Sunday, March 05, 2006

Future Avenues for Richard Mille?

Being an engine guy I can get pretty excited about a car or bike that may be circulating in the midfield simply because it has the highest revving wire sprung engine or whatever. So, for a brand so associated with high performance motorsport and drawing upon it for inspiration, I find it odd that the engine seems to have such a disappointing spec for a technorak like myself.

If I draw an analogy with engines, we can assess them in very specific terms and I've always had a formula in the back of my mind when I look at a watch. If I apply this to RM, I come up short. Why is it that the RM range seems to mostly consist of an unremarkable 21600 frequency, with a modest 10 mgcm2 balance (c.f. Rolex and JLC wheels) and average power reserve of 50-70 hours or so? In fact the balance power is 1/3 to a 1/4 of a Rolex 3135. That doesn't sound very F1. Surely with Richard's uniquely applied materials we should be looking at the highest combination of balance power and energy reserve?

I think, notwithstanding the clever shock protection, it seems that Richard has simply adopted a relatively modest and safe path in respect of the 'technology' level in the balance wheel/escapement/tourbillon end of the watch; they're all within known bounds not requiring a leap of tech, keeping force levels low and so on. And yes, I'm being unfair, you'll be hard pressed to find higher vph or balance wheel inertia in a tourbillon (answers on a postcard anyone?) They can thus operate with fairly predictable wear characteristics and behaviours etc. It is simply a lower risk and I see this as a sensible and pragmatic choice for a new brand. The concentration of novelty is put elsewhere where it is arguably less critical to the core performance of the watch as a timekeeper and probably more marketable.

This all crossed my mind as people have been asking where Richard can possibly go next, as if he had done everything possible. It led me to think and hope that Richard's next steps might therefore be to square up to the difficulties present in handling, in particular, the challenging "stop-start" dynamics of the tourbillon cage for which his novel and clever choice of materials might be capable of unlocking previously unobtainable dynamics (higher vph and higher balance inertias) with inherently more stable time keeping potential.

1 comment:

Speedmaster said...

I'll start by admitting that this blog post is pushing the envelope of my understanding. ;-)

That said, I actually prefer the slower beat of traditional movements. Regardless of what else we might hear, I'm still not convinced that that 28,000 or faster doesn't bring increased wear. I know it brings great _potential_ accuracy. But all things given, and trade-offs understood, I prefer the slower beat movements.

I have theee watches att he moment. A Speedmaster and two Seikos, all 21,600. ;-)