In 2020, making five-and-six-figure timepieces with unusual materials borrowed from cutting-edge industries feels like the province of a whole segment of haut de gamme watchmaking. So, it’s easy to think of Richard Mille as merely the leader of a large pack.
Mille, whose first watches came out in 2001, helped put this category on the map with his Formula One-inspired wristborne racing machines. Though others have followed in his footsteps, channeling the buzz of Richard Mille is easier said than done. Putting lightweight complications on a successive cast of drivers, tennis players, golfers, track stars, and other celebrities has landed Mille enough press make it a luxury brand name that even non-watch enthusiasts have often heard of. Today, we’re looking at the latest iteration of what I’ve come to view as a real Richard Mille classic, the Richard Mille RM 11-05 Automatic Winding Flyback Chronograph GMT.
The RM 11 line of chronographs has been around since 2007, at the earlier end of the company’s trajectory. It’s definitely one of the two or three watches that come to my mind when I hear the name Richard Mille. We’ve seen several incarnations of this watch over the years, and it’s been crafted from quite a few materials, too. Now, for the first time, we see the RM 11 in grey cermet, a highly durable material with a hardness comparable to diamond; grey cermet’s hardness has been measured at 2,360 Vickers, and diamond is 2,400 Vickers. We’ve seen a cermet RM before, in brown, in a version of the RM052 made for Pharrell Williams.
Cermets are a class of heat-resistant composite materials made from ceramic and a sintered metal. In making a cermet material, one of the objectives is to combine the desirable properties of ceramic, such as high temperature resistance and hardness, with those of a metal. In the case of RM’s grey cermet, which was developed in conjunction with the IMI Group, that metal is titanium. From this material, RM can make a highly scratch-resistant watch that also feels light on the wrist despite its imposing dimensions.
This RM 11 looks as futuristic as ever. And though the grey cermet case is the key innovation most worth talking about in the RM 11-05, this is also a pretty serious bit of watchmaking. In addition to being a flyback chronograph with GMT, it’s also an annual calendar with displays for the date and the month. From my perspective, this watch combines the most useful of complications, the GMT, with one of the most fun to play with, the chronograph. Add to that the annual calendar, and well, it’s much more than your run-of-the-mill sport watch. The RMAC3 automatic movement comes to Richard Mille via the Parmigiani Fleurier / Sandoz-owned movement manufacture Vaucher and features Mille’s well-known variable geometry rotor.
Despite the matte characteristic of the grey cermet top bezel, this watch hardly flies under the radar – I mean, this is a Richard Mille after all. Splashes of color are there thanks to the orange and light blue accents found on the dial, the flange, the crown, the pushers, and the strap.