Thus far at SIHH 2018, no other watch has given me (and some others on the aBlogtoWatch team) more of a visceral response than the sexy and expensive new Richard Mille RM53-01 Tourbillon Pablo Mac Donough watch. Ironically, neither the close-to-a-million-dollar price nor the wildly detailed and visible movement are responsible for the sense of “watch lust” I experienced. It also isn’t the RM53-01’s friendly color combination or modern, masculine look that are the main points of my focus. In truth, the RM53-01 is precisely the type of watch we expected from Richard Mille at the show.
All images by Ariel Adams
More interesting for me is that I have no particular familiarity or interest in the sport of polo – for which the Tourbillon Pablo Mac Donough was conceived to survive. This is actually the second (and more interesting) polo watch Richard Mille produced in collaboration with the popular South American polo player. Mac Donough’s first watch by Richard Mille was also designed to survive impacts common in the aggressive equestrian sport. The first watch was almost entirely covered in titanium with only small windows for the time and a view of the tourbillon. For the RM53-01 it was a specific point by Richard himself that the movement be very visible. So how else can you protect against impacts while also allowing one to enjoy the movement? Richard Mille attempts to effectively answer this question in two ways.
The first way is to incorporate a version of their movement suspension cable system. Introduced in an earlier Richard Mille watch for tennis player Rafael Nadal, the movement suspension system uses a series of two tiny metal cables on 10 pulleys and is held tight by four “suspensioners” to suspend the mostly titanium manually-wound tourbillon-based movement. Thus, cables absorb a lot of the shock that the watch might experience if knocked around. Rather than physical shock going into the movement and likely breaking it, the cable system absorbs a good deal of dangerous vibrations. Seeing how cool the tiny cables are to view is another pleasure unto itself.
Second, for the first time Richard Mille has developed a watch with a laminated sapphire crystal. The concept is similar to how safety glass for cars works. There are two pieces of sapphire crystal, which are laminated together with a clear adhesive film. Just by looking at the RM53-01’s crystal you wouldn’t know anything is different about it – and yet, it’s perhaps one of the most durable, super expensive watches available.
Wearing the RM53-01 on your wrist confirms just how important weight (or the lack thereof) is for luxury timepieces today. Sure, the feeling of a heavy gold watch is still very much real, but when it comes to exotic sport watches consumers want performance. In many instances high performance sport watches benefit from being light. Not only are they hard to notice on your wrist, but for a demanding athlete, removing all extra weight can mean the difference between winning and losing. Richard Mille isn’t claiming record-setting lightness for the RM53-01 (they have other models for that), but I can tell you that despite the relatively large size of the watch, it has an extremely light touch and feels like almost nothing is on your wrist while wearing it.
It isn’t hard to admire the watch off your wrist either. Richard Mille again uses TPT carbon for the case material, which is a layered form of carbon that is durable and really good looking. The RM53-01 case is 44.5mm wide, 49.94mm tall (lug-to-lug) and 16.15mm thick (water-resistant to 50m). The complicated case design mixed with the interesting strap system (with the effective but ironically non-luxury Velcro closure system) makes for an apt frame to show off the symmetrical and visually engaging in-house movement.
Powering the watch is a manually-wound tourbillon-based movement which offers just the time. It operates at 3Hz and has about two days of power reserve. As I said above, most of the movement bridges are in titanium, and the design of the movement is excellent because Richard Mille went out of their way to make it symmetrical, as well as a bastion of fine details for us horological enthusiasts out there.
What sells the RM53-01 is its persistent following of Richard Mille’s core values that make modern luxury sports watches exciting and fresh. It is a very fun toy with a price that will leave most of us feeling as though no matter how good we have been, only very rich boys will get to sit down at Richard Mille’s table and share his creations.
Limited to only 30 pieces, Richard Mille will no doubt introduce the technology and materials from the RM53-01 into future timepieces. This includes not only the newly upgraded cable suspension system, but of course the laminated, layered “safety” sapphire crystals which are destined to have application in a lot more contexts than just polo games. Why polo for now? It’s a sport that rich patrons tend to follow, as well as a traditional way to evaluate how rugged a timepiece is. Remember that the Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso was originally designed as timepiece to be worn while playing Polo. While Richard Mille is doing polo watches their way (i.e. they must contain a tourbillon), their efforts are easily distinguished when compared to the rest of the high-end sports watch pack. More so, the beauty is that unlike the previous Pablo Mac Donough watch, the RM53-01 is very versatile and doesn’t require an understanding of the sport to love its inviting blue and glistening dark gray case along with its fine details and intricate movement. Price for this mega cool limited edition piece of haute horology is $900,000 USD. richardmille.com