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Wearable artistry

Audrey Simon
Audrey Simon • 9 min read
Wearable artistry
The RM UP-01 Ferrari, by Richard Mille, is an innovative wrist accessory with a groundbreaking ultra-slim escapement
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The ultra-thin RM UP-01 Ferrari watch is a mere 1.75 mm thick (with the movement at 1.18 mm). This timepiece represents the first collaboration between Richard Mille and Ferrari and showcases a patented ultra-flat escapement; it epitomises a fusion of design and aesthetic excellence.

On closer look, you will notice that the baseplate and bridges of the watch are made from grade 5 titanium to ensure smooth functioning without sacrificing durability. A patented extra-flat barrel holds an exceptionally fine hairspring, and the escapement’s design has been completely revamped. Certain parts, like the balance plate and dart, were removed to minimise thickness.

The patented ultra-flat escapement replaces the “anti-reversal” elements with a longer fork featuring new horns. Instead of the index, a titanium variable inertia balance with six weights allows precise calibration.

The winding mechanism was redesigned to achieve this slim design, eliminating the winding stem, which was too thick. In its absence, two integrated crowns on the case serve for function selection and operation.
Breaking free from traditional watchmaking norms and pushing the boundaries of ultra-flat design, the RM UP-01 Ferrari establishes an unparalleled connection between the movement and the case.

Salvador Arbona, technical director for movements at Richard Mille, says: “Even in extreme flatness, we were determined to make a watch that met the same validation requirements as all our other models. In this quest for absolute flatness, we had to offer a watch that, far from being a ‘concept watch’, was up to following a user’s daily life, whatever the circumstances.”

See also: Cut above the rest

Carlos Sainz’s multi-year F1 contract came with his move to McLaren in 2019, his fifth season in the sport wearing the RM UP-01
 

Charles Leclerc joined Scuderia Ferrari in 2019. He is the first driver from Monaco to secure pole position and finished as the runner-up in the 2022 world championship with the RM UP-01

See also: Reflections on time

Dominating the race track and timepieces
Since 1947, Ferrari has been synonymous with sports cars. Over its 75-year history, these legendary vehicles have dominated roads and tracks globally, winning prestigious competitions. Maranello’s high-performance engines, known for their powerful roar, have created some of motor racing’s most memorable moments.

For more than two decades, Richard Mille’s watches have been redefining the standards of Haute Horlogerie. Both brands evoke deep emotions driven by a shared pursuit of perfection. This convergence of the two worlds celebrates craftsmanship, innovation, and unparalleled excellence.

Embarking on an endless pursuit to shave off milliseconds, facing daunting technical hurdles head-on. Pioneering the future with models that make no compromises, evoking powerful emotions.
Unsurprisingly, Ferrari and Richard Mille united in 2021, forming a multi-year partnership spanning Formula 1, WEC endurance, GT racing, and the burgeoning e-sport scene. Bound by their shared commitment to peak performance, both brands passionately pursue excellence in their fields — sports cars and contemporary haute horlogerie — two realms with significant overlap. 

The creative process
As we reveal this everyday timepiece, Yves Mathys, head of production, Salvador Arbona, technical director for movements, and Julien Boillat, technical director of exteriors and casing, share their insights into the creative journey.

Can you take us through the genesis of this project and the ultra-flat watch that is the first model to come from your partnership with Ferrari? 
Yves Mathys: Richard Mille has always been a brand that defies the odds. Having earlier developed the RM 27-01, which was, at the time, the lightest tourbillon watch in the world at 18.83 grams inclusive of the strap, we were eager to take up a new challenge by focusing our energy on conquering the difficulties of an ultra-flat watch. After creating the RM 67-01, with its in-house calibre just 3.6 millimetres thick, we aspired to further thickness reduction. 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. But those last dozen micrometres were hard won in a long and arduous process. 

What was the brief for this watch? 
Salvador Arbona: To combine slimness with performance. We wanted a movement with a 45-hour running time, a frequency of 4 Hz for the balance, and a function selector... all in the thinnest imaginable package. It is worth pointing out that the movement’s depth of 1.18 mm is thinner than a compact Disc. Here, the minimal thickness precluded a traditional movement with superimposed gears and hands. We, therefore, decided to use all the available surfaces while forestalling all bulkiness of the case by working with Julien to find the most optimal and ergonomic case shape possible. 
Julien Boillat: We felt it was important to stick with a traditional watch construction, meaning a movement assembled in a case. We did not want to use the case back as the baseplate. We started from the long tonneau shape of RM 67-01, with a casing thickness initially fixed at three millimetres, consistent with the usual watch-making standards. This was still far too thick. We must shed our years of experience and challenge all our standards if we imagine a watch just 1.75 mm thick while upholding the brand’s technical and performance characteristics. 

