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The Millennium Watch Book
Richard Mille - RM012

Richard Mille RM012

Tubular Milles*

The idea of making a tourbillon movement stronger by making it lighter might not seem to make much sense. Richard Mille proved that it can, with a calibre featuring an innovative structure composed of tubes instead of a baseplate.

Most of the components involved in the construction of a movement have evolved to some extent, but the baseplate appears to have remained unchanged over the centuries. Since the invention of the Lépine movement, the bridges of each organ have been fitted to the baseplate, dispensing with the need for an upper plate. But for the lower plate to disappear in its entirety is a recent and extremely rare development, usually associated with 21st century skeleton watches. The RM 012 tourbillon opened up a new way to do without it. Richard Mille’s starting point was a simple question: given that the purpose of the baseplate was to keep the movement together, was there another way of achieving the same thing? The watchmaker found that there was: tubes.

Lighter and Stronger

True to form, Richard Mille paid scant attention to received watchmaking wisdom, such as the belief that a tourbillon is fragile, or that a light watch is less robust than a heavier one; and more specifically in this case, the idea that a watch is weaker without a baseplate. The idea of the RM 012 is to have the impacts, stress, and strain normally absorbed by a baseplate to be taken up instead by a tubular structure. Basically, it’s as though the baseplate consists only of its outer edges, its perimeter. The upshot is that instead of a complete, solid metal plate, there is an open-framed structure made up of tubes woven through the movement.

RM012

RM 012 © Richard Mille

It’s an exploit from both aesthetic and technical standpoints. The RM 012 takes openworkiing to its utmost limits. The tourbillon at 6 o’clock is suspended from a tubular X. Each wheel and each organ is secured to the intersection of between two and four tubes. Assembling the movement resembles a game of pick-up sticks rather than traditional watchmaking; this stage alone requires several months’ work.

Tubes and Trophies

The RM 012 itself is the result of two years of development. Based on a design that draws inspiration from the structural forms found in architecture, the angular layout of the RM 012 and its Phynox tubes provide optimum strength and rigidity to protect against twisting, as well as exceptional resistance to temperature changes and sources of corrosion. It has received well-deserved recognition from industry professionals, too. Launched in 2006, the RM 012 and its revolutionary concept led to Richard Mille being awarded the “Aiguille d’Or” award at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève – as well as at the Asian edition of this event.

*This year GMT Magazine and WorldTempus have embarked on the ambitious project of summarising the last 20 years of the Tourbillon in  The Millennium Watch Book - Tourbillons, a big, beautifully laid out coffee table book. This article is an extract. The Millennium Watch Book - Tourbillons is available on www.the-watch-book.com, in French and English.

 

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Richard Mille did not simply try to find his place in the watchmaking world – he carved one out for himself, constantly striving not to take anything for granted, and to make innovation and extreme technical prowess his driving forces.

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