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The call of the sea

Anandi Gopinath
Anandi Gopinath • 8 min read
The call of the sea
Richard Mille has reinvented the wheel and created a new design language for its series of diving timepieces
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In its quest to conquer the ocean, watchmaker Richard Mille reinvented the wheel and created a new design language for its series of diving timepieces

SINGAPORE (Mar 27): The year was 2009, and Richard Mille had started to establish its mastery of the tonneau-shaped timepiece with several mouth-watering pieces when the audacious watchmaker turned the tables and released something completely unexpected — the perfectly round, seafaring RM 025 Tourbillon Chronograph Diver’s Watch. After successful efforts creating watches for the rigors of land and the G-forces of the racetrack, Richard Mille explored the depths of the ocean with the RM 025, which is suited to both the world of diving and the demands of the deep sea.

At first glance, it is unlike any other Richard Mille creation not only in terms of its exterior appearance but also its ability to deal with one of the harshest environments on the planet without difficulty. However, its DNA is decidedly Richard Mille. Visually, the watch breaks with the manufacture’s iconic case shape, yet this is a change born directly from technical necessity — water resistance of 30 ATM (300 metres) following ISO 6425 diver’s watch norms is only possible with a round case shape.

Upon closer inspection, the seemingly simple round case is rich in detail and complexity. To start with, this unique tripartite case is complemented by the additional integration of the lugs into the case’s torque screw system, as well as the torque limiting crown and a new design of watertight pushers. The bezel is also unlike any other, as it is constructed of three layers, connected with 24 screws, turning unidirectionally following ISO 6425 norms in order to avoid timing miscalculations. In addition, the entire bezel system is screwed to the watchcase, making it absolutely stable as well as impossible to inadvertently dislocate or loosen. This unique use of screws allows for perfect adjustment since the bezel is not tensioned into position. For clearer visibility under murky conditions, starting at 12 o’clock, the five-minute markers of the first quarter are highlighted in red.

What powers this mighty machine of the sea is the calibre RM 025, a carbon nanofiber tourbillon chronograph based upon the famed calibre RM 008, one of the major and uniquely new chronograph designs of the 21st century. The RM calibre 025 unites two extremes: the complication of a tourbillon with the notorious complexities of a chronograph movement. This led to a number of new impulses, such as creating and manufacturing a number of parts, including the column wheel and levers, in titanium in order to reduce inertia and lower energy consumption to about 50%.

This greatly reduces friction on the spindle and eliminates the jumps and shocks of the chronograph hand during stopping and starting, adding to the watch’s precision. The production and assembly of the RM 025 Tourbillon Diver’s watch takes many months, with only a select number of watchmakers able to cope with its complex assembly and testing. For this reason, it is only possible to produce a highly limited number of these watches per year. Hong Kong actor Jackie Chan has one, so if you manage to acquire a RM 025, you are in good company indeed.

Most of us do not command the same clout as Chan and his ilk, so Richard Mille subsequently created two more diving watches to assuage connoisseurs who were eager to own one of the maison’s diving watches, the Automatic Winding RM 028 and the Automatic Winding Flyback Chronograph RM 032.

With a slightly smaller, 47mm diameter case, the RM 028 has all the hallmarks of its accomplished older sibling, but in a more accessible package. But that is not to say that there aren’t details within that make this any less precious; for example, the automatic movement within utilises Richard Mille’s patented system of automatic rotor with variable geometry, a major innovation that allows the level of automatic winding to be adjusted to the user’s lifestyle via the setting of two 18-carat white gold rotor ribs.

The most recent of Richard Mille’s diving watches is the RM 032, which provides an impressive range of functions — the hours, minutes and seconds, 60-minute countdown, 12-hour totaliser and flyback chronograph, an annual calendar sporting an oversized date at 12 o’clock and a month indicator (with numbers from 1 to 12) between 4 and 5 o’clock. The digits for the date indicator are composed of two discs, with the digits cut out like positive stencils, offering great visual clarity combined with style. The annual calendar allows for the date change to be automatically calculated for months of 30 and 31 days; the only exception being the month of February.

Within a hefty 50mm case crafted from either titanium, white gold or red gold ticks the skeletonised calibre RMAC2. With its case design taken from its predecessors but further improved, the case of the RM 032 undergoes several hours of machining and testing. A key detail to the comfort and ergonomic quality of the watch is its screwed crown construction and integration of the horns in the case, while its water resistance has also been enhanced, thanks to an innovative and technical system for which a patent is pending.

During deep sea dives, the water pressure on the pushers and crown is powerful enough to unintentionally operate one of the pushers — say, the start pusher of the chronograph. In order to avoid any external pressure effect or accidental manipulation, Richard Mille has developed a locking crown for the RM 032 that locks the pushers and, as a result, ensures a perfect water resistance up to 300m. It is locked by simply rotating its ring (green index if unlocked, red index if locked) and the movement is also protected from being damaged from overpressure or shocks on the crown.

The RM 025, RM 028 and the RM 032 — all of which are completed by supple rubber straps — combine the practical features of timekeeping on land along with the exotic and harsh environmental conditions experienced by deep sea divers, a feat achievable due to the maison’s innovative design and manufacturing.

Celebrating a decade of sailing excellence

Les Voiles de St. Barth, launched in 2010, is an event created especially for Saint Barth to continue the long, colourful history of racing on the island, from Loulou’s Regatta back in the 1970s with its 100 sailboats to the Transat AG2R, the Route du Rose, and the St Barth Bucket Regatta. Since its debut, Les Voiles has continued to grow, becoming one of the most important regattas in the Caribbean.

The youngest son of Caroline, Princess of Hanover, Pierre Casiraghi was signed on to be the face of the upcoming Les Voiles de St. Barth Richard Mille — an ambassadorship remains in place, even if the event itself has been shelved for the year

Last year marked the strengthening of the relationship between the regatta and Richard Mille, who has become the title partner of the event, so it is now known as Les Voiles de St. Barth Richard Mille. The two partners have much in common — highly competitive sailing and the art of luxury horology both embrace extreme performance, the latest technology, and strong artistic dimensions, as well as respect for traditions and the discipline required to succeed.

It is unfortunate that the Covid-19 epidemic has caused the postponement of this year’s event, but once things go back to normal next year, there will be much to enjoy as an attendee of the regatta. For one, Saint Barth’s stunning beauty and exceptional sailing conditions provide the perfect backdrop for competitive racing and après sailing fun and relaxation. Les Voiles de St. Barth Richard Mille hosts five full days’ racing on diverse challenging coastal courses, a central Race Village for competitors to gather for morning cafés and evening concerts, plus Les Voiles’ signature mid-regatta “Day Off” at the famous Nikki Beach and the beach crew party, all while surrounded by the warm hospitality of Saint Barth’s classic French lifestyle.

This year’s regatta was also meant to be as ecologically responsible as possible, especially by approaching zero plastic within the racing village — plans that are sure to apply next year even more than this one. “In our region, we are directly exposed to phenomena associated with climate change, such as typhoons and Sargassum seaweed, which are a real plague for our island and the health of its inhabitants,” explain event organiser François Tolède and racing director Luc Poupon. “While last year, we decided to take our time relaunching the event following the catastrophic damage of Irma, we are now determined to think about the future and do everything possible to preserve this idyllic setting, which begins with setting a good example.”

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