When one door closes, another one opens; and for Richard Mille, the end of its RM011 collection paves the way for the new RM11-03 – the modern update to a cult classic.
When one door closes, another one opens; and for Richard Mille, the end of its RM011 collection paves the way for the new RM 11-03 – the modern update to a cult classic.
If you really think about it, classics become classics for a reason. It must have had something that managed to captivate its audience throughout the years, cementing its place in history. Maybe at the time of its launch it was truly revolutionary or, perhaps, over the years, it slowly garnered its merry band of followers until reaching cult status. Whatever it may be, classics are a point of comfort we can return to and, most probably, will be the benchmark on which all subsequent generations are compared to. So, when Richard Mille decided that it was time to re-invent its RM 011 watch, it set out to give the new RM 11-03 all the advantages that newer technology brings without diluting the elements that made the watch a classic in the first place.
“Every icon needs to evolve if it is to retain its status as a singular object. The RM 011 is being reinvented; however, it continues to embody the essential nature of the brand,” explains Richard Mille. And, in many ways, the perfect analogy to
EVERY ICON NEEDS TO EVOLVE IF IT IS TO RETAIN ITS STATUS AS A SINGULAR OBJECT. THE RM 011 IS BEING REINVENTED; HOWEVER, IT CONTINUES TO EMBODY THE ESSENTIAL NATURE OF THE BRAND. - Richard Mille
explain what the brand is doing to the RM 011 is to look at Porsche’s 911 (of course, we’d use a car analogy; it is Richard Mille, after all). When the first 911 came out, it blew everyone away with its stunning design and brilliant performance on the race track. The rear-mounted engine was naturally aspirated and air-cooled. Fast forward to 2017 and the latest Porsche 911 Carrera still has a rear engine but it is turbo-charged and liquid cooled instead. The design of the car has changed: it has new brakes, suspensions and gearbox, and even fancy safety systems built in. But is it any less a 911? Is it still a classic? The answer is a resounding yes!
The evolution from RM 011 to RM 11-03 (with a 10-year gap in between) is exactly that. The core DNA of the watch is still very much alive even though the structural features and movement may have changed. As Richard Mille himself puts it: “Each and every aesthetic modification, be it the smallest recalibration of a line or profile, is always motivated by a tangible improvement in functionality, and this is certainly true of the new RM 11-03 Automatic Flyback Chronograph.”
RICHARD MILLE RM 011 TITANIUM
When the very first Richard Mille RM 011 was launched back in 2007, it was a combination of stunning aesthetic design and pioneering technical feats. Of course, we would have expected no less as this very
first RM 011 was developed in collaboration with the Formula 1 driver Felipe Massa (a partnership that still stands today). As such, the entire watch took its cue from the high-tech engineering of F1 cars.
The case boasted the iconic tonneau shape of Richard Mille, with the curved bezel, sides and caseback in titanium. Inspired by one of the fastest cars on the planet, Richard Mille even added on grooved, nonslip pushers and a crown styled after a tyre rim. On paper, it sounded simple enough but, in actuality, this case needed 68 different stamping operations, 202 separate machining operations with 120 hours just to develop a methodology, 130 to do the drawings for the tools and 180 hours of implementation.
In Formula 1, the design of the car had to reflect the capabilities of the engine; and so the Calibre RM 011- S movement of the watch had to match the technical complexity of the case. Many of the features on the movement represented major breakthroughs for Richard Mille. Perhaps the most important one came in the form of a rotor with variable geometry to give the control of winding efficiency back to the user, something that Richard Mille is still doing today. By controlling the setting of the rib’s placement on the rotor, the inertia could be controlled to either speed up or slow down the winding of the mainspring. In addition to this exciting innovation, the watch was also a flyback chronograph and an annual calendar with an oversized date display. RICHARD MILLE RM 11-03 Clearly, Richard Mille has been busy in the past 10 years as with the RM 11-03, it has managed to give the classic watch (which was already a technical marvel) more complexity and depth. “This watch represents the first major change to one of the brand’s most legendary and popular timepieces since its introduction a decade ago,” explains Mille.
Immediately, the sporty redesign of the tonneau- shaped case jumps out at you; the ‘stepped’ columns situated around the caseband and bezels are reminiscent of the RM 27-01, where it was first used. The biggest visual change to the watch is not just for aesthetic purposes as the extra material surrounding the screws of the bezels and caseband also increases the stiffness of the entire case unit, providing increased durability. The crown is also re-styled with grooves and minuscule, highly detailed racing cues machined along its entire circumference, along with two additional ALCRYN® rings in yellow.
Pushing the boundaries, this new case takes 255 tooling operations and more than 15 hours of glazing and polishing to reach the final phase. This is also made possible with a five-axis machine that needed 26 hours to establish its settings and 30 hours of kit programming. On the back, Felipe Massa is no longer engraved on the caseback, replaced, instead, by a huge ‘Richard Mille’ that took 45 minutes to engrave.
And it doesn’t stop there: the RMAC3 calibre movement has been skeletonised, so now it looks even more like an engine (with the top block off), and the baseplate and bridges have been upgraded to Grade Five titanium. The basic principle of the variable inertia rotor remains but it has been completely redesigned to be more efficient.
The functions like the flyback chronograph, annual calendar with oversized date and 60-minute countdown timer have been retained but the result of this update is clear: one of Richard Mille’s favourite ‘bad boys’ has now been toughened up to take on the years to come.
RIGHT With the new RM 11-03 Richard Mille continues to push the boundaries of watchmaking innovation BELOW When Richard Mille launched the RM 011 back in 2007 it’s technical capabilities was already far ahead of the curve
FROM LEFT The caseback of the RM011 and RM 11-03