An In Depth Technical Analysis Of The Richard Mille RM UP-01

2023-02-19 01:44:52 By : Mr. Ray Zhao

The fastest and most secure way to protect the watches you love.

We've minimized the paperwork and maximized protection, so you can stop worrying about your watches and focus on enjoying them. 8011 Aluminum Coil

An In Depth Technical Analysis Of The Richard Mille RM UP-01

In most cases, you'll get a personalized quote in seconds and your policy kicks in immediately.

Wherever you are on planet Earth, your watches are protected. Rest easy and travel safely.

If you suffer a covered loss, there's no deductible and no gimmicks. Ever.

Each of your watches is covered up to 150% of the insured value (up to the total value of the policy).

Our quotes are based on historical sales and real-time market data allowing us to give fair prices without all the hassle.

The fastest and most secure way to protect the watches you love.

We've minimized the paperwork and maximized protection, so you can stop worrying about your watches and focus on enjoying them.

In most cases, you'll get a personalized quote in seconds and your policy kicks in immediately.

Wherever you are on planet Earth, your watches are protected. Rest easy and travel safely.

If you suffer a covered loss, there's no deductible and no gimmicks. Ever.

Each of your watches is covered up to 150% of the insured value (up to the total value of the policy).

Our quotes are based on historical sales and real-time market data allowing us to give fair prices without all the hassle.

The fastest and most secure way to protect the watches you love.

We've minimized the paperwork and maximized protection, so you can stop worrying about your watches and focus on enjoying them.

In most cases, you'll get a personalized quote in seconds and your policy kicks in immediately.

Wherever you are on planet Earth, your watches are protected. Rest easy and travel safely.

If you suffer a covered loss, there's no deductible and no gimmicks. Ever.

Each of your watches is covered up to 150% of the insured value (up to the total value of the policy).

Our quotes are based on historical sales and real-time market data allowing us to give fair prices without all the hassle.

A Week On The Wrist The IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XX Is The One We Wanted From The Start

Watch Spotting Rihanna And The Show-Stopping Watches Of Super Bowl LVII

Staff Picks We Picked Watches For Our Valentines – And Got Their Honest Reactions

A Week On The Wrist Do You Really Need A Dive Watch? The Easy-Wearing Omega Aqua Terra Doesn’t Think So.

Buying, Selling, & Collecting Here's Why I Traded My Cartier Santos-Dumont For A Tank

Watches In The Wild An Amazonian Adventure With The Oris Wings Of Hope Limited Edition

When we first announced the debut of the Richard Mille RM UP-01 Ferrari, the reaction was, unsurprisingly, mixed. The watch is an example of watchmaking taken to an extreme in the pursuit of a single goal, which is to see just how flat you can make a mechanical wristwatch that is still to some degree practical to wear. Richard Mille said when the watch launched, "At just 1.75 millimetres thick, the RM UP-01 Ferrari constitutes a triumph of technical prowess and exemplifies a new approach to watch mechanics in which technicity more than ever dictates aesthetics" – essentially a statement that the design of the watch arises less from aesthetic and ergonomic considerations, and more from – in fact, primarily from – the engineering decisions necessary to make a watch as thin as a quarter.

How the RM UP-01 ended up looking the way it does, is therefore driven by the challenge of taking a conventional watch movement and figuring out what to rearrange – and leave out – in order to make the resulting watch and movement as flat as possible. 

The construction of a conventional watch movement has changed very little in two hundred years. On one side – what watchmakers call the top plate, although a lot of the time it gets called the "movement side" because you can see the movement through a display back – are the actual timekeeping components. These include the mainspring barrel, the going train/gear train, the escapement, and the balance. These components are held in place by bridges. On the dial side, you have the motion works, which are the gears that actually move the hands, the keyless works for winding and setting, including the stem, and dial and hands themselves.

One well-known example of an ultra-thin hand-wound movement is the Jaeger-LeCoultre caliber 849 (other examples, all less than 2mm thick, are the F. Piguet caliber 21, the Audemars Piguet caliber 2003, and the Vacheron caliber 1003, as well as the Jean Lassale caliber 1200 from 1976, which was 1.2mm thick). The 849 is 1.85mm thick, and one of the big differences between the 849 and other, thicker movements is that the mainspring barrel in the 849 is supported only on one side – it's what's called a "hanging" barrel. This means sacrificing some stability in the construction of the barrel but you do get to shave off some significant fractions of a millimeter. 

