Richard Mille’s new RM 65-01 Automatic Split Seconds Chronograph is “the most complex timepiece” ever to leave the Richard Mille workshops, following five years of development. The design of this new high-frequency model has a highly colourful aesthetic and features, among others, a new gearcase, a function selector mechanism in the crown, and an all-new rapid push-button winding mechanism.
The RM 65-01 lays claim to be a worthy successor to the brand’s celebrated chronographs. Two of them, the RM 004 Chronograph Rattrapante and the highly intricate RM 008 Chronograph Tourbillon being the pioneers at a time when few watchmakers were capable of producing the tourbillon and chronograph combination. We also have the RM 056, the split-seconds chronograph tourbillon that was the first watch to be fully encased in sapphire.
Richard Mille’s latest chronograph has a high-frequency balance with variable inertia, at 5 Hz, or 36,000 vibrations per hour. As with any chronograph, the developmental focus was on superior timekeeping accuracy over an extended period. Another objective was to deliver precise stopwatch calculations; up to 1/10th of a second. It has a split-second hand to calculate intermediate times, a first for Richard Mille on an automatic movement.
Developed in partnership with Vaucher Manufacture Fleurier, the integrated movement has a six-column wheel architecture and vertical coupling. Like a mechanical brain, this castellated piece orchestrates the controls and can be seen through the base. Its chassis supporting bridges are of grade 5 titanium. It receives its energy from a fast-rotating barrel that maintains ideal torque for energy transmission for the full duration of its 60-hour power reserve.
The barrel’s automatic winding also ensures the watch sustains optimal torque whilst worn on the wrist. This is further enhanced by the variable geometry of the calibre’s oscillating weight segment, which makes it possible to change the rotor’s inertia for improved winding yield. Its effectiveness obviously depends on the movement produced by the person wearing the watch.
To demonstrate its reliability, “to function under any circumstances,” the chronograph was subjected to a battery of tests. These included everything from shock and drop simulations to accelerated 10-year ageing phases for all functions, waterproof tests and magnetic field resistance trials.
Another milestone achieved with the development of the RM 65-01, is Richard Mille’s first in-house patented rapid-winding mechanism. Developed as an alternative to using the crown to wind the barrel, it is activated by the red pusher at 8 o’clock. In 125 presses, the barrel becomes fully wound and ready to time the next event. This highly practical function, described as “very playful” by Richard Mille’s engineers, was particularly difficult to develop because of its high levels of torque transfer. During the ageing tests, the function was activated thousands of times.
The model also features a new gearbox, taking the form of a function selector housed in the crown. This system makes it possible to switch between ‘traditional’ winding, semi-instantaneous date adjustment or setting the time – all done simply by pressing the crown; another first for an automatic watch. The combination of the push-button winding and crown functions combine to enhance the ergonomic quotient of the watch.
“Given its technical edge, which translates to a movement with 480 components, we knew from the beginning of its construction that the development phases would be long and complex because all the “commands” had to be scrupulously checked. But the advantage is that once stabilised, this movement is reliably consistent. This split-seconds chronograph was subject to a battery of merciless tests that had to demonstrate its correct function in any situation,” says Salvador Arbona, Technical Director for Movement.
The unmistakeably bright colours that dominate the dial have a purpose – colour-coding to match the watch’s functions with its pushers. Yellow is for time, and is therefore found on the central hours and minutes hands, as well as, on the seconds subdial at 6 o’clock. Green indicates the semi-instantaneous date display placed in a vertical aperture at 11 o’clock.
Orange identifies the watch’s chronograph functions. It is found on the central seconds hand, and on the subdials located at 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock. While the chronograph function is activated, the minutes passed are indicated by the subdial at 3 o’clock. The subdial at 9 o’clock indicates the hours that have passed since the chronograph was started, up to a maximum of 12 hours. To avoid any confusion, the split-seconds hand is presented in blue. Red is linked to the winding mechanism.
The case, available in Carbon TPT or Gold and Carbon TPT, sports a Carbon TPT bezel, caseband and caseback. The is in microblasted, polished and satin-finished grade 5 titanium. On either side of the crown is the chronograph buttons, also in polished and satin-finished grade 5 titanium. The same material and finish are used for the plate engraved with RM 65-01 on the caseband. The rapid-winding pusher stands out in red Quartz TPT.
The RM 65-01, with over 600 components, is unmistakably Richard Mille, but affirmative in its own identity. It certainly looks set to take its place in the gallery of illustrious timepieces from the brand.