Unlike most others watchmakers which will participate in the Only Watch 2013 event, Richard Mille did not create a new watch for the auction. Instead, the brand has donated a piece with historical significance. The watch in question is RM 038 prototype which was made for Yohan Blake and which he wore when he won three medals at the 2012 London Olympic Games. In fact, this ultra lightweight piece in a housing made from a high-tech material was the first tourbillon ever that was worn by an athlete at Olympic competition. Because of the rules of advertising on the Olympic Games, this model’s ambassador was initially held in secrecy. When the watch was spotted at the Jamaican sprinter’s wrist, it caused a lot of stir which did not bother Blake even a little bit, since he was even capable of running his personal best at the 100 meters dash while sporting his Richard Mille watch.
Going in a different direction than the majority of other participants, Richard Mille has once again decided to donate a timepiece that was worn and owned by one of the brand’s ambassadors. For the last edition of the Only Watch held in 2011, the brand’s timepiece was the model worn by Rafael Nadal. For this year’s fifth edition, the manufacturer went with the timepiece worn by the Jamaican sprinter. As the brand states, the timekeeper is RM 038 model specifically altered to satisfy the needs of Blake. However, these alterations were mainly cosmetic in nature, since the prototype was made in the colors of the Jamaican flag with a flange and a crown in green, while yellow color was used for minute markers and its light Velcro strap. The fact that the changes on the first tourbillon at Olympics have not been dramatic is one of the reasons why Richard Mille made a band new RM 59-1 model specifically for the athlete (one of the newcomers presented at SIHH 2013). However, this does not mean that it is not a pretty special timepiece, which is reflected in its value being over $500,000.
Lightness and Sturdiness of High-Tech Housing
As it has been mentioned, the case of RM 038 is exceptionally light and tough alloy by the name Magnesium WE 54 which is comprised of 89 percent of magnesium, 6 percent of yttrium and 5 percent of rare earths. It is one of the lightest metals and it has excellent resistance to heat, which is why it is used in construction. Moreover, Miarox, an electro-plasma oxidation treatment, is given to the alloy, which further enhances ruggedness and resistance to scratches and reduces wear and corrosion. The particular treatment of this alloy results with the final product of exceptional properties, which is why they are abundantly used in the construction of cars, in space industry, as well as for the production of medical equipment.
By the way, the case is made in a tonneau shape with the width of 39.7 mm, the length of 48 mm and the thickness of 12.8 mm. It is comprised of three-parts in the brand’s usual practice and secured with screws made from grade 5 titanium and washers from stainless steel. Its crystals are naturally made from sapphire. The front one is double glare-proofed, with the hardness of 1,800 Vickers and the thickness of 1.2 mm. Anti-reflective sapphire is likewise used on the see-though case back (this in the combination with a skeletonized dial allows an unimpaired view of the movement from both sides). The rear side sapphire is 1 mm thick in the center and a bit thicker at the edges where its thickness measures to 1.73. As for the supported water resistance, it is 50 meters.
Hand-Wound RM 038 Tourbillon Movement
After the information about the lightweight modern case of the watch, let us address the issue of its impressive RM 038 tourbillon movement with manual winding and a power reserve of two days. The 19 jeweled caliber is 30.6 mm long, 29.37 mm wide and 7.55 thick, while its tourbillon cage has the diameter of 10.9 mm. It is made with Glucydur balance, Elnivar by NIVAROX balance spring and KIF ELASTOR shock protection. The movement which operates at the frequency of 3 Hz employs several innovations which all contribute to the fact that it has top-notch properties. For example, it includes a free sprung balance with variable inertia (for better shock resistance and easier assembly), a fast rotating barrel (lowers mainspring adhesion), a barrel pawl with progressive recoil (increase winding gain) , a titanium mainplate and bridges, as well as winding barrel teeth and the third wheel pinion central with central involute profile (for better torque transmission and therefore improved performance).
Revealed completely from both front and back, the movement sports several impressive finishes. The mainplate and the bridges of RM 038 caliber are in micro-blasted grade 5 titanium, while anglage and polishing are performed by hand. There are also straight grain finishes on the upper surfaces; some sections are sapphire blasted milled, while sinks are polished. The extensive list of finishes continues with the treatment of gear wheels which display concave chamfering with a tool made from diamond, rhodium-plating and circular finished faces
All in all, this is a very impressive timekeeper which is unique, possesses amazing horological traits and can be considered as a historical timepiece since it was worn by a successful athlete at the Olympic Games and because of the fact that it was the first tourbillon at this leading international sporting event. It is going to be very interesting to see how much money it will fetch at the auction.