Revolution recounts the various sapphire watches that Richard Mille has embarked on in light of a prototype version of the RM 056 that has surfaced in Christie’s 21 June 2017, New York catalogue.
Now, one reason why we hardly ever see watch dials with radically different faces that deviate from the typical round or four-sided shapes is simply because the crystal of choice used to cover the dial in the industry — sapphire — remains an unyielding material to work with. Not to mention that the clear crystal is rather brittle and doesn’t take too well to unusual cutting angles. What we see in the market is therefore the simple result of feasibility. But, when has feasibility ever been a consideration for the indomitable Richard Mille?
In 2012, Mille’s milling ambition led him to introduce the very first RM 056, which boasted an all-sapphire case in the familiar Richard Mille tonneau shape. It was an engineering marvel like none before, requiring no less than 800 hours of machining. The all sapphire case offered a breath-taking view of the split-seconds-chronograph movement within. A similar movement to the one found in his RM 008.
The case, bezel, middle and back of the RM 056, had to be milled from solid blocks of sapphire using a diamond-tipped cutter, and thereafter, held together by Mille’s signature spline screws. The screw holes themselves were a challenge and had to be milled with extreme precision, with little margin for error, due to the brittleness of sapphire. One slip up and the entire block of sapphire might possibly crack and become useless.