At long last, the watch world’s foremost iconoclast unveils its first flyback chronograph — designed, developed and built entirely in-house.
Watches that bridge the divide between seemingly disparate fields — from the obvious to downright bizarre — have been a specialty of Richard Mille’s for some time now. On paper, the brand’s latest release is very much in the spirit of what has come prior (i.e. specific complications for specific lifestyles) though this year, it’s also accompanied by technology that is likely to have a wider impact on the industry — assuming collectors embrace it, that is.
The piece in question is the RM 72-01 ‘Lifestyle’ and (according to Richard Mille) is inspired by the lofty intersection between music, dance and complicated watchmaking.
Leaving aside the watch’s artistic pedigree (we’ll come back to that in a moment) the RM 72-01 also marks the production of Richard Mille’s first fully in-house flyback chronograph. Work on this six-column wheel iteration began several years ago, and was overseen by a dedicated team assembled from the brand’s watchmakers at Les Breuleux. There’s good reason why this complication took 30 months to develop and patent. Unlike the majority of chronograph watches on the market (which use a vertical clutch transmission), the RM 72-01 introduces a novel variation known as the double oscillating pinion.
Mille’s watchmakers developed this technology in response to the well-documented shortcomings of the vertical clutch. Chief among them are the substantial size of the movement architecture and the serious inefficiency through the power reserve. According to Salvador Arbona (Technical Director for movements), “this pinion, which can enmesh or withdraw from the gear teeth, has been twinned.” Effectively, the inclusion of the pinion allows the chronograph minute and hour function to be enabled independent of the watch’s seconds wheel; and that in turn, makes it possible to raise the power reserve to 50 hours — irrespective of how much the chronograph is used. In addition, Mille’s watchmakers have been able to slim the movement down to a thickness of 6.05mm — another advantage of using the double oscillating pinion.
Meanwhile, the manner in which the dial is laid out is inspired by musical theory. Chronograph registers are arrayed at three, eight and 11 o’clock respectively — signifying three beats in a traditional musical measure. Whatever the case, the placement of each is decidedly unconventional (historically, most chronographs in the 20th century have favoured a 3-6-9 layout) and for further ease of use, colour-coded to a specific timescale. (Orange is for minutes, green for hours, and blue for seconds.)
Though the watch will initially be offered in four variations — red gold, titanium and black or white ceramic — each features the same off-centre layout for the dial, among the most legible ever offered for a complicated Richard Mille wristwatch.
Given that the watch’s preeminent sources of inspiration concern music, dance and the celebration of movement, Mille opted to enlist the assistance of choreographer Benjamin Millepied (whom most readers will be familiar with from the Oscar-winning drama ‘Black Swan’ starring Natalie Portman) and Paris-based composer Thomas Roussel. The duo were tasked with “fully [expressing] in technical and artistic terms, the tremendous ambitions of this project,” resulting in the short film ‘Within.’ This work sees Millepied go — for the first time in his career — behind the lens, directing dancers against arid mineral landscapes in California’s Joshua Tree National Park.
This savage and breathtaking environment — in which Millepied’s dancers contemplate the origins of humanity — also formed the basis for the short film’s score. Roussel further explored the idea of origins by adding layers of incidental sound, including samples of the new watch’s audible chronograph function, weaving together a soundtrack that is at once very precise yet filled with human energy. The final score was recorded at St. Luke’s Church, in conjunction with musicians of the London Symphony Orchestra. You can enjoy the full film at the top of this article.
The Richard Mille RM 72-01 lifestyle chronograph is available in 5N red gold, titanium and black or white ceramic. Prices start at CHF$170,000. To learn more, visit Richard Mille online.