The pocket watch has evolved over hundreds of years as the precursor of the wristwatch, so it is, interestingly, experiencing an unexpected revival currently. In centuries past, the portable pocket watch was the foundation on which horologists began to perfect the art of mechanical watchmaking. It was originally the ultimate emblem of freedom and prestige as it liberated one from having to depend on the public clock tower and the home or office standing clock to tell time.
Always ready to spring a surprise in the realm of avant-garde watchmaking, Richard Mille’s RM 020 tourbillon pocket watch is its latest one-of-a-kind time instrument upon a revisit of the Golden Age of timekeepers.
This reinterpretation of a classic is bound to satisfy the standards of even the most hard-to-please collectors with all its bells and whistles. For starters, it is the first pocket watch created to debut a non-metallic baseplate made of carbon nanofiber, originally employed in U.S. Air force jets.
Never one to rest on its laurels especially as a purveyor of technical materials, Richard MIlle’s isotropic composite material takes carbon nanofibers and molds them under a high pressure of 7,500 N/cm2 and a temperature of 2,000 °C. Its mission is to ensure that the pocket watch’s going train remains stable in a varied spectrum of conditions and temperatures with high mechanical, physical and chemical stability in all directions.
The RM 020 is no petite creation and its ample proportions allow the curve and camber of its rectangular case to be enhanced. Its eye-catching rhomboid shaped chain links, borrowing inspiration from Column of the Infinite by 20th-century sculptor Brancusi, contribute to its bold and graphic silhouette.
Complementing the RM 020 tourbillon pocket watch is a titanium watch chain featuring a quick attach/ release mechanism that allows it to multitask as a pendulette de bureau with the addition of a desk stand.
With sapphire glass on the front and back, the transparency gives an open view of all the parts of the movement of the pocket watch, afforded by haute horlogerie’s best in Swiss case making and certainly a sight to behold.
And naturally to experience or witness the full intrigue of any watchmaking complication, one has to venture within the case where a tourbillon escapement lies for the RM 020 tourbillon pocket watch. Invented in the 19th century for the pocket watch format timepiece, here the mechanism is driven by a double winding barrel with 10 days of power reserve.
The RM 20 tourbillon pocket watch’s list of specifications is impressive, boasting bridges in grade 5 titanium and a central bridge in Arcap®. The other features include the function indicator at 4 o’clock which identifies the winding, neutral and hand-setting positions when the crown is pulled out; and additionally, the free-sprung balance with variable inertia that ensures reliability against shocks, and assembly or disassembly, as well as guarantees superior chronometric results. Then there are the spline screws in grade 5 titanium which are used for the bridges and case, with the torque-limiting crown being made from titanium.
What then does it take to put together the RM 20 tourbillon pocket watch? In a nutshell, the chain, clasp, crown cover and stand require 580 separate operations entailing 140 finishing operations and 126 control operations. The tally of 189 components comprises 27 parts in the crown, 20 in the crown cover, 16 in the clasp, 65 in the chain and 61 parts in the separate stand.
While all iterations of the RM 020 tourbillon pocket watch come in a titanium central case band, the choice of both front and back bezels are available in either 18k red gold, white gold or titanium for this triumphant “time machine” that successfully synthesises an 18th-century horological mandate in combination with 21st-century technology and aesthetics.