On The Razor’s Edge Of Time

The culmination of over 6,000 development hours of technological mastery, the 1.75-mm thin RM UP-01 Ferrari pushes the boundaries of watchmaking technology like no other timepiece in recent history.

Richard Mille and Ferrari—two brands synonymous with pushing technical limits while simultaneously honoring the traditions of their respective fields. While the marque with the prancing horse has been a dominating force on racetracks since the early 1950s, Richard Mille has been developing watches with unheard technology and trend-redefining aesthetics from Les Breleux in the Swiss Jura—albeit since the turn of this millennium.

While the industries are distinct, both brands are united by a single-minded obsession with technical innovation, breaking records, and above all, winning hearts and minds.

The Beating Hearts of Mechanical Miracles
As a watchmaker, Richard Mille has never been one to shy away from contrarian engineering or rest on its laurels. In the 18.83-gram RM 27-01, a watch developed in collaboration with Rafael Nadal, the company showcased in 2013 the lightest tourbillon in the world. This was followed two years later by the extraordinary RM 67-01 and its 3.6-mm thick inhouse caliber. Now, eight years on, Richard Mille has delivered on the impossible—an ultra-flat watch that is 1.75mm thick—the RM UP-01 Ferrari.

In developing this astoundingly slender watch, Richard Mille collaborated with fellow Swiss watchmaking powerhouse, Audemars Piguet. To bring this concept to life, however, engineers on both teams realized very quickly they had to unlearn everything they thought they knew about watchmaking. Just as Ferrari engineers continuously seek to gain thousandths of a second while racing, the engineers working on the RM UP-01 Ferrari labored to shave off hundredths of a millimeter.

“The joint endeavor with Audemars Piguet made it possible for us to reach the desired thickness,” says Yves Mathys, Head of Production at Richard Mille. “But reaching this degree of flatness requires that you break with tradition.”

To put things in perspective, 1.75mm is the thickness of the entire watch. The movement itself is an astonishing 1.18mm thick, boast a 45-hour power reserve, and weighs all of 2.82 grams.

“It is worth pointing out that the movement’s depth of 1.18mm is thinner than a compact disc,” adds Salvador Arbona, Technical Director for Movements at Richard Mille. “This precluded a traditional movement with superimposed gears and hands.”

“Such a project requires that all the knowledge accumulated over years of practice and every rule of watchmaking is therefore suspended,” says Julien Boillat, Technical Director for Cases at Richard Mille. “Eliminating those last few millimeters was a long and arduous process.”

Tested to the Limits
The RM UP-01 Ferrari is, not surprisingly, the culmination of over 6,000 hours of development and testing. Given the slender proportions, engineers were adamant about ensuring the watch was fit for the purpose of daily wear and not merely a showpiece of technical mastery.

Countless hours were therefore spent on shock-resistance testing, where prototypes were subject to the notorious pendulum test (or Charpy impact test)—which measures resistance to acceleration forces in excess of 5,000 g’s.

Among the multiple innovations engineered into the RM UP-01 Ferrari are two new patents—an extra-flat barrel less than 1.18mm thick with an extremely fine-gauge spring and an ultra-flat escapement. Engineers also had to rethink the traditional winding mechanism—a feature that would have looked completely out of place on a watch so thin. In its place, two crowns have been cleverly integrated in the case as movement wheels and ringed with black ceramic inserts to protect the bezel from wear. 

Titanium was a natural choice of material for the baseplate and the bridges, thanks to its combination of strength, lightness and corrosion-resistance. Structural rigidity is critical when developing a watch case where the wall thickness can drop to 0.18mm. Even the sapphire crystals have been reduced to a thickness of 0.20mm.

“The extremely low tolerance for error of each part placed exceptionally high demands during production,” says Mathys, “often requiring meticulous checks at almost every stage of machining.” Naturally, the ultra-slim package also needed to be water-resistant to 10 meters.

Only 150 units of this distinct yet elegant technological tour de force have been made.


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