Every year at SIHH, there are a handful of watches that you overhear people talking about any time you pass them in the halls or sidle up to a bar for a drink. This year, one of those watches was undoubtedly the Richard Mille RM 53-01 Tourbillon Pablo Mac Donough. Part of this was due to the watch’s technical merits, part of this was due to the watch’s bright blue accents and Carbon case, and part of this was due, as you might expect, to the watch’s price. Whatever the reason though, The RM 53-01 is definitely a watch worth another look.
This is the second tourbillon that Richard Mille has built for the world class polo player Pablo Mac Donough. The first, the RM 053, came in 2012 and was non-traditional, even by Richard Mille’s standards. Instead of the typical tonneau case with the wide dial opening, the RM 053 had a protective titanium carbide case with one eight-shaped opening for the hours/minutes dial and the running seconds attached to the tourbillon. The idea here was that the watch would be able to stand up to the abuse experience on the polo pitch, and it also had the effect of cutting a distinct silhouette as well. For the RM 53-01, the principle is the same – to be as bullet proof as possible – but the approach is slightly different.
Before we get into the watch itself, let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way up front: This watch is expensive. Like, really, really expensive. To acquire one the 30 pieces being made, you’ll have to hand over a cool $900,000. Sure, there are only five zeros on the price tag, but just barely. The justification here is that the watch is made of extremely high-tech materials and that the movement construction involves some non-traditional watchmaking skill that places it above even your average Richard Mille tourbillon. If that makes this watch a total non-starter for you, that’s totally fine and understandable.
Everything about the RM 53-01 is aiming to achieve two goals at the same time: maximize strength and minimize weight. To do this, Richard Mille has shaped the 44.5mm x 49.94mm x 16.15mm case out of Carbon TPT, a composite that looks like forged carbon and has been a favorite of the brand over the last few years. The result is something that looks beefy but is actually extremely lightweight. This is definitely helped by the two strap options, which are either a combination of fabric and velcro or a vented blue silicone rubber.
Unlike the RM 053, the RM 53-01 puts the movement front and center. And it’s one serious movement. In addition to the dramatic pair of curved bridges that support the tourbillon, barrel, and power train right up the center of the structure, you’ll notice an array of cables attaching the caliber to the case itself. Obviously this isn’t something you see every day, but the idea is to isolate the movement from the case in order to make it more shock resistant. There are two braided steel cables (that are a paltry .27mm in diameter) that are pulled to tension by a system of 10 pulleys and four tensioners that traverse the inner edge of the case and the outer parts of the movements. It’s a pretty intricate system, but according to Richard Mille it enables the movement to withstand shocks exceeding 5,000 G’s of force. As a point of reference here, the highest known G-force withstood by a human was 214 G’s when an IndyCar driver’s car crashed into the catch fence in a 2003 race.
There are lots of other technical flourishes in this watch too. The barrel, which doesn’t look like anything crazy, rotates a little faster than Richard Mille’s typical barrels, turning once every six hours instead of once every seven-and-a-half hours in order to provide more consistent power throughout each rotation and throughout the duration of the 70-hour power reserve. You’ll also notice a strange blue tint in the crystal in the live photos of the watch. This is because it’s a three-part crystal meant to be as resistant to breakage as possible. It’s in fact built like a pane of safety glass, like what you’d see in car windshield. Two pieces of sapphire are sandwiched on either side of a Polyvinyl film, so if either side breaks, the entire thing will crack but not shatter. This is a first in watchmaking and Richard Mille has a patent for it as well.
On the wrist, this watch is, well, a Richard Mille. It’s big, but not heavy. It’s brash, but still super cool. And it’s something that you can’t keep your eyes off of. I know that if I walked into a room and spotted someone wearing one of these, I wouldn’t be able to stop staring. Whether it’s your style or not – and let’s be clear here, it’s definitely not my usual thing – it’s hard not to at least find watches like this interesting and compelling in their own kind of way.
The high price might have been the thing that immediately got people talking about this watch at the SIHH, but if that was the only story worth telling, the RM 53-01 would already be forgotten. However, this is a watch that demonstrates what Richard Mille is best at, which is that perfect combination of attention-grabbing marketing, genuine technological innovation, and devil-may-care styling that makes it a true 21st-century watch brand.
For more, visit Richard Mille online.