To get any thinner, you start to have to change the basic architecture of the movement and in recent years the two record holders for thinnest watch have done exactly that. The Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept (AUC) and Bulgari's Octo Finissimo Ultra both did away with the conventional movement architecture in favor of using the back of the case as the mainplate of the watch. Both watches also suppressed the thickness of the dial by placing it on the same plane as the going train, and the gears for winding and setting. The Piaget AUC had a subdial with conventional minute and hour hands but the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Ultra had two separate dials for the hours and minutes. The Ultra also did away with a winding and setting crown and stem, instead distributing those functions between two knurled, very flat knobs set flush with the caseback. 

One major differentiating point between the Octo Finissimo Ultra, and the RM and AUC, is that the Octo Finissimo Ultra is the only one of the three to have a running seconds display.

The Bulgari Octo Finissimo Ultra

Each watch represents a different milestone, although both set records for ultra-thin watchmaking. The AUC is the thinnest watch I'm aware of which retains at least some of the features of a conventional watch, including the crown and the co-axial hour and minute hands. The Octo Finissimo Ultra, however, represents an attempt to even further deconstruct the architecture of a conventional movement. At 2.0mm for the AUC and 1.80mm for the Ultra, I think both remain major technical accomplishments and interesting far beyond the consideration of records broken. And both watches retain some connection to the larger design language of their respective manufacturers – especially the Ultra, which is instantly identifiable as an Octo Finissimo. 

The RM UP-01 is, in one important way, exactly like a conventional watch, in that there is a separate movement inside a case (you'll recall that both the AUC and the Octo Finissimo Ultra use the back of the watch case as a baseplate). 

Casing the RM UP-01 movement

Both the movement and the case are made of Grade 5 titanium, which is an alloy of 90 percent titanium, 6 percent aluminium and 4 percent vanadium. I've read that it's the most widely used titanium alloy – it's very stiff, and very dimensionally stable under a wide range of temperatures and like all titanium alloys, has a surface layer which is highly resistant to corrosion. The stiffness of the material was essential for the case and movement, although there are aspects of the movement layout and case design which contribute to the stiffness and practical wearability of the watch, as well. 

The above image is a little confusing because the movement is actually rotated 180º clockwise, relative to its final position in the case. However you can see, prominently located at the center, the skeletonized mainspring barrel, which is stabilized in position by rollers placed around its periphery. 

At the upper left is the upper part of the case, which has four apertures. Two of them, to the left, are for the function selector socket and winding key socket. The top center aperture is for the hour and minute hands and the far right aperture is for the visible balance. The balance aperture and dial aperture have sapphire crystals over them which, as you'd expect, are extremely thin – 0.45mm for the time display and for the balance opening, 0.20mm at the center, and 0.30mm at the edge. At the top center are the two wheels for the function selector and for hand-winding – both of which you need a special tool to turn; they're five-splined in keeping with RM's long-standing use of five-splined screw heads – and the rather complicated case gasket. Gasket notwithstanding, the case is water resistant to only 10 meters although this is par for the course for record-setting ultra-thin watches – the Piaget AUC is 20m water resistant and the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Ultra, 10 meters, as well.

Normally, a watch movement has the hands on the opposite side of the mainplate from the going train, barrel, and escapement and they are driven off the pivot of the movement center wheel (the first wheel in the going train, which is at the center of the movement). The center wheel turns once per hour and on the dial side, reduction gearing reduces the one-hour rotation to a 12-hour rotation for the hour hand. In the RM UP-01, the going train is to the right of the mainspring barrel and is completely covered by the upper watch case – it's under the Ferrari logo – and drives the escapement and balance wheel, with the gears arranged vertically. The balance is freesprung, with adjustable timing weights, and a flat balance spring (an overcoil would take the watch out of the running for ultra-thin status immediately, as it adds height). The arms of the balance have a slight step in them, which allows the balance spring to sit closer to the plane of the balance itself – another height-saving measure. The whole assembly's held in place by a three-armed upper balance bridge, which gives the balance a superficial resemblance to a tourbillon. 

Installing the going train wheels to the right of the opening for the mainspring barrel.

