Debating the best sports watch was far easier in the past, when they were largely worn off-game. Given the distress that the fitness regimes of sports stars impose on their own bodies, one can only imagine the stress that causes on a 200-odd component movement held together by bridges and tiny screws. Until the appearance of Richard Mille, sports timepieces were a matter of style, with some requisite durability. Of the handful that did pass the strain of aviation or other industry demands, they were touted as timepieces for professionals, but also available for consumers.
Mille reversed that proposition. Instead of designing watches for sportspersons first, he made them for consumers with professionals as consultants and testers. He turned watchmaking into watch engineering, rightly foreseeing a time when the world’s love of technology would transform our attitudes towards watchmaking. He’s now taken that same idea towards watch movement development.
Beginning with the RM 027 (as it was known then) in 2010, Richard Mille set out to develop a watch that was designed to handle shock like nothing before. A suspended movement with ultra-durable, lightweight cables supporting it and keeping it stable. That was something new then. There have been three iterations of the RM 027 since, and each has built on its predecessor via technological innovation.
The RM 53-01 is at once similar but different as well. Most watchmakers develop a movement, then fit in the bridges where needed to provide stability for the components of a caliber. This one — and I might be wrong here — feels like it was developed with the case architecture, and bridge and cabling construction first to ensure the watch would be able to handle far more physical damage than ever. Then he developed the tourbillon movement that would look and work best.
Designing around constraints is the most challenging of work. Mille’s timepieces already come with a requisite demand for resilience. Add 5,000G of force to that. Even its sapphire crystal is designed to crack, not shatter, on severe impact. It requires an assembly of the crystal itself, with a sheet of vinyl in between to shield that protective sliver. This watch would survive Jupiter’s gravitational forces, as soon as Elon Musk figures out how to launch a rocket towards it.