The Richard Mille RM 67-01 Extraflat watch hands-on
For each watches brand, the presence of an ultra-flat timepiece in its collections clearly represents the will to win the eternal battle to craft the slimmest, most comfortable and appealing classic three-counter-watch in the market. The main objective of many manufacturers is making it to the wishlist of its most orthodox fans, reaching the heart of those people who don't simply exist to dramatically increase the ranks of a brand's bottom line but who are on this planet to increase a brand's awareness in the market through their above-the-average knowledge and their ability to be opinion leaders and withstand trends.
If even Richard Mille decided to enter this niche some years ago with the RM016, RM017 or RM033, and renovate it this year by launching their new Richard Mille RM 67-10 Extraflat sporting a tonneau case, it really means that this type of style will probably witness some major changes in the near future and that the birth of a new niche-market is soon to be expected.
The main mission of the brand, coupled with one of the longest battles between watch-masters in the history of watch-making, opens up a completely new scenario. To cut a long story short, I am just saying that you shouldn't expect to see this new timepiece directly compete against a Patrimony, a Girard-Perregaux or even a Piaget, because that's not the brand's strategy.
The manufacturer's goal was the creation of an ultra-flat timepiece that would still preserve the brand's DNA; two completely antithetic concepts if you consider that the term “3D” is something of a must in the workshops in Les Breulex and so is the skeletonized architecture of the brand's typical dials and its will to make every watch's owner an integral part of a mechanic movement that mostly resembles car racing mechanic ideas rather than traditional watch-making ones.
After all, Richard Mille's mission is clear; abide by the rules of watch-making but take them to a different level through the exploration of new fields and concepts. The bond with the world of car racing is the strongest and most intimate link that the brand has managed to create in its long history, mainly thanks to the many similarities existing between the materials and the design principles used and also due to the recent partnership that the manufacturer has managed to strike with Aston Martin. If I know Richard Mille and their idea of the term “partnership” well enough, I bet that the new “ACJ” will soon sport the Aston Martin initial letters “AM”.
The press release dedicated to the launch of the Richard Mille RM 67-01 Extra Flat sounds like the abstract of a document published by Scientific American. Both the baseplate and the bridges have been crafted in grade-5-titanium and have undergone an electroplasma treatment. The dial is highly skeletonized, one of the manufacturer's trademarks.
Skeletonization is a technique that I still need to get accustomed to and that I still need to acquire a personal taste for, it is basically a refined micro frame whose external rails follow the tonneau style of the case and are used as the base for the application of the Arabic numbers.
The automatic caliber (CRMA6) sports a platinum-made rotor and quite a few “Torq screws”, the very same screws that I described when I wrote about the ACJ and the perfect items to control the tightening torque in an extremely precise manner and to disassemble and reassemble the timepiece in the very same original conditions.
The timekeeping movement adopts involute gear profiles and these are clearly visible in the above macro. In this type of gearing, the drive transmission flows freely, the angular velocity is constant and thus the drive transmission is not affected by any impercettible low or high spikes. If the use of involute gear profiles is very important when it comes to car racing mechanic transmission, it gets even more important when you are dealing with millimetric dimensions, where rotations are slow and precision is measured in seconds. I am not aware of any other brands using this type of involute gear profiles, but I know for a fact that Richard Mille make quite an abundant use of them.
The tonneau case of the Richard Mille RM 67-01 Extra Flat is the same as the RM series one but it also features a flat central part that then bends where the case meets the wrist. The reduction of the caliber's thickness to a value of 3.6mm has made possible the flattening of the accentuated bending of a RM and it has involved quite a lot of hard work.
Richard Mille have summarized this process as follows; 455 hours were needed to come up with a new working method that involved a dedicated manufacturing process, 6 hours of pure mechanic work (case), 68 different stamping processes for the bezel, caseband and case back, 8 days were needed to set up the machines to craft the bezel, 5 days for the caseband and 5 days for the case back. The creation of an apparently simple case that slightly deviates from its original shape was a real challenge that required a different process from that used to craft all the other brand's collections.
Personally speaking, if I were to take the last good radicalization of the RM concept in chronological order as the point of reference (I am talking about the ACJ), I would say that the main idea behind this new creation was to shock the user by making use of a rare mixture of technology, complications, miniaturization and level of partnership. The Richard Mille RM 67-01 Extraflat has a family feeling that is closer to the brand's design language than ever before and seems to be the opposite of a Richard Mille timepiece; technology is not a point of arrival but rather a mean through which the brand has created a more mature watch, the development of the adjectives “sober” and “understated” according to Richard Mille.
(Photo credit: Horbiter®'s proprietary photo-shooting)
Gaetano C @Horbiter®