The Richard Mille RM 67-02 Automatic High Jump Mutaz Barshim
"It takes all sorts to make the world". Popular sayings are often hiding the truth, and I love to discover how they apply to a specific sector, like watchmaking.
The market is full of every kind of timepieces, either they're boasting simple and affordable mechanical movements or high-end complications coupled with the most precious materials, but there's no doubt that only one brand has, since its foundation, proposed something never seen before and utterly different, has explored new territories and raised the bar of the watchmaking industry: that brand is Richard Mille.
Why a Richard Mille
Richard Mille purposely designs and assembles technologically advanced, groundbreaking watches with the mission of letting its ambassadors use them in the harshest conditions possible. Take a look at what the brand did when it released the Richard Mille RM 53-01 Tourbillon Pablo McDonough, the Richard Mille RM 50-03 McLaren F1 Tourbillon Split Seconds Chronograph Ultralight or the Richard Mille RM 11-03 Jean Todt 50th Anniversary for example. Extreme accelerations, shocks, vibrations, fatigue load cycles can easily compromise the functioning of a traditional mechanical watch, but not that of a Richard Mille as this is the area where the brand has worked the most, thus creating timepieces that can withstand the most severe operating conditions.
The strong link between a Richard Mille and the world of sports has then come as a natural consequence since big events, where all the atlethes supported by Richard Mille are performing, are the perfect venue where the brand can showcase to millions of people what a Richard Mille timepiece can do. A Richard Mille's outstanding performances coupled with the use of eye-catching colors and innovative materials, paved the way for creating the perfect combo to grab people's attention, whether they're attending a Rafa Nadal's match at the Roland Garros or a Yohan Blake's performance at the Olympic Games.
Mutaz Essa Barshim
Last year the brand has launched the RM 67-02 that we were able to photograph only last January in Geneva. In addition to its extraordinary technical sheet, what makes this timepiece very interesting is the fact that it was specifically designed for two first-class Olympic athletes: sprinter Wade Van Niekerk and high jumper Mutaz Essa Barshim.
The first one is the only man in the world to have run the 100, 200 and 400m in less than 10, 20 and 45 seconds respectively, while the second one is the only man to have almost equalled Sotomayor's high jump record, marking a personal 2.43m outdoor record. In these photos, you can admire the version dedicated to the high jumper, where the purple color of the case, a clear reference to the colors of Qatari's flag, clearly stands out.
The RM 67-02 is lightness
Considering that Barshim Mutaz's task is to literally "fly" rather than jump, any additional weight on his wrist would risk affecting its performance; it was therefore mandatory to create a watch that was as light as resistant and able to withstand any unwanted impact during a high jumping session. In terms of lightness, the ultra-flat RM 67-01 in titanium would have been perfect on paper, but unable to guarantee the expected overall performance in terms of both lightness and resistance.
The R&D's engineers have then decided to adopt a technology developed by NTPT (North Thin Ply Technology), with which the brand from Les Breuleux has signed a long-term exclusive agreement, in order to create a case crafted in carbon TPT and quartz, by applying multiple layers just 45μm thick, that encases a super-light skeletonized movement whose baseplate and bridges are made of grade 5 titanium.
The result is once again extraordinary: the case measures 38.07mm x 47.52mm but it is just 7.80mm thick! The RM 67-02 sports a futuristic design, the bezel and the case back are crafted in quartz TPT, the case structure is in carbon, the caliber is skeletonized and comes with a white gold rotor, totaling just 32 grams strap included. In short, it is a feather.
The RM 67-02 is advanced technology
Without deepening the technologies used in this watch too much, there are some details here and there on case and strap that help understand the technological efforts done in developing the RM 67-02. The small protrusions visible at 2, 4, 8 and 10 have in my opinion a structural function and help increase the case resistance in the area where the spline screws are applied but they make, conversely, the case finishing more difficult, given the sharp edges that result from the machining process.
Richard Mille boasts an exceptional know-how when it comes to using advanced CNC machinery in micro-egineering. The automatic ultra-thin CRMA7 caliber provides at least 50 hours of power reserve. The materials used in its construction are again grade 5 titanium and TPT carbon plus white gold for the rotor. The white gold mass of the bi-material winding system is placed on the outer ring of the rotor, which is highly skeletonized and is coupled to a central carbon structure.
Since the aim of the project was to reduce the total weight of the watch (and increase resistance) as much as possible, using just too dense materials such as white gold would have add weight; on the other hand that weight is key to guaranteeing the oscillating mass can wind up the watch correctly.
In order to get the right trade off between light weight and winding capability, the gold mass has been displaced on the outer ring in order to ensure the rotor has the requested amount of inertia. The strap is elastic and crafted in one piece for super lightness and a superior comfort on the wrist and it is the lightest strap ever produced by the Richard Mille. Finally, the skeleton dial is hand-painted with the colors of the Qatari flag.
Lightness, resistance and comfort were clearly Project RM 67-02's main requirements and are key to achieving a specific purpose, that is, to never affect the performance of a professional athlete. As it often happens with a Richard Mille watch, you might easily love it or hate it, but you can't deny it equally deserves the attention of fans and competitors, given the technological effort the brand has pursued in its quest to always push itself beyond the limits of traditional watchmaking. The price of 134,000€ is not popular, but it is also the result of a marketing strategy aimed at grabbing the attention of a few wealthy customers that are looking for the out-of-ordinary.
Finally, I like the brand's choice of investing in sportsmen coming from athletics, who deserve much more attention than they actually get from sports media. It is news of a few months ago that the brand has widened this collection by launching new versions of its RM 67-02 named after the tennis player Alexander Zverev, the race driver Sebastien Ogier and the skier Alexis Pinturault. Also the new 2019 Ferrari Formula One driver Charles Leclerc and the legendary Fernando Alonso are among the racing drivers to actually wear a custom made version of the RM 67-02.
(Photo credit: Horbiter®'s proprietary photo-shooting)
Andrea Frigerio @Horbiter®