One important height-reducing measure has to do with the escapement. It's a lever escapement with a more or less standard club-toothed escape wheel, but with some modifications. 

Here's a standard Swiss lever escapement. At 1, one of the jewels (pallets in watchmakerspeak) has locked against a tooth of the escape wheel. The pressure of the escape wheel, which "wants" to turn clockwise in the image, presses the lever against one of the banking pins at 2, which holds the lever in place while the balance swings. At 3, the impulse jewel on the balance is about to enter the lever, unlocking it and allowing the escape wheel tooth on the left to slide along the pallet, pushing the lever to the right and impulsing the balance. At the very center of the balance you can see a small circle with a crescent cut out of it. This is the safety roller, and the lever can only move when the tiny projection at its upper tip – the dart, or guard pin – can clear the roller by passing through the crescent cutout. 

The reason for this somewhat long-winded explanation (which makes me think of something Stephen Hawking said his editor told him about A Brief History Of Time, which was that he was going to lose 50 percent of his readers for every equation he put in the book) is because it's here that Richard Mille has made another modification to a standard watch movement. The guard pin adds height, and so does the safety roller. 

The Rolex Chronergy escapement differs from a standard Swiss lever in several key respects, including the lever geometry, but it has the same arrangement of the guard pin and safety roller and you can see, at the left, that the guard pin is below the plane of the lever and escape wheel. Maybe it's just a fraction of a millimeter, but when you're chasing hundredths of a millimeter, that matters. In the RM UP-01, Richard Mille and their collaborators at Audemars Piguet Le Locle (formerly Audemars Piguet Renaud & Papi) got rid of the guard pin and safety roller, and opted for a side-lever configuration, with altered geometry for the ruby pallets to ensure secure locking. The lever banks directly against the movement plate (a requirement for the Geneva Seal, ironically enough, which specifies solid bankings rather than banking pins).

The video above shows the general orientation of the various elements of the movement, and if you are interested specifically in the action of the lever you'll find it at about 52 seconds in. 

Here's a still. The pivot for the lever is visible between the two pallets and the upper pallet is locked against an escape wheel tooth. The upper tip of the lever is pressing, or banking, directly against a notch cut to receive it in the movement plate.

The lever, escape wheel, and lever bridge

The right-hand side of the movement (as placed in the case) contains the going train, escapement and balance, but there is a lot going on to the left of the mainspring barrel, as well. 

There are two large cutouts in the movement on the left – up top is the one for the function selector and below is the one for winding and setting. With the selector set to W, the lower "crown" winds, and with the selector at H you can set the hands. The clutch for switching back and forth between the two is pretty interesting – it's the sliding arm right above the lower tip of the tweezers. Here's another still from the video. 

Rotating the function selector up top, pushes the sliding arm to the right for hand-winding and to the left for hand-setting. In the still, the arm has moved to the right and is engaged with the gears for winding the mainspring barrel. If the selector were set to H, the arm would move to the left, and engage with the gears for setting the hands. It would also be decoupled from the mainspring barrel. Now, it looks to me as if there is a separate train driven by the rotation of the mainspring barrel, on the left, for driving the hands – remember the going train is on the right and normally the hands are driven off the first wheel in the train, which in this case is on the lower right. No hands there. The speed at which the barrel rotates, however, is of course controlled by the going train and so there's no reason you can't have the motion works on the left – out of the power flow of the going train, but it'd work just fine. The reason for doing this is, again, to flatten things out as much as possible. 

Richard Mille's proud of the fact that this watch can tolerate a shock of up to 5,000G, and that it's sufficiently rigid and shock resistant to tolerate everyday use. A lot of that is thanks to the case and movement construction. The movement is sandwiched firmly between the top and bottom of the case and the case basically acts as both case, and movement holder (in many conventional watches the movement's fixed in place with a spacer ring). It's a little difficult to see but there is also a small, very shallow, recess milled out on the inner face of the lower case, which receives the mainspring barrel and going train – 0.05mm deep, maybe? In any case, this recess further contributes to the flatness of the watch, overall. 

