The R&D team constantly challenges the well-established principles of watchmaking, an obsession that is at the source of many of the major innovations that have marked the history of the brand.
The birth of a new product is always an achievement. But before this point is reached, its development passes through several stages. The creation of a new model is the result of real teamwork.
The watchmaking expertise of our teams, their desire to innovate and their creative approach to fine mechanics express themselves in horological components that are always wildly complex. They manage to tame them using the best technological processes in existence, the most precise machines and the most noble and beautiful materials.
Our R&D teams start from scratch every time: this is our greatest strength. Each new product is always genuinely fresh and different, but this involves questioning themselves every single day. And it is thanks to their personal investment, to the passionate flame that burns in each of them, that our watches go on to become embodiments of technology.
Richard Mille is constantly seeking new challenges and new materials whilst maintaining the performance of the movements. Particular attention is paid to the architecture of the parts, which must possess specific characteristics such as lightness, strength and stability, tight lines and high transparency. The first prerequisite is to respect the pared-down aesthetics that characterise the brand. Whether the watch is tonneau-shaped, square or round, this identity must be instantly recognisable. The most important thing, though, in our eyes is technology. Hypertechnology to be precise.
These are the things that set Richard Mille calibres apart from others in the watchmaking sphere.
Once the concept is defined, the project takes up its position on the starting blocks, ready to be launched, unencumbered by budget limitations or technical constraints for the R&D office. The 30 designers and engineers working in the Richard Mille movement and case development office produce plans for the new products. The movement will be completely visible, nothing can be hidden. Every bridge, every line, every wheel must be aesthetically perfect.
The engineers start with a blank page and then transpose their ideas to CAD software to facilitate the process of design and development. Meanwhile, the choice of materials for machining bridges, baseplates and other parts is made according to the imperatives of each component. Since there are virtually no standard parts in a Richard Mille watch, everything must be contained within the codified final concept exemplifying Richard’s holistic approach to every detail. In this way, the exact dimensions of every screw used in the movement, each gear and detail down to the case, dial, glass and presentation of the final product are separately planned and defined.
Once the design has been decided upon, a prototype is made in order to ensure that the technical choices made are sound. 3D designs and scale models of complication mechanisms allow engineers to visualise the kinematics and see how they can be optimised, but creating a full-scale prototype is crucial. It is fascinating, once the prototype is assembled, to see that a movement does not always behave in practice as it did in theory. The pressure on the teeth, the heat, together with the way the whole movement is mounted can greatly influence the way a system works.
This yearning for the new has led the brand to design more than 80 watches of incontestable technicity, 7 in-house automatic calibres, and more recently the first in-house automatic tourbillon by Richard Mille, all contributing a great deal to the watchmaking world in terms of movement construction.
In the watchmaking industry more than any other, computer-aided design and other cutting-edge technological processes confirm the capital importance of the technician’s eye. Only an expert eye can personally interpret that minute final detail which will go on to make each watch such a unique object.
Richard Mille watches are machines that have been designed for life in all its movement and duration. They resist impacts, temperature fluctuations, city lifestyles, every kind of climate, whether tropical or marine, ultraviolet radiation, corrosion, and all the other situations that life throws at us. They don’t lie idle in safes.
Our single-mindedness, rigour, passion, pleasure, perfection and rejection of all compromise inspire us in every minute of the development stage and result in an accumulation of energy and emotion that can be felt by the owner as soon as he comes into contact with the watch.
Richard Mille has made composites one of the new standards in luxury. Some 20 years ago, they were among the most exotic novelties in watchmaking. Mastering the many challenges of using ultratechnical materials is an art, but also a science.
Carbon TPT® and Quartz TPT® are composite materials produced by North Thin Ply Technology (NTPT®) –the world’s leader in ultra-lightweight prepreg materials–, and inextricably linked to the Richard Mille style.
The two companies’ collaboration has already proved fruitful, having resulted in the prestigious JEC Innovation Award, bestowed at JEC World 2016 for the invention of Quartz TPT®, and the creation of a graphene-injected version of Carbon TPT® in association with the National Graphene Institute at The University of Manchester.
Richard Mille wished to forge a closer relationship with NTPT® by participating in the construction of a dedicated unit. It comprised of a cleanroom which houses the production line for the composite—manufacturing of pre-impregnated sheets, preparation of preforms via automatic multi-axial layering on an ATL (Automated Tape Laydown) machine—and an autoclave.
These cutting-edge facilities work hand in hand with a complementary laboratory for analyses that will accelerate R&D projects. Together, these new tools will contribute to developing quartz-fibre materials with the highest purity levels in order to produce the very best composites and will allow NTPT® and Richard Mille to jointly explore the full capabilities these technologies may yield in the future.