Richard Mille is a brand that you typically associate with the world’s most expensive timepieces, not the thinnest.
Yet the uber-luxury Swiss watchmaker has just introduced the world’s thinnest mechanical timepiece, beating the previous thinnest manually wound wristwatch record-holders Bulgari (most recent), Piaget, and Vacheron Constantin.
The RM UP-01 Ultraflat Ferrari has an unusually large 51 mm diameter (39 mm lug-to-lug) grade 5 titanium case — which covers a significant portion of the wrist and somewhat disguises the watch’s record-breaking wafer-thin 1.75 mm profile. Interestingly, the movement is 1.18 mm thick, which means there’s just 0.57 mm of space leftover to accommodate the height of the sapphire crystals, the case walls, and the space in between the movement and case. Consequently, the Technical Director for case production at Richard Mille, Julien Boillat, states “In terms of casing, watchmaking standards stipulate a minimum section thickness of 0.35 mm in certain places. However, we are sometimes at 0.18 mm of material here.” That means for some parts of the case, the thickness is no more than a few sheets of paper.
There’s no question, that the RM UP-01 is an engineering marvel, yet in spite of the cutting-edge design and incredibly thin tolerances, the manually wound caliber operates at a modern rate of 4Hz and has a power reserve of nearly two days (approximately 45 hours).
Everything had to be thinned down, such as the escapement. “The parts that add the most height in a traditional escapement are the dart (aka guard pin) and the safety roller. Both serve to bank the lever in case of shock. The new patented, ultra flat escapement eliminates both parts and resituates the banking function directly on the anchor fork. To do so, the fork itself was elongated and its horns modified. As a result, the dart-free anchor is significantly reduced in height,” according to Richard Mille.
In addition to the patented ultraflat escapement, engineers from both Richard Mille and Audemars Piguet Le Locle developed the world’s thinnest movement (41.45 x 28.85 mm x 1.18 mm) with special components designed to work in the uncharacteristically thin case, including jewels, kif shock protection, a three-arm balance in grade 5 titanium with 6 inertia weights, and an AK 3 balance spring.
The design and engineering teams had to omit a traditional crown in favor of two disc-like crowns built into the top of the case and controlled by a special tool provided with the watch, or even your fingertip. This is one of the sacrifices required to achieve such a groundbreaking result.
Not surprisingly, another area where something had to give in order to achieve extreme thinness was water resistance. With a depth rating of only 10 meters, this watch is not even technically water-resistant and should not be worn in the water at all. Although, interestingly, shock resistance is well maintained considering this watch has been tested to withstand over 5,000 g’s.
Being a Richard Mille, co-branded with Ferrari, and the thinnest mechanical watch currently produced — the RM UP-01 Ferrari is naturally going to cost a huge sum. As you might expect considering the design, the watch is not just ultra-flat, it’s also featherlight thanks to minimal components, with a case made of a grade 5 titanium, weighing in at a mere 30 grams. The quick-release strap accounts for about half that weight.
The Richard Mille RM UP-01 Ultraflat is limited to 150 pieces and will retail for $1,888,000.
Photos by Richard Mille.