Boundless – Richard Mille & the RM 72-01 Automatic Winding Lifestyle Flyback ChronographBy Sumit Nag
There’s a scene at the end of Pirates of the Caribbean, the Curse of the Black Pearl, where Captain Jack Sparrow is standing on the Black Pearl’s bridge, after having escaped his own execution. With one hand on the ship’s wheel and eyes fixated where the sky meets the sea, he says these words, under his breath, “Now, bring me that horizon.”
And as the camera slowly pans into a wide shot, with Captain Jack mumbling the words to, “Yo Ho, Yo Ho! A pirate’s life for me,” suddenly in that moment, he appears — boundless.
Sure, the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise or the pirate genre for that matter, has little to do with Richard Mille. But that word, boundless, might possibly be the ultimate compendium of the ideals that define Richard Mille’s work. He seems to be boundless in his perception, boundless in his conception and, boundless in his execution. This is not to say that he is devoid of reality, on the contrary, Mille is probably more than aware of the present, than any other watchmaker alive today.
In 1999, when Richard Mille set out to create his first watch, in the freedom of his own brand, he asserted that many watchmakers of our time are simply creating timepieces that pay homage to the masters of yesteryears. No one in his mind was making watches that embodied foresight. What he wanted to do therefore was create timepieces that would stand the rigors of the twenty-first century and become treasures for far distant generations. In order to address such a self-assigned challenge, Mille formulated that he had to create watches that were precision instruments. No compromise was to be made in order to craft his timepieces, just as he intended for the wearers of his watches to make no compromise in their lives when wearing his creations.
When Richard Mille had finally locked in the details of his first offering, you would imagine, his Time to Market strategy would’ve left any other corporation with multiple brain hemorrhages. He however understood fully that in creating a precision machine that would be unlike anything else on the market, he had to disregard time to ensure that what he unveiled was unquestionable in quality. As it was, the timepiece he had thought up would require more than a fair amount of time to construct, because for what he had thought up, there simply were no off the shelf parts. Everything, right down to balance spring and screws, had to be bespoke.
He simply refused to take short cuts and leave room for technical failure. So, what was the result of all this non-compromise? Well, when the RM 001 was eventually delivered to the store that was appointed to sell it, the watch lasted on their shelf for a grand total of thirty minutes.
Every timepiece he’s inspired for his brand since the very beginning has been mandated by zero compromise and a pursuit of the extreme. Be it in the realms of finishing, of material, of the ultra-light, or the simple mindset of what a watch should be. But not just for watchmaking, this mantra seems to apply for Richard Mille for everything the brand’s ever pursued. Allow us to highlight such a non-watch instance: Richard Mille Cufflinks. How could cufflinks be made any different? Functionally they just need to hold French cuffs together and jewelers are known to make beautiful artisanal ones in precious metals, sometimes with precious stones for an extra dash of personality. Conceptually, what more could anyone bring to the table?
How about making them in grade 5 titanium and engineering a security mechanism with no less than 38 components that keep the cufflink secure no matter how long or wild your day might be. These are essentially t-bar cufflinks with one push piece on the topside that opens two prongs on the bottom of the T to secure your cuffs. To release the prongs, you have two push pieces on the ends of the top of the cufflinks, which when pressed, retract the prongs. For anyone who can appreciate technical wizardry, the patented securing mechanism is already impressive. But add to this the fact that the brand finishes and decorates these in the same way they would one of their watches or movements; the fact that these use the same spline screws, and suddenly we have a better understanding for how Richard Mille makes no compromises.
A Challenging Force
In a recent article Wei Koh, founder of The Rake & Revolution, probably has said it best, as to just how much of a force of change Richard Mille’s ethos has been in the past two decades of watchmaking. Wei writes, “But more importantly, in the world today, Richard Mille watches have transcended their status as timepieces to fulfill a different role. His watches have ascended to become the symbols of something much more: a limitless life, an uncontainable dream, passion, resilience, performance under all conditions, individualism and fearlessness. The reason his watches are the subject of innumerable songs is that owning a Richard Mille has become that emblem of success that is unattained by most but dreamed of by everyone. In other words, it has become the fabric of optimism itself.”
See in this matter what has to be appreciated is that Richard Mille, through his watchmaking, has transformed to become a force of influence that has transcended past horology. Richard Mille has evolved to become a lifestyle. Which has further opened the brand to explore objects of desire outside of watchmaking, such as the afore mentioned Richard Mille Cufflinks or even the RM S05 Mechanical Fountain Pen. The question that we’d like to pose on that note is, could this influence be wielded to address a deeper, more human, conversation? And in answering our own question, believe it or not, Richard Mille already has.
