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Horology picks: Richard Mille RM 11-05 Automatic Flyback Chronograph GMT

Horology picks: Richard Mille RM 11-05 Automatic Flyback Chronograph GMT

Lighter than titanium, and nearly as hard as diamonds – Richard Mille holds nothing back with its new grey Cermet material in its latest timepiece

Richard Mille

When it comes to material innovation, think of Richard Mille timepieces as a skunkworks laboratory on your wrist. The Neuchâtel-based watchmaker has gone to extreme lengths to research, manufacture and implement cutting-edge materials into its watches.

Take for example the RM 009 which used a material called Alusic, created by spinning silicon and aluminium in a centrifuge so that the particles bond at a molecular level. Then there’s the RM 50-03 Tourbillon Split Seconds Chronograph Ultralight McLaren F1 which used a carbon-based material called Graphene discovered by two Nobel prize-winning physicists. The RM 027 Tourbillon Rafael Nadal, meanwhile, used carbon nanofibre – a material used in US military fighter jets – to create the world’s lightest mechanical watch at the time of its debut in 2010.

Now, this latest RM 11-05 Automatic Flyback Chronograph GMT has a new material that the watchmaker calls Grey Cermet and which combines a metallic zirconium matrix with ceramic inserts.

Cermet, created by fusing ceramic and metals, “combines the lightness of titanium and the hardness of diamond” and was used in the upper case of this timepiece.

Cermet has a density of 4.1g/cm3 – lesser than that of titanium which has a density of 4.5g/cm3 – and a hardness of 2,360 Vickers, nearly as much as diamonds which have a hardness of 2,400 Vickers.

Read: Interview: Peter Harrison, CEO of Richard Mille EMEA

Owing to its lightness and strength, Cermet is used in the aerospace industry to make shuttle components and also in the brakes of high-performance cars where they are routinely subjected to high temperatures and stress.

To create this specific grey Cermet variant for the timepiece, the watchmaker teamed up with microtechnology specialist IMI Group. The zirconium carbide undergoes a process of “flash sintering” where it is reportedly heated at temperatures of upto 2,000°C. The process further combines an electrical field with hot stamping to get the final solid version of the material used in the bezel.

The finished version of this material, which excludes cobalt and nickel (the watchmaker refers to these as “unwanted binders”), also adheres to Europe’s REACH chemical safety regulations.

While Cermet is used in the front bezel, the tripartite case uses Carbon TPT in the mid-case. Carbon TPT comprises of up to 600 layers of carbon fibre pressed tightly together. The caseback meanwhile is made from Grade 5 titanium. Holding the entire case together are 20 spline screws which itself are made from Grade 5 titanium.

If the materials alone weren’t impressive enough, you also have a skeletonised automatic winding Calibre RMAC3 movement whose bridges and baseplate are also made from Grade 5 titanium.

The watch additionally features a flyback chronograph including a 60-minute and 24-hour totalizer, an annual calendar, a GMT function, a variable geometry rotor that allows the user to customise the rewinding of the mainspring, a freesprung balance wheel along with variable inertia that protects it against shocks, and also a double barrel that ensures consistent torque over longer periods – an absolutely vital function in high-performance chronographs like this wristwatch.

Limited to 140 pieces, there will be only a handful of these allotted to individual boutiques around the world.

A handsome combination of ultra-complicated mechanics and futuristic materials leaves little to fault with this new timepiece.

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