For Those About to Rock: A Closer Look at the Richard Mille RM 66 Flying Tourbillon
This limited-edition watch wants to rock and roll all night and party every day.
Just look at the pictures of this tourbillon – one of watchmaking’s most virtuosic complications – sharing face-space with a golden hand throwing the heavy metal horns sign. It’s Jimmy Page playing a guitar solo with a violin bow. It’s Eddie Van Halen shredding on Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.” It’s Randy Rhoads ripping through Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train.”
The rock-and-roll lifestyle is both opulent and rebellious. It’s flying on a private jet and trashing hotel rooms, and this watch pretty much sums up that duality. And like our favorite rock-and-rollers, the new RM 66 Flying Tourbillon also has sparks of artistic genius.
So, let’s dive into this horological mosh pit to see what all the fuss is about.
Don’t Fear the Reaper
Richard Mille spares no expense, effort, or imagination in making some of the world’s most impressive, complicated, and wildly technical watches. Thus, when it comes to watchmaking, the brand falls within a realm typically known by a French term, “haute horlogerie,” or “high watchmaking.”
Avant-garde designs with skeletonized (or openworked) dials and movements are common at this level, and so is expert hand finishing down to the complicated clockwork’s last tiny component – and this is what you can expect from a Richard Mille watch. Combine this expertise with the brand’s over-the-top designs and technical (often colorful and extremely lightweight) materials, and the result is an unmistakable look.
The new RM 66 Flying Tourbillon is a riff on those portions of the brand’s DNA (including its signature tonneau case shape). However, what sets this model apart from any other watch in the Richard Mille catalog is the skeletal hand, rendered in 5N red gold, throwing the heavy metal horns sign.
This hand gesture has had a variety of meanings throughout different cultures. For instance, some use it to ward off bad luck. However, in North American pop culture, it’s more a representation of the horned devil and, therefore, rebellion from the establishment.
Formed by extending the index and pinky fingers while holding the middle and ring fingers down with the thumb, most metalheads credit the use of the horns hand sign to the late Ronnie James Dio, although he refused to take credit.
“I doubt very much if I would be the first one who ever did [the horns],” Dio told Metal-Rules.com in 2001. “That’s like saying I invented the wheel; I’m sure someone did that at some other point. I think you’d have to say that I made it fashionable. I used it so much and all the time, and it had become my trademark until the Britney Spears audience decided to do it as well. So, it kind of lost its meaning with that.”
So, while mainstream pop stars like Spears may have appropriated the gesture, the RM 66 Flying Tourbillon aims to misbehave and bring back its demonic power.
At first glance, It looks very punk, yet it’s obvious that a lot of skill was involved in rendering the five digits of the hand. First, the fingers are milled; then, they are sent to the master engraver to be hand finished. Finally, once the painstaking process of deburring and polishing every contour of the bones and joints is complete, this hyper-realistic miniaturized hand is assembled. Of course, this is an oversimplification of the entire process, but you get the idea.
Rockers don’t own the horns. The gesture was also known as the P-Funk sign, and not-so-subtle touches, such as swirls on the Carbon TPT bezel, give off a spacey Bootsy Collins vibe. Moreover, the Clous de Paris pattern of the wrist-side of the case has a spiky punk energy, while the Grade 5 titanium crown is shaped like a spider holding a blood-red ruby decorated with a small skull – a note that will no doubt appeal to the goth community. Finally, there are the hour markers shaped like guitar picks.
The metal hand is also a way to signify being part of a band of outsiders. That is why – though most enthusiasts will never get their hands on a Richard Mille – this timepiece still manages to be inclusionary. Sure, I’ll never be able to afford one, but just knowing that this level of obsessive artistry exists in the world makes me happy. Although, in true rock-and-roll fashion, I feel like it should be called the RM 666 (metalheads will know what I’m talking about).
The golden hand of this highly complicated watch also holds the RM66 manual winding calibre aloft. And in a first for Richard Mille, this highly skeletonized movement places its fast-rotating barrel at 6 o’clock while the flying tourbillion is at 12 o’clock.
Moreover, it’s not just the hand that impresses: the openworked movement also boasts a 72-hour power reserve. And just in case you party too hard and jump into your hotel’s pool, the tripartite case offers a water resistance of 50 meters.
Party Like a Rock Star
The Richard Mille team put in some seriously late nights to bring the RM 66 Flying Tourbillon to life. And while, according to the brand, Research & Development took 1,500 hours (approx. two months) of work to complete, the casing team required an additional nine months to perfect the details.
For instance, its guitar pick-shaped hour indices are extended and supported by a lancet arch in titanium. Meanwhile, the design team’s extreme attention to detail is further demonstrated in the piece’s spider-shaped, Grade 5 titanium crown with its gothic-inspired segments embracing a ruby encased in a circular black rubber gasket.
“Between its development and finalization, we spent more than 200 hours on this piece,” Julien Boillat, Richard Mille’s Technical Director for Cases, explained in a press release. “In addition to the 12 hours required to machine and finish a single crown. Polishing titanium is much more difficult than polishing gold or steel. Not only that, but the polishing also made it difficult to hold the crown without slippage, so we had to use special fixtures to fix the piece from the inside.”
The RM 66 Flying Tourbillon is exclusively available at Richard Mille boutiques and priced at $1.1 million. Who can afford such a watch? Most musicians can’t, but if you fall into the rarified world of performers who can fill stadiums and sell millions in music and merch, this is the timepiece for you! Yes, this only represents a handful of artists, but then again, Richard Mille is making only 50 of these bad boys.