The very nature of Richard Mille timepieces often triggers a heated discussion between watch enthusiasts; there is one side that embraces the heavy hype built on celebrities and attention-seekers who wear them without recognising the horological value while favouring the eye-watering price tag, while the other side stands by the maison’s strong belief in bringing a new perspective into the watchmaking industry. Though it remains an open-ended discussion, it is indeed true that Richard Mille has consistently brought in his avant-garde ideas to the world of watchmaking since the 2000s, where he would consistently motivate and challenge the brand’s watchmakers to innovate and incorporate the latest material technologies and exceptional constructions, in the pursuit of structural lightness and improved durability. This quest has brought to the signature tonneau case, and its variations, numerous applications in various sporting disciplines such as tennis, cycling and motorsports, which has undoubtedly added a fruitful character to these watches.
Drawing on Richard Mille’s passion for motorsports, the design of the new RM65-01 Automatic Winding Split-Seconds Chronograph is inspired by the elements of a Formula One race car, specifically, the colourful dial takes its cues from the steering wheel and its buttons, which are colour-coded for their specific functions. Employing the same design principle, each colour on the watch is dedicated to one function and its corresponding pusher or crown. While three of the four pushers are responsible for the split-seconds (or rattrapante) chronograph function, the last red pusher at eight o’clock is used for the newly patented rapid winding mechanism developed by Richard Mille. Described by their engineers as a very playful, yet highly practical complication, it takes a total of 125 actuations to fully wind the mainspring, and as strenuous as it might sound, it was purposely designed as a secondary method to generate power for the watch by transferring the energy from repeatedly pressing the pusher, which is particularly difficult due to the high level of torque involved.
The rapid winding complication was enabled by the calibre RAMC4, which is the first Richard Mille automatic rattrapante calibre co-developed with Vaucher Manufacture Fleurier. It packs a useful 60-hour power reserve with the oscillator beating at a relatively high 36,000 vibrations per hour, thus allowing the chronograph measurement to be as precise to the 1/10th of a second. In terms of the rattrapante module, it adapts a dual column wheel operation that is neatly exposed, creating both visual indulgence and a satisfying tactile click when actuating the chronograph. Also, the use of a lateral coupling clutch eliminates the initial jump of the second hand that would otherwise happen with a horizontal clutch. Interestingly, the two chronograph second hands are given a different colour of blue and orange, with the tip of the top (blue) second hand being hollow, so it is easier to see if both hands are in operation at the same time, a subtle but thoughtful detail.
Thanks to the semi-openworked dial and the sapphire caseback, the architecture of the movement can be clearly seen, and the anthracite and silver colours hint at the use of both grey electroplasma and black PVD treated grade 5 titanium on plates, bridges and screws. The use of this aerospace material certainly yields a unique aesthetic, but most importantly, it guarantees the lightness and rigidity of the calibre. To further protect its integrity, the entire movement is mounted on the case sandwiched between mounting rubbers, which act as an effective shock absorber.
When observed in the context of historical rattrapante references from Richard Mille, namely the RM 004, RM 008, and RM 50, the RM 65 is by far the most complicated one, and perhaps echoes most to their motto of “A racing machine on the wrist”. Other than the signature ultra-technical aesthetic found throughout the watch’s construction, the natural finishing of the carbon thin ply technology (TPT) in this watch certainly resembles the carbon fibre used on a race car’s steering wheel, as well as the very informative dash and controls packed within. The function selector which is operated by pressing the crown to switch between winding (W), date adjustment (D) or setting the time (H), is also a very cool resemblance to a gearbox.
All in all, with its large dimensions giving it added presence on the wrist, the RM 65-01 remains a very functional watch with the complications it has to offer, whether it is setting the time, timing an event, or even fidgeting with the rapid winding pusher, it engages the wearer to interact with the watch. It will not settle the debate between those who appreciate the technical nature of a Richard Mille watch versus those who prefer the more ostentatious aspects; perhaps the latter can wait for the version that will be produced in a mix of red gold and carbon TPT.