The last five years in watchmaking, while not particularly inventive, have seen rather prodigious efforts in refining and improving existing know-how, with records for ‘thinnest mechanical watch” rapidly changing hands from stalwart pioneers Piaget, to Bulgari and now, Richard Mille. 

Piaget claimed the title first in 2018 with the Altiplano Ultimate Concept. Bulgari achieved the Octo Finissimo Ultra earlier this year and today, Richard Mille has taken the latest horological kudos with its RM UP-01 Ferrari.

Inspecting the ultra thin Richard Mille RM UP-01 Ferrari

With the 1.75 mm thin RM UP-01 Ferrari — 0.05 mm slimmer than Bulgari’s — Richard Mille has approached one of watchmaking’s final frontiers. The timepiece’s expansive face, with sparsely laid indicators across an extremely broad, extremely flat watch, takes some getting used to. Breaking with the brand’s established stylistic codes, but faithful to its identity and spirit, the four main foci of attention are perceived like “circles” on a “military dog tag” when worn on the wrist; but then it becomes clear that designers at the Richard Mille manufacture have rendered the hours and minutes sundial in black with contrast red hands so that it grabs your attention first.

The rotating escapement, a source of constant movement tickles our senses next and so is the source of amusement next. Occupying the left most side of the timepiece are other secondary “indicators” are actually ports for keys for setting and winding. Though incorporated less intrusively on other Richard Mille timepieces, the elements here achieve almost equal attention in terms of aesthetics. The reasoning is intuitive enough, sans these other elements, the watch could become very uninteresting since you would only see two points on an empty albeit attractively brush finished face.

richard mille rm UP-01 ferrari

In terms of technical architecture, Richard Mille makes incremental improvements in an increasingly well-tread path of watchmaking supremacy: the gear train and components are arranged as laterally as possible, whatever can be simplified, is; whatever that can be minimised without compromise, done. The tiny time display as well as winding and setting mechanism have been so deconstructed that each requires a key in essence allowing you to manipulate a movement wheel directly. Surrounding both “crowns” are black ceramic inserts that protect the bezel from friction and improve water resistance.

Where Richard Mille veers from the path is that they assembled the entire 1.18 mm thick movement into the case – departing from the usual practice of having the caseback doubling as a baseplate. The movement plate is skeletonised but robust, having undergone a series of strength tests which allow it to withstand accelerations of over 5,000 Gs – a Richard Mille technical signature. All these improvements hint to an evolutionary frontier in terms of the level of thinness achievable with current architecture. That said, the RM UP-01 Ferrari does boast of a patented escapement that is unique to Richard Mille.

“Even in the realm of extreme flatness, we were determined to make a watch that met the same validation requirements as all our other models. In this quest for absolute flatness, we had to offer a watch that, far from being a ‘concept watch’, was up to the task of following a user’s daily life, whatever the circumstances,’” – Salvador Arbona, Technical Director for Movements at Richard Mille. 

To ensure optimal functioning of the going train, the movement, jointly developed between Richard Mille and Audemars Piguet Renaud & Papi, features a baseplate and skeletonised bridges crafted of grade 5 titanium, guaranteeing perfect flatness without compromising strength. The patented extra flat barrel is fitted with an extraordinarily fine hairspring and the architecture of the escapement was entirely redesigned. To reduce depth, the small plate of the balance and dart (guard pin) – two parts that prevent the anchor from slipping back during the free phase of the balance wheel’s movement – were eliminated. The new ultra-flat escapement, also patented, replaced these ‘anti-reversal’ elements with an elongated fork with new horns. Likewise, the index was set aside in favour of a variable-inertia balance crafted in titanium whose six weights allow for fine-tuned calibration of the regulating organ. 

Two sapphire crystals, one over the time indicators whose hands are directly affixed to the wheels, the other positioned over the regulator (balance wheel-spring assembly) to showcase the movement’s operation, were also reduced in thickness to two tenths of a millimetre with a diameter calculated to ensure water resistance to 10 metres.

Water and shock resistance are typically ignored when pursuing ultra-thin, ultra-light records, however, given that they are Richard Mille signatures, it’s a marvel when taken in context with its peers. Ultimately, the RM UP-01 costs more than most Ferraris and when you think about Richard Mille, its a brand that has evolved beyond its traditional fine watchmaking remit and become modern status symbol.

Richard Mille RM UP-01 Ferrari Price & Specs

Case 51 mm titanium with 10 metres water resistance
Movement Automatic RMUP-01 with 45 hours power reserve
Price CHF1.7 million

Limited Edition 150 pieces

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