Watches & Jewellery

Five of Richard Mille's Greatest Tourbillons

Small in size but big on finesse, the tourbillon is one of horology’s most complex engineering feats.
Reading time 4 minutes

For over 10 years, Richard Mille challenged, in ways the watch industry had never seen, the boundaries of the escapement in his Nasa and F1-inspired timekeepers.

And to celebrate this fine watchmaker's legendary work, we have rounded up five of its greatest creations for your viewing pleasure.

RM 19-02 Tourbillon Fleur

This is, by far, Richard Mille’s most artistic tourbillon watch.

Inspired by the precious, miniature flora and fauna automata which were made during the 18th century in Europe, the RM 19-02 displays, on demand, the graceful, blooming motion of the magnolia.

When the pusher at the 9 o’clock position is activated, ve white- gold petals open rhythmically to reveal the flower’s stamen: a flying tourbillon which is set, exquisitely, at the heart with seven rubies.

When the magnolia has fully bloomed, the escapement rises 1mm, mimicking the natural movement of the stamen during pollination.

RM 56-02 Sapphire

A true visual spectacle, the RM 56-02 is completely see-through – thanks to sapphire crystal, which is used to construct not only the watch case, but also movement parts including the tourbillon (incidentally, sapphire is an incredibly robust material that can only be scratched with a diamond).

Touted by Richard Mille as the “crowning achievement” of his sapphire range, the calibre of this fascinating timepiece is suspended in the middle of the transparent case using a specially developed 0.35mm single-braided cable that is woven through an ingenious system of 10 pulleys.

Over 400 hours are required to machine the RM 56-02’s bridges in sapphire.

RM 017 Extra Flat Tourbillion Asia Edition

Launched in Hong Kong in 2015, this is the first rectangular-shaped timepiece in Richard Mille’s spectacular tourbillon range.

Housing a tourbillon movement which measures only 4.65mm in thickness, the RM 017 is also one of the thinnest of its kind in the watch market.

The design of the timepiece case is extremely well thought out, tapering downwards at the top and bottom ends of the case to better fit the gentle curves of the wrist.

Available only at the brand’s boutiques in Asia, the watch is produced in ultra-tough TZP black or ATZ white ceramic (in four and three pieces, respectively) and, in a nod to Eastern culture, sports a dial which is decked in Chinese numerals.

RM 19-01 Natalie Portman Asia Edition

To celebrate Natalie Portman’s directorial debut of A Tale of Love and Darkness at the 68th Cannes Film Festival, Richard Mille unveiled three Asia-exclusive versions of the popular RM 19-01 that it co-designed with the American actress in 2014.

The same seductive spider motif is adapted for two 18k white gold models, which, unlike its diamond-pavéd predecessor, is set in a dazzling array of black or blue sapphires; and an extremely robust TZP black ceramic model that features the predator in red gold.

The spider is an integral part of the RM 19-01’s movement, with its abdomen supporting the tourbillon’s bridges and its legs supporting two winding barrels.

RM 27-02 Rafael Nadal

Building a watch for a Grand Slam champion is not easy. It has to feel light, be unobtrusive and also highly resistant to sharp and forceful movements of the arm.

Last year, Richard Mille checked all those boxes with the RM 27-02, which was specially designed for Majorcan tennis player Rafael Nadal.

The timepiece had a case which was made from NTPT carbon and TPT quartz (a super strong material developed by Richard Mille and Swiss engineering firm North Thin Ply Technology), and was powered by a remarkable tourbillon calibre that, like a car’s chassis, was mounted on an expertly skeletonised unibody baseplate, giving the watch maximum rigidity despite the tourbillon’s delicate nature.

The RM 27-02 also boasts a unibody baseplate, which means that the watch’s bezel and caseback are directly assembled onto the baseplate – similar to how F1 race cars are built upon the chassis.

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