Six years after the RM 053 Tourbillon, Richard Mille introduces the RM 53-01 Pablo Mac Donough, a watch built to endure the extremes encountered during a competitive game of PoloPolo is a gentleman’s sport. However, the elegance it is reputed for by no means cancels out the extraordinary violence of its confrontations between players, or their horses. As a result, every piece of equipment is subjected to the harshest treatment.
The 1930s witnessed a new adornment geared to polo players, odd-looking watches with pivoting cases, but none of these had visible movements. For over 70 years, this was the only solution anyone had found to protect the sapphire crystal from the impact. Released in 2012 by Richard Mille, the RM 053 Tourbillon Pablo Mac Donough was inspired by the helms of knights with a curiously double bowed titanium carbide armour.
Twice as stiff as steel, titanium carbide, a composite material with a metallic matrix, owes its toughness to the inclusion of particles known as carbides. In terms of the Mohs hardness scale, diamond is at the top with a hardness of 10, titanium carbide (TiC) has a rating of 9.5.
“The unprecedented laminated sapphire crystal of its Carbon TPT case offers a breath-taking look at the watch’s suspended tourbillon caliber”
Six years after releasing his first polo watch, Richard Mille returns to one of his favourite playing fields with the sporty and dynamic RM 53-01 Pablo Mac Donough. The unprecedented laminated sapphire crystal of its Carbon TPT case offers a breath-taking look at the watch’s suspended tourbillon caliber. A new and complex accoutrement for this sport which, despite its risks, is still practised by gentlemen.
Launched some two years ago, the project to develop the RM 53-01 returns to the original—and the seemingly absurd idea of having Pablo Mac Donough, one of the world’s greatest polo champions, wear a tourbillon calibre in competition. Exposed to convulsive shocks amongst riders, and polo mallets trading strikes from horseback at full gallop, a ‘classically designed’ tourbillon would have not even the slightest chance of surviving. The RM 53-01, on the other hand, was designed to confront precisely this mechanical watchmaking nightmare.
More than any piece before it, the RM 53-01 combines the use of cutting-edge materials with the latest technological breakthroughs. Entirely designed for the practice of competitive polo, this watch is a testament to significant developments in the suspended movement using braided cables.
Inspired by that masterpiece of contemporary engineering, the suspension bridge, this three-dimensional creation, unique in the world of watchmaking, required the milling of two grade-5 titanium baseplates. The first, ‘peripheral’ baseplate, is attached to the caseband and supports the tensioner mechanism. The second, ‘central’ baseplate is attached by cables to the peripheral baseplate and incorporates all of the calibre’s wheels, as well as the winding mechanism. Movement architecture and extremely sophisticated skeletonisation are defining characteristics of many Richard Mille watches.
The next task was to modify the properties of sapphire glass to make it the primary mechanism of protection. Well aware that your average crystal hardly offers the resistance necessary to withstand the swing of a polo mallet, Richard Mille engineers turned to the automotive industry for inspiration to produce a new type of sapphire glass, this time incorporating an unimaginably thin vinyl membrane. The brand’s earliest investigations of laminated glass were conducted in Collaboration with the Stettler Co. The patent application for the first-ever laminated sapphire glass is the technical recognition that crowns a staggering investment in development, all for a piece just 2.40 millimetres thick! Such is the price of the ultimate protection, if it is to combine transparency and strength.
The RM 53-01, produced in a limited edition of 30 pieces, embodies this dual quest pursuing a combination of the extreme and the elegant.