The Swiss purveyors of high-end, stratospherically priced timepieces clad in space-age materials — otherwise known as the good folks of team Richard Mille — have introduced the RM 011 in a new type of carbon composite.

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The new RM 011 in NTPT carbon composite as seen on the wrist

Instead of bonding sheets of woven carbon fibre strips together (resulting in that basket weave pattern we’re all familiar with) or suspending individual fibres in resin (resulting in a surface that can range from highly speckled to variegated to almost homogenous), the new material consists of ultra-thin sheets of carbon fibres bonded together with epoxy resin and cured under heat to give superior strength, rigidity and lightness.

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Extremely thin sheets of isotropic carbon filament are bonded together at 45° offsets to create an extremely light yet strong composite (Image from www.thinplytechnology.com)

Carbon composite constructed using Thin Ply Technology, as the technique is known, consists of isotropic carbon sheets — “isotropic” referring to uniformity in the orientation of the fibers — laid at 45° offsets for higher tensile strength relative to material flexibility. The composite is then machined to the specified dimensions. This three-dimensional machining of the material results in its unusual surface appearance resembling that of woodgrain.

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The unusual woodgrain-like appearance of the TPT carbon composite case is due to the curvature of machining across the weft of the material

The RM 011 is no stranger to Richard Mille’s weight-shedding techniques, being the first timepiece to mark the pursuit of ultra-light timepieces in the company. The RM 011 was worn by Felipe Massa, Formula 1 driver, on the track — famously escaping unscathed from Massa’s 2009 crash at the Hungaroring race.

Thin Ply Technology carbon composite was first introduced to create light yet pliable sails for racing yachts, subsequently being integrated into F1 vehicles. With the use of this new material, the RM 011 becomes even more durable and failure-resistant relative to its weight — and Richard Mille sets another benchmark in ultra-light high-performance timepieces.

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