It is with every new watch that Richard Mille seeks to expand the extent of the boundaries, on manners it can recast the oft-traditional landscape of watchmaking.
A precursor to modern-day wristwatches prior to laborious miniaturisation, the pocket watch is a horological artefact exorcised of its relevance. There have not been many instances where it has received a fraction of attention and love it deserves in the recent past. New pocket watches are few and far between. That is precisely why the RM 020 Tourbillon Pocket Watch is an intriguing proposition.
As cliched as it sounds, Richard Mille is taking a step back to stride a forward. It delves into the relic and weighs how it can resuscitate the pocket watch in true Richard Mille ethos. Just as enthralling is that Richard Mille doesn’t have its own historical pocket watch to call upon for this endeavour. That gives Richard Mille a clean slate in terms of technicality and creativity to exhaust its know-how.
The RM 020 reminds one of Richard Mille’s wristwatches. The case is marginally tapered on ends with an accentuated case middle. It features the tripartite construction one is familiar with. There are three variants, in 18k red gold, white gold or titanium case front and back, while the case band remains consistently titanium.
The spline screws, totalled 16, are ever present on the case, alongside the Arabic numerals and open-worked architecture which further the narrative. There is also a function indicator at 4 o’clock to identify the function of the crown when it is pulled out – a similarity it shares with a number of Richard Mille wristwatches. It is, however, not a slothful transplant of the wristwatch into the pocket watch.
A specialty of pocket watches is the deployment of manual-wound movements. The RM 020 makes use of the eponymous movement fitted with a tourbillon and a pair of barrels, providing a protracted power reserve of 10 days. The non-metallic baseplate is made of carbon nanofiber, a first for all pocket watches.
The material can trace its roots back to aviation and was originally utilised in US Air force jets. This light but robust isotropic composite material is made from a process whereby carbon nanofibers coalesced under an intense pressure of 7,500 N/cm2 and a blistering temperature of 2,000 ̊C, resulting in a material with high mechanical, physical and chemical stability in all directions.
According to Richard Mille, this exclusive baseplate in turn guarantees the stability of the going train unmoved by challenging weather conditions.
The manufacturing of the chain, clasp, crown cover and stand is no less painless. Requiring 580 separate operations, of which 140 are finishing operations and 126 control operations, there are 27 parts in the crown, 20 in the crown cover, 16 in the clasp, 65 in the chain and 61 parts in the separate stand.
The titanium chain has a built-in quick attach/ release mechanism. By detaching it, the tour de force doubles as a pendulette de bureau with the desk stand – another prominent creation marooned by time. The RM 020 is a quasi-pocket watch, quasi-table clock, and quasi-synthesis of yesteryear and today.