No one needs a tourbillon in a wristwatch. The very nature of its function—to counter the effects of gravity on the isochronal properties of the balance wheel and spring in pocket watches—makes it pointless in a carriage that gets plenty of non-vertical movement.
However, people certainly want tourbillons because of their sheer spectacle. And few watchmakers deliver spectacle as consistently as Richard Mille. The independent brand has just released two automatic tourbillons, and they are as over-engineered as you’d expect.
Richard Mille, already known for its use of high-tech case materials, has once again turned to Cermet for the RM 74-01. Cermet, of course, took the brand years to develop with microtechnology specialist IMI Group despite its plain grey texture. Richard Mille is also the only watchmaker currently using it, even though it is used in the automotive and aerospace industries as well.
Cermet boasts the lightness of titanium and the hardness of ceramic, made possible by combining a metallic zirconium matrix with high-performance ceramic inserts, thus allowing for a composite extremely resistant to corrosion and scratches.
The reason for this is its high hardness of 2,360 Vickers. Diamonds have a hardness rating of 2,400 Vickers, while stainless steel is a mere 390 Vickers. If it’s good enough for racing car brakes and space shuttle fuselages, it’s more than good enough for watch bezels. The bezel is attached to a titanium case band, creating a stealthy tripartite case that protects the stunning skeletonised tourbillon movement.
The RM 74-01 has a slightly more glamorous twin in the RM 74-02, proving Richard Mille’s high-tech material expertise in precious metals. Many of you are familiar with the brand’s liberal use of Carbon TPT, an ultra-lightweight composite that looks like a mix between carbon fibre and Damascus steel.
Unsurprisingly, Carbon TPT is exclusive to the brand. Although the rugged material has been dressed previously with gem-setting, Richard Mille recently took it a step further by directly infusing preciousness into it, creating Gold Carbon TPT in 2020.
Once again, this is a material that took years to develop, and is composed of some 600 layers of parallel filaments stacked with alternating layers of 24K gold-leaf at a 45-degree angle. Before machining, the composite is heated to 120 deg C at a pressure of six bars. Due to gold’s non-reactivity, the main difficulty was getting two very different materials to fuse. The pay-off is how the gold striations stand out against the dark wood grain pattern of Carbon TPT.
With a red gold case band and a red and yellow gold baseplate, the RM 74- 02 is a true show-stopper. Additionally, this bewitching bezel is exceptionally lightweight and corrosion-resistant.
Both watches stand out due to their large case sizes of 52.63mm by 34.40mm and the mesmerising one-minute tourbillon set in a skeletonised frame at 6 o’clock. Though the RM 74-01 and RM 74-02 are powered by the CRMT6 and CRMT5, the movements are functionally the same, differing only in the materials used for the baseplate and bridges. As a result, both watches feature a free-sprung balance with variable inertia and four adjustable weights, a bi-directional rotor, a 50-hour power reserve, and plenty of hand-finishing in true RM style.