One of the latest timekeepers by the Swiss watchmaker from Les Breuleux, unveiled at the start of the year at SIHH event, has been voted as the “Best Watch of the Year” at the prestigious Mexican Salon International Alta Relojeria that took place this October. The interesting looking timepiece with an underlined skeleton appearance includes a complex mechanical movement with a tourbillon, but its most notable characteristic is a three-part case constructed entirely from sapphire. Featuring quite an innovative approach that includes a new type of housing and an intricate movement is the reason why this watch was crowned as the best horological achievement of the year at the Mexican fair, and also why it has such a hefty price tag of $1.7 M that removes it from the reach of an average watch enthusiast.
Let us start with the most peculiar trait that differentiates the timekeeper from the other watches – its skeleton casing. The entire housing (including the front bezel, the caseband and the back bezel) is constructed completely from solid chunks of sapphire (needless to say, sapphire is used for the crystal as well). Since this material has never before been used for this purpose, it was required to perform a lot of research and testing, in order to make the casing that would live up to the brand’s harsh demands and standards, regarding the resilience, as well as the comfort. The material itself with the technical name of aluminum oxide is exceptionally tough (the hardness of 1.800 Vickers) and clear due to its molecular composition. As it turned out, the machining of the material needed to make such housing proved to be quite a task, since the procedure is extremely delicate and it does not leave much room for errors. This is why the manufacturer requires over 1,000 hours to construct the case, with 430 hours spent on pre-forming the housing and 350 just for the polishing. For enhanced optic features, the front and the back bezels include glare-proof coating. Thanks to its overall construction, the housing guarantees water resistance to 50 meters which is enabled with the inclusion of two Nitril O-ring seals, as well as with the utilization of 20 spline screws from grade 5 titanium and abrasion resistant washers made of 316L stainless steel. The casing in a distinct shape for the manufacturer is 50.5 mm high, 42.7 mm wide and 19.25 mm thick.
Spilt-Seconds Culumn-Wheel Chronograph Tourbillon Caliber RMCC1
Furthermore, the information about its atypical skeleton case does not tell the whole story about the watch. Far from it, the transparent housing, as much as it is hard to construct, is merely a perfect means to display its top of the notch hand-wound mechanical tourbillon movement RMCC1. It is a caliber with a spilt-seconds column-wheel chronograph, supplied with a tourbillon, as well as with a power reserve and a torque indication. The caliber has its mainplate finished in grade 5 titanium alloy that enhances its functionality by enabling the effortless working of its gear train. It is based on the watchmaker’s previous movement RM008 launched in 2004 which was distinguished for bringing together a tourbillon complication with a spilt-seconds chrono feature. For the new timekeeper, Richard Mille performed an extensive tweaking on more of its 400 components: its weight has been reduced by 20 percent while its precision and reliability increased. Additionally, it has a specially developed split-seconds system which requires 50 percent less energy than usual due to the reduced friction, while the jumping of the chrono hand that occurs when the stop watch is activated and stopped is virtually nonexistent.
Richard Mille Felipe Massa R 056 Sapphire, named after the brand’s ambassador and a famous Formula One driver, also includes torque and function indicators. The former supplies information about the mainspring’s tension that allows an optimal functioning of the chrono feature, while the latter shows whether the crown is set for winding, neutral or hand setting position.
Tourbillon RMCC1 caliber includes a balance wheel with variable inertia, which greatly improves its shock resistance and ultimately provides an enhanced precision. It likewise involves a fast rotating barrel that results in better performance and the ideal ratio of power reserve and regularity. Other technical advantages of the caliber are the use of barrel pawl with progressive recoil, winding barrel teeth and a third-wheel pinion with central involute profile, as well as a modular time setting mechanism.
The hand-wound caliber with 35 jewels, the beating frequency of 3 Hz and a power reserve lasting 70 hours is not just technically advanced. It also involves a wide array of finishes. The multitude of hand performed finishes includes drawn, polished, soft polished, satin polished, circular-grained, straight-grained hand-beveled and microblasted surfaces which are all not only visually appealing, but also work as technical solutions for the improved functioning of the caliber.
The amazing timekeeper by Richard Mille, which was crowned as the best watch of the year in Mexico, is made in the extremely limited edition that includes jut five pieces.