RM 72-01 Automatic Winding Lifestyle Flyback Chronograph
Two of the largest points of conversation in the watch sphere as of late has been, firstly, sustainable luxury and secondly, the supremely charged subject matter of gender. A mechanical watch is already an incredibly efficient and ethical object as it only consumes the energy given to it when you wear and wind it. And yes, much more is being addressed in the watchmaking industry with responsibly sourced materials and with brands announcing longer guarantees, to encourage buyers to keep their watches serviced and functional for several lifetimes. But how’s any watchmaker supposed to contribute to the conversation of gender? What more a brand of extremes such as Richard Mile. For this we need to speak about the recently launched RM 72-01 Automatic Winding Lifestyle Flyback Chronograph. So first, a little about the watch.
In September of 2020, Richard Mille retired the highly sought-after RM 11-03 and announced the RM 72-01 Automatic Winding Lifestyle Flyback Chronograph as the brand’s next big thing. Measuring in at 38.4 x 47.34mm, the watch was unveiled in a grade 5 titanium and an alternate full 5N red gold version, and a case profile that harkens to Mille’s earlier tonneau cases.
The dial of the watch features a completely non-traditional subdial layout for the continuous seconds and the 60-minute and 24-hour chronograph counters, all of which are color coded and labeled to visually separate time indications from that of the chronograph. For the movement, Richard Mille went the mile to create the brand’s first fully in-house movement and took the opportunity to as well address typical issues that tend to plague chronographs constructed using traditional mechanisms (horizontally coupling chronographs, particularly).
Salvador Arbona, Technical Director of Movements, at Richard Mille shared with Revolution previously explaining, “Well, a chronograph is an extremely parasitical device. It consumes a great deal of power and also accentuates the variable torque in the mainspring as the power reserve starts to diminish. So if you leave your chronograph on indefinitely, the amplitude of the balance wheel and, thus, the underlying timekeeping function of the watch will become compromised. There have been solutions such as the vertical clutch that have been implemented, but this is for larger scale, more industrial applications.”
He went on to add, “So, we decided to use another solution called the oscillating pinion, which has three main advantages. The first is that it is a more direct and simple system; energy is being fed from a geared pinion directly from the seconds wheel to the chronograph wheel. Secondly, because it is simpler, it takes up less space, so you are able to make a smaller movement. Thirdly, it does not affect the timekeeping function. However, I say that with a caveat because our movement is the first chronograph in the world with two oscillating pinions specifically for this reason.”
The basic chronograph mechanism function of the CRMC1 movement, developed for the RM 72-01, is as follows. The seconds wheel drives an oscillating pinion that is slightly inclined when at rest. When the chronograph is activated, it moves to engage the central chronograph wheel. To further address the issue of chronographs losing power through the system where the seconds wheel drives the minute counter, the brand created a reduction gear that works directly with the barrel, driving a pinion that powers the chronograph minute counter, bypassing the remaining time-related gear train.
The RM 72-01’s technicalities are, no doubt, worth the boasting. But there’s another aspect that we should highlight, which is that when the watch was launched it was showcased with photography and video material directed by Benjamin Millepied where the watch was seamless seen on the wrists of a male and female subject. Why is this important? Wei Koh explains, “I believe the most successful watches in the world have reached a status so iconic that they can no longer be gender specific. For example, I have long adhered to the belief that a gold Daytona looks better on a woman than a man. Think of the short list of truly immortal watches: the Nautilus, the Royal Oak, the Day-Date — all of these watches are worn with equal aplomb by men and women alike.”
By launching the watch with such visuals, Richard Mille has delivered the message that here is a watch that is intentionally unbiased towards a particular gender. Recognizing that the brand does have watches that are primarily directed towards women, the RM 72-01 exemplifies how the watch industry can create timepieces without an explicit bias. Rather, watches can be designed to simply amplifies a person’s life and character, regardless of who or what gender this individual identifies with.
Now the reason why Richard Mille is able to contribute to such a sensitive present social dialog without having anyone bat an eyelid, goes back to the earlier words of Wei Koh’s. That Richard Mille, as a result of the ethos of the man who started it all and the brand that it’s developed into, has transcended to become an entity that encompasses a message and desire of, “a limitless life, an uncontainable dream, passion, resilience, performance under all conditions, individualism and fearlessness.” The RM 72-01 is boundless in this regard. And, therein, for all these reasons, both horological and cultural, that it’s easy to say, that the RM 72-01 is already poised to become the next Richard Mille — no scratch that — horological icon.