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Richard Mille  - Richard Mille on the Razor's Edge

Richard Mille Richard Mille on the Razor's Edge

Richard Mille now owns the record of the slimmest watch in history, by a hair's breadth. Its design and technical guidelines are of extreme density

The race seemed to be over and done. The race where Bulgari and Piaget were fighting each other, although mildly. Fighting to lose one tenth of a millimeter here, almost a centimeter there, on record-beating slim timepieces. So much so that we had gone to a place that had once seemed impossible, below the 2 mm mark. The thing is, four years after Piaget launched the Altiplano Ultimate Concept (2 mm thick), four months after the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Ultra (1.8 mm thick), Richard Mille stepped in and just blew the whole thing up: the means, the ends, the design and of course, the record of the world's slimmest watch ever. The RM UP-01, the first timepiece they created for Ferrari, is 1.75 mm thick. It literally looks like a razor blade.

Richard Mille sur le fil du rasoir

The RM UP-01 Ferrari, 1.75 mm thick © David Chokron/Worldtempus

Numbers, competition, and the quest for a summit (in reverse, that is) are not what's most striking here. What is hidden in plain sight are adjacent issues that are real game changers. The first one is width. In order to create a watch that is as thin as two credit cards piled up, or as one CD, Richard Mille started with a blank sheet of paper. Piaget had to adapt the round format of the Altiplano, Bulgari the slightly octogonized circle that is the Octo, which left them with important technical and ergonomic constraints. Richard Mille just shifted their iconic tonneau shape by 90 degrees and sprawled it all over the arm, where there's plenty of space. The result is incredible comfort and great showmanship. Turning this existing format on its head also gave a wink to Ferrari's Manettino, the F1 steering wheel that has similar proportions. The watch also lacks a protruding crown, although it really has two. They're laid out on the flat titanium surface, hollowed out and handled with a dedicated screwdriver. And on the wrist, the whole thing makes your head spin.

Richard Mille sur le fil du rasoir

The calibre RM UP-01: 1.18 mm thick © David Chokron/Worldtempus

The second issue is technical and it has nothing boring about it since it goes to prove that the human mind knows no bounds. Like several times before, Richard Mille partnered with Audemars Piguet Le Locle (formerly known as APRP, or simply Renaud & Papi), which is their go-to supplier of grand complication movements. They are the ones that created the RM IP-01 calibre, which is 1.18 mm thick. This matters because this movement is separate from the case. Piaget and Bulgari are using another technology, invented in the 1980's by Elmar Mock, who made it popular with...the Swatch. It uses the caseback as the mainplate, turning an external part into a functional one. But Richard Mille made it without resorting to this solution, this gain, this thickness-saving trick. They broke the record with one hand tied behind their backs!

Richard Mille sur le fil du rasoir

The RM UP-01 Ferrari is as thin as two credit card piled up © David Chokron/Worldtempus

The third issue is economic. Piaget manufactures the Altiplano Ultimate Concept exclusively to order, and hasn't yet reached 10 units. Which is exactly how many Bulgari will make, at least the first version.  What does Richard Mille have to say about that? 150 units planned. The first two record holders are asking for 400,000 CHF or thereabouts, which is an arm and a leg, but easily explained by the fact that a heavy development is spread over a very limited output. What does Richard Mille have to say about that? Two million Euros, Francs or Dollars, or thereabouts. A few days after the brand had introduced the product to a select crowd in the center of the world, Ferrari's headquarters that is, it was all gone. That's most likely where the razor cuts deepest.

Richard Mille sur le fil du rasoir

This RM 65-01 is what a Richard Mille usually looks like © David Chokron/Worldtempus

 

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