With the new RM UP-01 Ferrari, Richard Mille has defied the odds once again by not only building the world’s thinnest wristwatch but also re-imagining the timepiece completely.
When your tagline is “a racing machine on the wrist”, it’s only a matter of time before you team up with the brand whose very identity is indivisible from that of motor sport. Which is exactly what the ultra-innovative watch manufacturer Richard Mille did when in August 2021 it signed a multi-year and multi-programme partnership with Ferrari, the most successful car constructor in the 74-year history of Formula 1 racing.
In many respects it was inevitable that these two names – each representing the pinnacle of exclusivity in their respective fields, while dedicated to pushing the limits of technology far beyond existing parameters – would find common ground. What was less predictable was the first fruit of that collaboration, which was unveiled in July this year in the form of the Richard Mille RM UP-01 Ferrari. This 150-piece limited edition is not only the slimmest wristwatch ever made, at a thickness of 1.75mm, but as it also represents a full-scale reimagination of the timepiece it’s unlike any watch you’ve ever seen.
The ultra-slim RM UP-01 Ferrari achieves its mind-blowing thinness through a re-distribution of its various components across the watch’s entire surface, rather than stacking them one above the other, while attaining the necessary torsional strength (as well, of course, as lightness) by fashioning the baseplate and bridges in grade 5 titanium alloy. The same material was also employed for the balance wheel, while to reduce the number of moving parts various components were either totally re-designed or combined. The result is that the time dial and balance wheel (each covered by a sapphire crystal measuring the merest fraction of a millimetre thick), as well as the twin winding and function crowns, are all uniquely located on the same flat plane.
Requiring thousands of hours of rigorous stress testing – everything from water resistance, torsion and shock resistance to flex and accuracy – the development process also involved use of the pendulum to ensure that the watch can withstand accelerative forces in excess of 5,000 g. Yet remarkable though such numbers are, at Richard Mille going beyond the limits of what’s possible serves as a guiding principle.
That obsession is perfectly encapsulated by Richard Mille’s technical director of exteriors and casing, Julien Boillat, when talking about the development of the RM UP-01 Ferrari. “Like Ferrari, which continuously seeks to gain another few thousandths of a second while racing, we fought to shave off the last hundredths of a millimetre to achieve the flattest possible watch,” he says, “but those last dozen or so micrometres were hard won in a long and arduous process. But then Richard Mille has always been a brand that defies the odds.”