Why the Richard Mille RM 21-02’s Tourbillon Is the Least Crazy Thing About It

The brand new RM 21-02, limited to just 50 pieces, reminds us that sometimes how something is made is perhaps even more impressive than what it is intended to do.

The Richard Mille RM 21-02

Last week, the world looked on in amazement as Dubai Watch Week returned. Amidst a flurry of dazzling releases from dozens of the world’s finest watch manufactures, each seemingly more remarkable than the last, Richard Mille announced the new RM 21-02 Tourbillon Aerodyne. 

This latest limited edition, with just 50 examples to be produced, is yet another example in RM’s ever evolving collection of timepieces which employs wildly complex engineering and highly esoteric materials. Utilizing a combination of Carbon TPT (Thin Ply Technology from Swiss materials manufacturer NTPT), Quartz TPT, Haynes 214 alloy, a highly specialized metal alloy comprised of some 15 different metals, and grade 5 titanium, the RM 21-02 is a fabulously intricate, manual winding tourbillon, built of some of the most advanced materials the world has ever seen. Whereas the 2021 RM21-01’s case incorporated 5n red gold, this new iteration’s major development is the application of the clean, white Quartz TPT. 

Profile of the Richard Mille RM 21-02

The dial is a transparent, 0.4mm thick piece of AR coated sapphire crystal, which showcases the time and allows for an unimpeded view of the movement and a honeycomb, crystalline-structured baseplate. It also features a power reserve and torque indicator, a brilliant little function that allows for the wearer to immediately get an understanding of the tension of the mainspring. Within the crown sits a function selector, which provides the ability to safely switch between winding, setting of the time, and neutral positions for the crown.

It is a watch which will be immediately recognizable to anyone even remotely familiar with Richard Mille. Owing partially to the signature case shape and in part to the combination of Quartz TPT and Carbon TPT material, the RM 21-02 is as eye-catching as the supercar it is likely to be accompanied by. Also like the aforementioned supercar, it is the result of an unfathomable amount of materials science, research, and engineering that long predate the creation of the watch itself.   

The Richard Mille RM 21-02

My Take on the Richard Mille RM 21-02 

Richard Mille has always been something of a conundrum for me – a maker or watches that are so wildly expensive and utterly unattainable in every way, that they might as well not even be real.  Through that lens alone, it’s a brand that can be seen as confusing, or at first blush, even potentially a little off putting. The conversation which all too often circles around RM is one of either a) how expensive is it, b) who got their watch stolen, or c) how much was the watch that got stolen. 

It’s a dreadful line of thought that can, unfortunately, drown out a much more interesting conversation – what is actually possible when you have absolutely no limitations. What can you create if you have access to the most superlative materials that science currently can offer. Is it practical? No. Is it supposed to be? Also no. 

 

I’ll put it this way, when inevitably the Pentagon comes out and admits that the Tic Tac UFOs are real, I will be entirely unsurprised if it turns out they are made out of the same stuff that Richard Mille uses in their watches. 

 

But in all seriousness, when it comes to watches like the RM 21-02 Tourbillon Aerodyne, the materials that have been used are so advance that even understanding them takes effort. So often, the most remarkable part of a timepiece is the complications that have been used or created. In this case, it’s almost as if the materials used to make the watch are the complication. The fact that this piece contains a beautiful, finely finished, and remarkably engineered tourbillon, is perhaps one of the least remarkable things about it (which is an insane statement to actually write).

The Richard Mille RM 21-02

 Indeed, billions of dollars and the combined lifetimes of countless material scientists, researchers, and engineers, working across multiple industries, has culminated in the ability to create materials like the ones used in the RM 21-02. It is not a conversation as simple as whether or not the materials are “precious” or “non-precious”. These materials, in a manner of speaking, are beyond precious, because they have been cultivated and created – the result of science rather than nature. 

While the most expected, and perhaps useful, applications of materials like Haynes 214 alloy or Carbon TBT are in aeronautics, it is nevertheless utterly wild to see them used in a horological application, something that Richard Mille continues to do in a more prolific and mind boggling way than perhaps anyone else in the industry. 

The Richard Mille RM 21-02

Are any of these kinds of materials necessary for making a watch? Of course not. Unless you are re-entering the atmosphere or perhaps attempting to crack a land speed record, there’s no need for any of it. But then again, there’s no real need for a watch at all. At this level of watchmaking “need,” when you really break it down, has nothing to do with it. 

 

Tech Specs

 

Movement: Calibre RM21-02 manual winding tourbillon movement with shock protection
Functions: Hours, minutes, 70 hour power reserve, torque indicator, function selector
Case: Water resistant to 50m
Dial: 0.4mm AR coated sapphire crystal
Strap: Rubber
Price: USD $928,000, limited to 50 pieces

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