of months of study and investment. Each screw, for instance, requires more than 20 operations to manufacture.
The inspiration for the RM 001 can be found in concepts and materials associated with Formula 1 racing car design and development. Just as this inspiration continues to serve as a founding principle of the brand’s philosophy today, so a holistic approach to the wristwatch is the keystone of Richard Mille’s methodology.
Every model includes innovative developments inspired by the latest technological breakthroughs. The quest for perfection is a matter of balancing all possible features and options. This is precisely why there are virtually no standard pieces in a Richard Mille watch. The concept defines the components, the components do not define the watch.
As a result of research conducted in the world of technology and the methods applied to address the forces at play on the racetrack, Richard Mille’s watches have undergone improvements in baseplate rigidity, in the energy transmission of the going train gear teeth, and the addition of greater flexibility to specific parts of the movement, providing supplementary shock resistance.
The creation of a timepiece demands a balancing act between total volume, the physical requirements of the movement and its specific features, however, the user’s comfort is equally essential.
This was at the heart of the original tonneau shape developed by Richard Mille at the brand’s beginning. Regardless of whether a particular RM model is slim or massive, its shape ensures optimal comfort, never interfering with the owner’s physical movements.
The characteristic, ergonomic shape of the watchcase has come to exemplify the brand’s iconic visual identity. However, even models that stray from the tonneau form, such as the rectangular RM 016 Automatic and RM 017 Tourbillon, or the round-cased RM 025, RM 033, RM 39-01 or RM 63-02 incontrovertibly embody the brand’s essence and are instantly recognisable as Richard Mille creations, even at a distance.
The first ever Richard Mille watches were born of experimental research on innovative materials. Many viewed this choice as an especially risky wager. Thanks to relentless R&D, hard work and perseverance, the brand distinguished itself, reinventing the concept of watchmaking mechanicals. Whereas domains as diverse as aviation, the automotive industry and telecommunications were quick to embrace technological change, horology took refuge in a conservatism founded on techniques handed down through centuries, and materials belonging to a bygone era.
For as long as collectors maintained that the value of a watch was intrinsically dependant on the weight it added to the wrist and the nobility of the metal employed, gold made perfect sense. But Richard Mille, with his ever-lighter ever-higher performance materials, quickly demolished this long-standing perception.
Each material is chosen for the specific, clearly-defined qualities and improved efficiency they bring to watchmaking. Novel materials such as these are the foundation for achieving advanced chronometric results, whilst simultaneously broadening the possibilities open to horology in the 21st century.
Taking leads from research and development in the high-tech aeronautics and racing car industries, materials new to watchmaking such as titanium, carbon nanofibres, ALUSIC®, Aluminium-Lithium, Anticorodal 100, Phynox, Carbon TPT®, graphene and many others have made their grand entrance into the world of watchmaking via Richard Mille.
'The brand has one foot in the 19th century—because we are faithful to the great Swiss tradition of horology, with extremely complex movements assembled and finished by hand—and the other foot in the 21st century.'
Experimental research using innovative and sometimes revolutionary materials outstandingly adapted to precise technical objectives has led to the creation of limited-edition models such as the RM 012, with its tubular-architecture movement of tiny Phynox tubes, or the RM 27-01 Rafael Nadal Tourbillon, the lightest tourbillon wristwatch in the world at only 18.84 grams including the strap.