Skeletonised manual winding movement with hours, minutes and seconds.
The skeletonised manual winding calibre RMUL3 uses 24 jewels and a free-sprung balance beating at a frequency of 4 Hz. With a power reserve of 55 hours provided by a double-barrel system, this extraordinary movement, weighing a mere 4 grams in total, is mounted within a unique case crafted in Carbon TPT®.
The RMUL3 caliber used in the RM 35-01 offers exceptional impact resistance thanks to the use of grade 5 titanium throughout the highly skeletonised movement design, combined with black PVD surface treatment. In the competitive challenge the RM 35-01 represents, Richard Mille engineers in Les Breuleux extensively tested the RMUL3 caliber under severe conditions, with extreme shocks applied to the movement exceeding 5000 g’s. Only the expertise of Richard Mille in the machining of new materials combined with unique design characteristics allowed such tests to be completed with such ease.
These layers, with a maximum thickness of 45 microns, are impregnated with resin, then woven on a special machine that modifies the orientation of the fibres by 45° between layers. Heated to 120°C at a pressure of 6 bars, these materials are then ready to be processed on a CNC machine at Richard Mille’s case factory.
For 2014, Richard Mille has released yet another model in the new series of Rafael Nadal timepieces called the RM 35-01. Back in 2010, Richard Mille wowed not just the watch industry but the world when he placed a tourbillon-based timepiece on the Spanish tennis champion’s wrist to be worn while playing the sport. Nadal not only famously earned trophies while wearing the $500,000-plus limited edition RM027 watch, but also lost/broke a few along the way.
What made the original RM027 watch so special was its weight. I forget the precise record it set (as so many of these records come and go), but I am pretty sure it was the lightest mechanical or tourbillon-based mechanical watch ever made as, it made use of an exotic lithium-alloy based case material. The idea was that it was light enough not to hamper Nadal’s game, and durable enough to withstand it. From a marketing perspective, it was genius. Several years later, Richard Mille decided to continue the Nadal saga by releasing a follow-up model with the RM 27-01 series of watches that were available in a few colors. A bit larger and more interesting looking than the original, the RM 27-01 was actually one gram lighter, being just 19 grams. It also made use of a unique tension cable system to secure the tourbillon movement in place, making it more shock resistant. Also limited to just 50 pieces, the RM 27-01 made the original RM027 sound like a bargain, with a retail price of $690,000. That trend now changes for 2014.
What struck me about Richard Mille’s newest offerings were the prices. Of course Richard Mille watches will always be at the “cutting edge of exclusive,” but some of the newest models were in the $100,000 range versus the $500,000 – $700,000 range. As such, the biggest mechanical difference between the 2014 RM 35-01 Rafael Nadal and previous series models is the lack of a tourbillon. Can the watch really be a “Nadal” without a tourbillon? In fact, Richard Mille has made it a point to imbue most of its athlete watches with tourbillon-based movements. While the brand is really at its most “Mille” with a tourbillon, I think some of the brand’s non-tourbillon movements are its finest.
While visually very satisfying, the Caliber RMUL3 movement inside of the RM 35-01 is relatively simple, offering just the time with hours, minutes, and seconds. It is manually wound and has a power reserve of about 55 hours. Most of the movement is made from titanium bridges and it operates at a frequency of 4 Hz (28,800 bph). Again, this is a more basic Richard Mille movement, but still has a lot of the visual technical style people have come to expect from the brand.Rather than focus on movement innovation, the RM 35-01 is part of a few new watches for 2014 that showcase a new material Richard Mille is using for cases. They call it NTPT carbon, and we debuted it here late in 2013. “NTPT” stands for the company which produces it; that is North Thin Ply Technology, which is actually based in Switzerland. The material is a specially layered carbon composite that is technically a high-tech laminate. Using many layers, it has been used for a series of industrial and sport purposes such as for America’s Cup boats. It happens to have the unique quality of looking like Damascus steel when produced in the right way.
Damascus steel is a layered metal that (especially) when acid treated shows of the various layers and is said to have a “wood grain” style texture. Damascus steel is used in certain watches such as those produced by Gustafsson & Sjogren (Gos), and is often prized by collectors for its visual style. Now Richard Mille has its own “Damascus” material with the interesting look of NTPT carbon, which in this case is colored black. I have a feeling that the material can be in most any color, though I haven’t been able to verify that.
So how does NTPT carbon look on a watch case? Pretty cool actually. I don’t know if I would have personally thought to use it for a watch related to a tennis player, but the texture of the material mixed with the overall look of the watch and strap happens to work quite well. While the base color is black, the case has a range of slightly glossy grays that together almost look like a futuristic camouflage. It doesn’t come across as gimmicky, and unlike some of the exotic polymers that Richard Mille has used in other timepieces, NTPT carbon does have the air of a very high-quality material.
Looks aside, the case material is supposed to be very hard and durable. No doubt the case would fare well against all manner of abuse in the event of extreme shock, while the mechanical movement inside of it turned into an assortment of broken spare parts. So how light is the overall watch? For a series that is all about being very light-weight Richard Mille doesn’t offer the overall weight of the case. Though they have indicated that the RMUL3 movement weighs an incredibly low 4 grams total.
Like the RM 27-01 watch from last year the RM 35-01 will come on a fabric strap with Velrco. Such straps are hard to pull off in a high-end way, but with a cool sport watch like this I think it works. To be honest I feel much more confident about the durability of a watch like this compared to others with tourbillons. The simple three-hand manually wound movement is logically going to put up with a lot more exertion than a finicky toubillon. If you are the type of person who likes to call a Richard Mille timepiece your daily wear, then the RM 35-01 Rafael Nadal isn’t at all a poor choice with its comfortable design, easy to bridge red-rubber covered crown, legible dial, and durable features.
While technically a limited edition, Richard Mille hasn’t yet indicated how many pieces of the RM 35-01 watch will be made. Start looking for them later in 2014.