Feature: Is This $125k Richard Mille The Craziest Dive Watch Ever?
If you had told any watch aficionado a couple of decades ago that there would soon be such a thing as a carbon fibre skeletonized tourbillon watch that could withstand a battering on the tennis court, you would have got the same response as telling them you’d just been chased by flesh-eating unicorns.
Nowadays, we’re used to seeing Richard Mille watches worn by the world’s elite sports stars, from Formula One drivers to tennis players. It’s part of the reason for the brand’s increasing desirability and sky-high prices.
But while Richard Mille has bossed its marketing game, it’s also proved its horological mettle over and over again by pushing the very boundaries of what a watch is and does.
With its unorthodox case materials and complications, futuristic dials, as well as calibres described as ‘racing machines on the wrist’, it’s become the timepiece du jour, a global wealth signifier, a Faberge egg for the 21st century.
Don't be fooled by the crazy aesthetics of the Richard Mille RM 032. This dive watch means business
That said, for the price of the average Richard Mille you could buy a half-decent house almost anywhere in the world. The brand’s watches have sold for wince-inducing sums since the first release back in 2000, when the eponymous founder unleashed his outrageous timepieces on an unsuspecting industry.
Therefore, even a more affordable Richard Mille is beyond the budget of most people. Astoundingly, at a whopping $125,000 retail, the RM 032 diver’s watch (pictured above) qualifies as one of its cheaper options. But what exactly do you get for a sum that could just as easily buy you a shiny new sports car, or at least a parking space in Mayfair?
Don’t Call It A Novelty Watch
Richard Mille undertook several years of research and prototyping before it unveiled its first creation at Baselworld in 2001, by which time it had found a willing business partner in the venerable Audemars Piguet.
So don’t be fooled by the chirpy colours and non-traditional materials it uses. Richard Mille’s watches are infinitely tougher than those intricate skeletonised dials suggest—and the RM 032 model, released in 2011, is no exception.
Most Richard Mille cases are made from grade 5 titanium or precious metals, never steel.
Richard Mille, as any fan of the brand knows, gives stainless steel a wide berth. And given its prices, you can understand why a buyer would baulk at handing over their wads of cash for a watch that was made of the same stuff as your average Seiko.
Therefore Richard Mille rigidly sticks to titanium, platinum, carbon fibre or ceramic for its cases, pairing them— no doubt to the approval of rich vegans—with high-tech non-leather straps.
The RM 032 not only uses titanium for its case and lugs but for most of its main movement components, including the bottom plate and bridges, as well as screws. Super-strong and corrosion-resistant, it’ll add years to the lifespan of any dive watch, regardless of whether it's worn in a gold-plated hot-tub or while surfing in Maui.
The RM 032 also complies with ISO 6425 international dive watch requirements, with a water-resistance of 300 metres and unidirectional bezel. Furthermore, for extra safety and peace of mind, the bezel cannot move without the push-buttons on each side being held down simultaneously.
While not a watch that would survive a journey to the murky depths of the Mariana Trench, it’s perfect for scuba-diving along the shores of the Maldives.
Crazy Complications For A Dive Watch
Fitting a flyback chronograph and annual calendar within a serious dive watch is no easy task but Richard Mille has done it with aplomb—although given the gigantic size of the watch they might have crammed a minute repeater, alarm and electric toothbrush in there if they really tried.
With its 50mm case, this is a sumo wrestler of a piece. Pipe-cleaner wrists need not apply.
The annual calendar (date and month) is shown via small apertures between 4 and 5 o’clock and below 12 o’clock, while the chronograph relies on centrally mounted hands for minute and seconds and an hour counter sub-dial at 6 o’clock.
At 3 o’clock you’ll also find a running indicator, an unusual feature that shows the watch is functioning.
This is essentially a stand-in for a small seconds dial, since the watch doesn’t have a permanent running seconds hand. This ensures it complies with one of the ISO 6425 requirements which demands that a diver is always able to tell that his watch is working.
It also has a lockable crown and chronograph pushers, making it more difficult for water to seep into the case. The automatic movement holds a power reserve of 45-50 hours, depending on whether the chronograph is running.
Richard Mille Doesn’t Do Dainty
Lastly, you get a lot of watch for your money with a Richard Mille, not just in terms of complications and materials but dimensions. With a 50mm case, the RM032 makes your average Panerai—let alone other Richard Milles—look positively puny, a malnourished runt.
Not just a dive watch with serious specs but a party conversation starter.
In fact, chop off the strap and lugs and you could almost use this absolute behemoth of a watch as a makeshift hockey puck.
And with a watch this big, everyone, without exception—from the most ardent watch geek to someone who hasn’t so much as glanced at a watch since the invention of the mobile phone—will remark on it.
That’s not to say everyone will compliment it, mind you. But then that’s pretty much the way it is with any Richard Mille.
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