Richard Mille RM 011 Lotus F1 Team Romain Grosjean NTPT: to dash along in sixth gear
The RM 011, encased in a material with wood-like patterns yet more resistant than steel, sports a casual look to remind us what a striking and its impressive technological pole position.
Introduced last year, the watch caused a stir as it was the first time that the NTPT carbon was used to make a watch case. For the record, the watch was introduced for the season’s first trials of the Lotus Team’s Formula 1 E22, driven by Romain Grosjean, one of Richard Mille’s partners.
In 2007, the young driver won the F3 Euroséries championship. He won the GP2 Asia Series twice in 2008 and in 2011. Since 2012 he is Lotus’ race driver and was given the opportunity to test this ultra-light and strong watch on board of his Formula one. We deemed it necessary to make our own test in one of the most powerful racing cars. It was the opportunity to have a series of pictures of the watch in situ.
The circuit beast
In the first place, once it is freed of its presentation case, the watch certainly does not go unnoticed. In spite of its size, one can be confused by its lightweight as the watch only weighs a few grams. Richard Mille, the futurist watchmaking inventor, masters this art. In order to reduce the weight of this large reference without neglecting its strength, the research department – set up in the manufacture – opted to use the NTPT (North Thin Ply Technology) carbon for the block in which the case middle is machined. It is an exclusive material that consists of over 600 layers of carbon filaments.
As mentioned above, this is the first time that this material has been used in watchmaking. It is usually used in sailing, such as for the making of the Alinghi mast and was also exploited for the components in the making of the cell of the Solar Impulse 2 (the solar energy-driven airplane). To achieve both the extreme rigidity and lightness of the watch, the structure consists of several layers of parallel filaments obtained by a process of spacing of the carbon threads.
With a maximum thickness of 30 microns, these layers are impregnated with a resin then woven on an automatic drop-off system machine that modifies the direction of the fibers by 45° between two layers to increase the multi-axial rigidity. The whole is then heated at 120° Celsius at a pressure of 6 bar. All in all, the case was assembled using a layering process in which the machining reveals the different layers by profile-turning, thus producing a wood grain-like decoration.
The 50 x 40 x 16.15-mm watch fits perfectly on the wrist and it is so light that it can be forgotten. The wearer quickly gets used to the watch on the wrist and this is not what usually happens with heavier models. In these conditions, the watch does not need to be fastened tightly to the wrist since it does not slide over the back of the hand by the pull of gravity. This may seem insignificant but during sporty driving, there is nothing more disturbing than shaking the watch back into place in a curve or when applying the brake to prevent the winding crown from pressing into your already-busy hands.
This can obviously be dangerous under some circumstances. When we tested it, the watch, which comes with a rubber strap, did not move an inch.
Known for its qualities, the RMAC1 caliber has successfully passed our test. The visual architecture of this open-worked chronograph caliber, made of PVD-treated titanium, is very harmonious. Aside from its significant lightness, it conveys a sports-like modernity to the whole design that is immediately recognizable.
In short, this timepiece will appeal to sports car aficionados; it features a 12-hour chronograph, a 60-minute timer, a flyback function that is useful for timing laps (still, you need to be able to do it quickly) and an annual calendar mechanism that the driver does not have to bother with once it is set to the 1st of March. Nevertheless, the watch has a power reserve of approximately 50 hours. Thus, to keep the complication running, it has to be placed on an oscillator when it is not worn.
On the whole, this is a watch of very fine quality because it has been incredibly well designed for private pilots or simply for automobile enthusiasts. Easily identified at first sight, it is an elegant indicator of the wearer’s success to watchmaking lovers. That’s a different way of showing one's position on the starting grid.