The official opening of our components unit in 2013 was undeniably a big step for the brand. Suddenly, in addition to our technical and design expertise, we also possessed the ultimate tool to bring our calibres to life, machining them internally and testing them to our own standards.
Our first in-house calibre was the CRMA1 that lies at the heart of the RM 037. This mechanical beauty was the fruit of powerful brand innovations such as the function selector, the variable-geometry rotor and the intensive use of titanium parts in its construction.
In 2018, only 5 years later, the brand introduced the calibre CRMT1, its eighth in-house calibre and the first to be equipped with Richard Mille’s flagship complication, a tourbillon. Its compact size and weight, its toughness and its architecture all suggest that it is destined for further development, pushing the boundaries of creation still further.
It’s important to note that we do not consider ourselves manufacturers, strictly speaking. In fact, there are very few true manufacturers in the watch industry, this would involve machining everything from A to Z, including spirals, balance weights, springs, glasses etc.
At no point since the brand’s creation have we felt the need to produce everything in-house.
Every single element of the watch, right down to the screws, needs to be codified in a similar fashion. The entire process takes on even more significance when you realise that a Richard Mille timepiece contains very few standardised parts, so ready-made solutions offer no solace. The technical drawings, whether they concern a screw, a case, a pinion or any other part, can be downloaded to the cutting, milling and other types of machines; however, this is never simply a turnkey operation.
During all phases of the machining process, people remain at the heart of production. The machines must be set up by hand and calibrated for each phase. The cutters used in these machines, with their unusual shapes and forms, are mostly made by hand to tolerances of a few microns. All of these constraints mean that it takes weeks before the production of a single bridge can begin.
The unique character and essence of a Richard Mille watch lies not only in its high mechanical complexity, aesthetic design and ergonomic fit, but also the handcrafted finishing and polishing by specialists who imbue each part with perfection through the application of remarkable patience, a keen eye, and deft handiwork.
A large number of Richard Mille parts such as screws, bridges, tourbillon cages, winding barrel covers, springs, hands and numerous other parts including the watch case, are finished and decorated by hand. This is exactly the type of finishing that determines the essential qualities that distinguish high-end watchmaking from the rest, with details instantly recognisable to the expert eye, which can to identify each technique used in a single glance.
Other aspects of finishing can affect time-keeping properties. For example, the teeth of all the wheels require careful hand-finishing to minimise friction and wear. Work executed during this stage, after a part has been produced, is one of the most time-consuming parts of the production whether it entails a special and separate machining phase or a variety of hand tools meticulously employed by trained experts.
The hardness and lack of flexibility sapphire exhibits call for extreme accuracy down to microns in the fit between the two bezels and the caseband, as well as for the pushers. Indeed, anything connected to and part of the case must be flawless to function as it should. Anti-glare treated and water resistant to 30 metres, it is the most difficult case to perfectly produce amongst all the offerings in the entire Swiss casemaking industry, bar none.