Richard Mille RM 50-02 ACJ - Hands On with the 1,1 Mio € (+) watch by Richard Mille
The launch of the new Richard Mille RM 50-02 ACJ has caused quite a stir, at first sight it is mainly because of the price that the new Richard Mille watch will retail at rather than for its technical features. Last Saturday, as an innocent joke, we posted the very first picture of this new timepiece on our Instagram profile and on our Facebook page and the response we have received, especially on the second one, has been quite overwhelming, almost as overwhelming as the reaction that most of our followers have had when we first published the price that each of these 30 Richard Mille RM 50-02 ACJ will be sold at: over 1.1 million euro (1.1450.000 euro to be more precise.)
It comes quite obvious to ask ourselves which exclusive characteristics this timepiece will have if it retails at over 1 million euro, so what is the big deal about the Richard Mille RM 50-02 ACJ? It does indeed feature quite a good mixture of factors that blend in together very well and, after reading over and over the history that lies behind the birth of this timepiece, we can also confirm that the price makes somehow sense.
The price of a luxury item, even more than the price of any durable good, is not linked to its production cost only and, when it comes to a Richard Mille, this rule of thumb is strictly adhered to, since everything that the mission of the brand is based on, is alien to any traditional product type and marketing strategy. Richard Mille have crafted their RM 50-22 ACJ starting off from an exclusive partnership with Airbus Corporate Jets, the Airbus department that is entirely devoted to the world of luxury corporate aviation. To be more precise, this is the kind of aviation sector that is geared towards top executives, CEOs and those rich tycoons who own both their personal aircraft and their parking hangar.
Richard Mille have introduced the concept of partnership to the watchmaking industry, they have blended in together technologies and experiences to mimic the world of F1, where the engine, the car frame and its aerodynamics are the direct result of a single project that stems from different brands. Richard and Benoit Defforge, Airbus Corporate Jets CEO, have decided to meet not just for coffee and agree on a partnership that would create a customized version of an existing model – that would be a case of co-branding – but rather to get together to give birth to a joint-venture-project whose main aim is sharing the experience of two companies.
That's the reason why you won't find any hue or accent that take inspiration from the Airbus aircraft on this timepiece, that's definitely not the case here, except when it comes to the brand's logo that is clearly visible on the winding crown. The collaboration project between these two companies is a completely new concept and those of you who are familiar with the world of aviation will know already that when the Airbus consortium was first founded, it came up with novelties that had never be seen before in the sector of aeronautics, such as the “fly by wire” solution (the Airbus A320 became, in 1984, the first airliner to adopt an all digital fly-by-wire control system) and composite materials for fuselages and other parts of aircraft. The very same spirit had animated Richard Mille when he originally started his new adventure in the world of haute-horlogerie.
Sylvain Marian, Airbus Corporate Jets Creative Designer, was given the task to draw the first sketches of the Richard Mille RM 50-02 ACJ and he came up with a porthole-shaped case featuring “Torq set” screws that looks as if it had been cut out from the fuselage of a 319 aircraft.
The use of this particular type of screw has both a functional and shape-related goal and one of the advantages of the “Torq Set” screw when it is used to hold together the bezel and the case and when compared to traditional screws, is that the “Torq Set” screw allows the user to finely tune the tightening torque, one of the basic requirements of any aircraft design and, consequently, of this type of timepiece too. Sylvain has also drawn the supporting parts of the chronograph buttons that are located on the right hand side of the case by taking inspiration from the geometry of the supporting profiles of aircraft engines.
The white bezel is basically made up of a thin layer of opaque white ceramic, it is bent and extremely smooth and it is also coupled with a case that is made of a titanium-aluminum alloy. When it comes to watchmaking, one can use different types of ceramic to craft their timepieces, but that comes with quite a lot of substantial differences; the ATZ composite (where ATZ stands for “Alumina Toughened Zirconia”), for instance, is the finest existing type of ceramic. ATZ is scratch-resistant (its hardness has a value of 1.400 on the Vickers scale) and, when it comes to geometrical structural rigidity, this composite is between 20 and 30 times more rigid than any other type of of zirconium-oxide-based-ceramic.
The case has maintained the shape of the traditional Richard Mille's cases and it is crafted in a Titanium-Alluminum-Alloy (called “TiAl”), an additional reference to the world of aircraft and, in particular, to the material that is used to craft the jets propellers of an aircraft. Lightness and resistance are two of the pillars of the brand's philosophy and the use of these concepts is strictly applied both in the world of watchmaking and aviation alike, it is an extremely difficult and new engineering challenge that is being applied to a tourbillion with a split-seconds chronograph.
Every single component of this timepiece has been designed with the clear intention to reduce both its final weight and size by applying the idea of cutting out grams of material. During this process, none of the Richard Mille RM50-02 ACJ's functions have been affected but they have rather been improved and taken to the next level of watchmaking. If I were to find this watch's counterpart in the world of car-making, I would immediately think about a quote that appears on the official American website of Mazda and that is devoted to their new MX5; “Adding power is easy, but adding lightness? That takes hard work and innovation”. The split-seconds chronograph has been crafted in a way that virtually erases that click of the chronograph seconds counter that can be seen (most likely if you are recording it in slow-motion) when it starts or stops. The extreme skeletonization of the caliber has been developed so that the user can fully enjoy this timepiece's mechanics and understand the fine engineering work that lies behind it. Among the haute-horlogerie features of this watch is the H-N-W counter that clearly suggests Renaud & Papi's intervention and also the torque indicator (between 2 and 3 o'clock) displays the amount of power retained in the mainspring.
The Richard Mille RM 50-02 ACJ is the ultimate “hyperwatch” both because of the materials used for its crafting, its technical content and the value of the original and unique partnership that has manufactured it. When it comes to Richard Mille, the distance between the marketing promise and its content is virtually none and that is the perfect equation that makes this timepiece unique in the haute-horlogerie sector and a few steps above any competitor. In a Richard Mille RM 50-02 ACJ, the tightening torque of each screw is calculated and guaranteed and, even if nobody will ever have to worry about it, it is a valuable proof of this product's excellence level.
This is the only brand in the world that has given watchmaking its own interpretation and has made it an art that is way closer to what a company like NASA would do rather than the work of a fine decorator. This specific approach has contributed to the enormous success that this brand has enjoyed in a very short period of time. It is clear that part of this watch's retail price is due to the exceptional quality of this product while the rest is due to the exclusivity of the sale proposal that is geared towards an exclusive audience that wants to stand out from the crowd at each cost.
(Photo credit: courtesy of Richard Mille, Horbiter's proprietary photo-shooting by Entropik)
Gaetano C @Horbiter