When Richard Mille kicked off its Ferrari partnership last summer, it took the checkered flag for ultrathin watches with the RM UP-01 Ferrari, clocking in at a record-breaking 1.75 mm thick and the staggering price of $1.88 million.
“Everything we learned in our 20 years at Richard Mille was thrown out the window to do this watch,” says Julien Boillat, the company’s technical director for cases.
And it shows. The UP-01, which is limited to 150 pieces, looks completely alien to not only other Richard Mille watches, but watches in general. The oblong timepiece spans the wrist, measuring 51 mm across and 39 mm from top to bottom with the time display in a small sub-dial at 12 o’clock, next to the spinning balance wheel in an aperture. Two disc-like crowns, integrated into the movement, control setting and winding, using a supplied tool or your fingertip. The only nod to Ferrari is its black stallion logo laser-engraved in fine detail.
The original concept, which pre-dated the Ferrari deal, not only dictated extremely daunting dimensions, it also made performance a priority. Mille’s team worked with its Audemars Piguet Le Locle partners to develop a movement measuring 1.18 mm thick and weighing 2.82 grams. Innovations include an extra-flat barrel, an ultrathin hairspring and a patented, ultraflat escapement.
Unlike previous ultrathin record holders, which use the case back as a mainplate to shave off fractions of millimeters, the manual-winding movement is independent of the case to enhance shock resistance.
There are some familiar Mille codes, such as the tonneau shape (albeit flipped horizontally on the wrist), high-level finishing, and the 13 spline screws that hold the case components and strap.
Tests have shown the watch to have water resistance to 10 meters and shock resistance at accelerations exceeding 5,000 Gs. Weights were even suspended to the strap to make sure the slim titanium case didn’t bend under pressure.
“Richard Mille’s philosophy since day one has been that every watch we make is to be worn day in and day out, every day,” says Tim Malachard, Richard Mille’s marketing director. “They are not watches to be put in a safe. Even if the price is extremely high, [our clients] are not afraid to wear them.”