One other interesting feature of the case construction is the large threaded cylinder to the upper right of the mainspring barrel, which receives one of the screws that holds the top and bottom of the case together. The middle of a case is an unusual place to put a case screw, but here I think it serves an important purpose because with that screw in place, the upper and lower case, and the movement are fixed firmly together and form a single rigid unit. This is another design feature which allows the watch to be rigid despite its ultra-thin construction, and the placement of the screw also helps prevent the movement from flexing at its center. 

The aesthetics of the watch are really challenging and I still don't know how I feel about the RM UP-01 from a design standpoint. There are a lot of easy potshots you could take at its appearance and proportions, and the reason there are so many is because it's a mighty strange bird, all right – only 1.75mm thick, but almost cartoonishly wide at 51mm x 39mm and the enormous blank space in the upper case is not done any favors by the Ferrari prancing pony, which, sure, reminds you that this is a partnership with the folks at Maranello (the real technical partner was, of course, Audemars Piguet Le Locle) but which also reminds you of just how many less elevated products the Ferrari pony's shown up on. And you can't see it, but the movement is absolutely devoid of anything remotely resembling traditional horological fine finishing – not that I would have expected it in a watch like this anyway; the RM UP-01 is obviously not intended to be a showcase for traditional fine watchmaking values.

On the other hand, the relationship to automotive engineering in general, and F1 racing specifically, feels very authentic here, and of course Richard Mille says it makes "racing machines for the wrist." The configuration of an F1 car is dictated by one consideration and only one consideration, which is pursuing victory (within the context of the sport's regulations, of course). Everything from drive train configuration to tire composition to aerodynamics are made with a view to pursuing a single goal. The RM UP-01 has more in common with an F1 car than many, perhaps most, Richard Mille watches, in that it was designed to do just one thing: be as flat as possible, within the constraints imposed by the brand's desire to make it a watch that you can wear on a daily basis. Not everything designed with singleness of purpose in mind is aesthetically appealing, of course – an F1 car looks, intuitively, a lot more aesthetically pleasing than, say, an agricultural combine, despite the fact that both are built in the pursuit of a single purpose. 

But I give Richard Mille credit for the single-minded pursuit of its goal. The company does not, actually, in any of its press material, call either the movement, or the watch overall, a world's record, although it certainly is in terms of current production watches. Records are funny things anyway. The RM UP-01 caliber is 1.18mm thick but the thinnest mechanical movement I'm aware of is the Vacheron caliber 10726, which is 0.94mm thick and was made in 1926, so maybe we can all  relax about records a little. 

If you look at the AUC, the Octo Finissimo Ultra, and the RM UP-01, I think you can find a lot of interest in comparing the various technical solutions – Richard Mille is the most willing to subordinate every consideration to flatness; Bulgari probably does the best out of the three in terms of connecting to the company's larger design philosophy, and the AUC retains a lot of the beauty of classical watchmaking while still managing to come in at just a few fractions of a millimeter thicker than the competition. All three have an incredible amount of ingenious engineering in them – the RM UP-01 just as much as the others – and the intellectual entertainment they provide is perhaps much more relevant than a record.

For full specs and pricing, see our Introducing post. For more on the history and techniques of ultra-thin watchmaking, check out our technical series, Part One, Part Two, and Part Three. 

The HODINKEE Shop is an authorized dealer for BVLGARI, and also features a selection of pre-owned and vintage Piaget watches.

A Week On The Wrist The IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XX Is The One We Wanted From The Start

Culture Of Time Pharrell Williams’ Trailblazing Watch Collection

Introducing The IWC Portugieser Automatic 40 Gets A Salmon Dial!

A Week On The Wrist The Tudor Pelagos 39: Compromising With Confidence

Watch Spotting We've Spent All Day Discussing Trevor Noah's THREE Grammy Watch Looks + Jay-Z's Insane Patek Grandmaster Chime

By Malaika crawford, Anthony traina, Danny milton

In-Depth Here’s How The New Omega Spirate System Works

Introducing The Grand Seiko Snowflake Meets A GMT With The SBGJ27 ‘Yukigesho’

In-Depth The '90s Are In And Everyone Wants Complications From The Holy Trinity: Five Predictions For The Watch Market In 2023

Enter the World of Hodinkee

All the watches you need to know about, delivered to your inbox daily.

Enter the World of Hodinkee

An In Depth Technical Analysis Of The Richard Mille RM UP-01

1050 Aluminium Sheet All the watches you need to know about, delivered to your inbox daily.