Did you ever doubt the feasibility of this project? 
Salvador Arbona: When you tell yourself something is impossible and set out to do it anyway, you push back your limits and make the challenge even more exciting. We’ve confronted this time and again — for instance, when we were asked to make the RM 27-01 lighter than 20 grams or to invent a vibrating alarm spinning at 5,000 rpm for the 62-01, or a watch that would withstand 10,000 g’s for Bubba’s RM 38-02. Whenever we think it will be impossible, we know how the story ends. 

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Julien Boillat: Regarding casing, watchmaking standards stipulate a minimum section thickness of 0.35 mm in certain places. However, we are sometimes at 0.18 mm of material here. Extensive laboratory testing was necessary to ensure the components offered the needed strength despite this reduction in the material at strategic points such as the baseband and case back. The rigidity ensured, although ultraminimal thickness is one of the essential features of this model. 

The RM UP-01 Ferrari is a highly unusual piece in the realm of Richard Mille.
Yves Mathys: Reaching this degree of flatness requires breaking tradition. For this model, we step into a new world where the usual principles do not hold. 

Salvador Arbona: Regarding the movement, the technique, extreme lightness and hand finishing are shared with all our other models. Even if we’re working in the ultra-flat realm, we wanted to make a piece worthy of the brand. It had to meet the same validation requirements as all our other models to confirm its reliability. 

In this quest for absolute flatness, we had to offer a watch that, far from being a ‘concept watch’, was up to following a user’s daily life, whatever the circumstances. 
Julien Boillat: The design echoes many of the stylistic codes of our other models. Its finishing includes substantial bevelling and satin-finished, polished and microblasted parts. The 13 spline screws that hold the case components and strap are also emblematic of the brand, as is the tonneau shape, even if it is here lengthened on the 3 o’clock to 9 o’clock segment. The Richard Mille identity is omnipresent in this watch. 

What are the main innovations of this timepiece? 
Salvador Arbona: First, there’s an extra-flat barrel, less than 1.18 mm thick, with an extremely thin hairspring. There’s also a new, patented, ultra-flat escapement with a dart-free anchor and an elongated fork fitted with new horns. The balance wheel in titanium is a first for the brand. Each element of the movement has been designed and treated to offer maximum flatness and reliability. The finesse of the gears is astonishing. 

Julien Boillat: No other Richard Mille watch comes close in terms of interaction between the movement and case, especially the crowns designed without winding stems, which are neither more nor less than the calibre wheels. Similarly, the hands are directly transferred to the wheels, eliminating the hands’ barrels to gain in thickness. The sapphire crystals have also been reduced to a thickness of 2/10th of a millimetre, whereas our thinnest crystals were previously 8/10th minimum. 

How many prototypes did it take to arrive at the definitive version? 
Julien Boillat: Just finding the ideal geometry required about ten 3D prints. Then, to arrive at the definitive mechanism, we made about twenty prototypes in various metallic materials. Ultimately, grade 5 titanium responded best to the ageing and torsional tests.

Having worked with this material for years, we have perfect expertise in its machining and know its limits. This is what allows us to produce such thin and resistant parts today.

Yves Mathys: More than ever, we were required to match our materials to technical requirements to arrive at the final thickness of this watch intended for everyday wear. Whether it be the movement or the case, it is important to emphasise that it was the joint endeavour with the laboratories of Audemars Piguet Le Locle that made it possible for us to shave off those last hundredths of a millimetre to reach the desired thickness, by multiplying trials and tests of material resistance. Following these exhaustive studies, we concluded that the case would have to be machined in our movement department. The extremely low tolerance for error of each part required that operations be particularly meticulous and checked at almost every stage of machining. 

How did you feel when you first held the final version? 
Yves Mathys: After so many sketches and time spent developing this piece and prototyping it, I felt like a marathon runner crossing the finish line. We often had to go back and sort out issues, continue to develop, modify... Looking at the final piece, which is just incredible, I was overwhelmed with emotion; I had never seen such an object before. 

Salvador Arbona: This watch is the result of a lot of work. Its unique relationship between the case and the movement provides a sensation without precedent among our other creations. As with all our watches, technicity dictates the lines of the product. But with the RM UP-01 Ferrari, we have gone a step further by blurring distinctions, separating the work of the case and movement engineers. From the first sketches through design and production, our respective offices became a single entity.

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