It would be easy to dismiss polo as a sport for the wealthy, a leisurely ride around the paddock with like-minded individuals, mallet in hand. However, if you ever get to see a high level competitive polo match, you’ll see that it’s an ardent, no holds barred contest between two teams, where the horses and their riders are extreme athletes in their own right. It’s only rules designed to protect the riders and their mounts that prevent it from escalating into an all-out sparring match. As you can imagine, such an environment is not a natural one for a mechanical watch, let alone a traditionally delicate tourbillon. It’s the kind of challenge though that Richard Mille takes great pride in tackling: enter the RM 53-01 Tourbillon Pablo Mac Donough.
The partnership between Richard Mille and Pablo Mac Donough dates back a few years, when the first polo inspired timepiece, the RM 53, was presented in 2012. You may remember that it looked more like a miniature armored tank than a watch, with good reason; as always, Mille wants his watches to be worn by his ambassadors, regardless of their chosen profession, and the 2012 RM 53 was the best solution at the time. It meant though that the movement was effectively hidden and the time only peeked through a porthole on the case. For this year, the RM 53-01 Tourbillon Pablo Mac Donough takes an entirely new approach, with technology taken from the automotive world that Mille is extremely passionate about. The watch’s glass is actually composed of two sheets of sapphire crystal, sandwiching a thin Polyvinyl sheet, the result of a collaboration with Stettler Sapphire, a Swiss specialist. The inspiration comes from automotive glass, which is laminated with a protective film; it maintains perfect transparency, but improves the shock resistance tremendously. Even if the sapphire glass cracks or shatters, it will not fall apart as the Polyvinyl film holds it together.
The carbon TPT case is inherently strong, but the notched design also improves its structural integrity and shock resistance. The finishing touch is brought through suspending the tourbillon movement with braided steel cables. This approach requires the use of two baseplates, with the peripheral plate anchoring the cables’ tensioner mechanism, and the central plate holding the caliber itself. This approach gives the RM 53-01’s caliber of shock resistance of up to 5,000 g.
With this approach, Richard Mille has ensured that Pablo Mac Donough can play polo as ardently as ever without worrying about a quasi-indestructible polo ball inadvertently encountering the RM 53-01 on his wrist – his bones though might be another story.