Richard Mille has always been a pioneer in the use of aeronautic materials — such as titanium, carbon nanofiber, ARCAP and tungsten carbide — in watchmaking. This year, the brand displays its love of aviation with a new watch, and caliber, designed specifically for flight navigation, the Tourbillon Flyback Chronograph RM 039 Aviation E6-B.
The brand has long been associated with very high-end sports watches, including watches designed for race car drivers, divers, and even a famous golfer and tennis player; this is its first dedicated watch for pilots. Its three-part, 50-mm case, made of titanium, reproduces the materials and visual codes used in the aviation industry. It displays much of the same information provided by the famous E6-B flight computer, invented by U.S. Naval Lieutenant Philip Dalton during the 1930s. This round slide rule, incorporated into the bidirectional rotating bezel, can be used to read off and calculate fuel burn, flight times, ground speed, density altitude or wind correction, as well as the fast conversion of units of measurement (Naut/KM/Gallons/Liters/Feet/KG/LBS). The RM 039 tourbillon caliber — the first in the world to include all these complications — is also equipped with a UTC hand, a countdown mode, an oversize date at 12 o’clock and a function selector. It also features a flyback chronograph with an exclusive design. Combined with the E6-B flight computer scales, this complication provides pilots with a fast, practical device for measuring a series of successive elapsed times when navigating through different marker points.
The user can start or stop the chronograph with a pusher located at 10 o’clock. The flyback function can be reset to zero at any time using the pusher at 8 o’clock. To stop the chronograph, press the pusher at 10 o’clock, then press the reset/flyback pusher. To use the hand of the chronograph minutes counter in countdown mode, press the pusher at 9 o’clock once. An aperture at 7 o’clock then displays the mode selected: “ON” for countdown mode and “OFF” for chronograph mode. The pusher at 4 o’clock enables the hand to be adjusted quickly between 59 minutes and 01 minutes. Pressing lightly will advance the hand by one minute, while pressing more firmly will advance it by five minutes. Once the countdown time has been set, the pusher at 10 o’clock can be used to start the chronograph. When the minutes hand reaches zero, the display at 7 o’clock changes to “OFF.” At any moment, the function can be reset to zero via the flyback by pressing the pusher at 8 o’clock. (Click on photos for larger images.)
The RM 039 Aviation E6-B also includes an oversize date display, placed at 12 o’clock, that uses two skeletonized calendar disks. The pusher at 2 o’clock is for easy date correction. The watch’s UTC function displays a second time zone by means of a Super-LumiNova-filled hand. The watch is also equipped with a function selector, similar to a car’s gearbox, in which a push-button located at the center of the crown allows one to select the winding, neutral and hand-setting functions with a simple push. A hand at 4 o’clock displays the selected function: “W” (Winding), “N” (Neutral), H (Hands), or “U” (UTC, for setting the UTC hand).
The case features two bezels, one fixed and one rotating, which provide the E6-B slide rule information. The rotating bezel has yellow transfers showing a logarithmic scale (from 10 to 99) and units of measurement, in red, that can be used to convert the measurements used in aeronautics. This means a user can make conversions between kilometers (KM), nautical miles (NAUT) and statute miles (STAT); liters (Liters), U.S. gallons (US GAL) and imperial gallons (IMP GAL); meters (Meters) and feet (FT); and kilograms (KG) and pounds (LBS). The indications shown in yellow on the outside at 9 o’clock enable the air temperature to be selected from -60°C to +50°C. This is essential for calculating real altitude in flight in relation to temperature. An altitude scale is provided via a red transfer on the outside of the bezel at 12 o’clock. It is expressed in thousands of feet, from 0 to 50. The same scale is visible on the outside (white transfer) at 2:30, but graduated in this case from -10 to +45. Using these two scales on the outside of the bezel combined with the slide rule enable real flight speed to be calculated in relation to air temperature and altitude.
On the fixed bezel, a second logarithmic scale (from 10 to 99) can be used to read off conversions of units of measurement. It also has an hour scale from 1 o’clock (rate 60) to 9 o’clock, which can be used to solve any problem related to distance, speed and time. By combining the logarithmic scales on the fixed and rotating bezels, values can be added, subtracted, multiplied and even divided. Positioned at 9 o’clock, the yellow transfer shows the scale in thousands of feet from 0 to 30 and the red one at 12 o’clock shows an air temperature scale from -70°C to +50°C. Lastly, the fixed bezel of the RM 039 gives an altitude indication in thousands of feet (located at 2:30). Read-off is facilitated by the addition of a movable indicator incorporated in the edge of the case-middle. The desired calculation will depend on the position of the rotating bezel in relation to the fixed bezel.
The movement contains 740 parts, including 58 jewels, and has a power reserve of 70 hours (which is displayed at 2 o’clock). The skeletonized baseplate and bridges are in grade 5 titanium. It has a balance wheel with variable inertia and a fast-rotating barrel (five hours per revolution rather than the more common 7.5 hours).
The case, which required more than 800 milling operations to make, has its lugs incorporated into the case assembly. The bezel, middle and caseback are secured by spline screws in grade 5 titanium. The titanium upper flange is coated with a black surface treatment and has hour markers filled with luminous material. The dial and both crystals (front and back) are made of sapphire with double-sided anti-glare treatment. The crown has a patented design that protects the heart of the movement from outside influences.
The Tourbillon Flyback Chronograph RM 039 Aviation E6-B is a limited edition of only 30 pieces. According to Richard Mille, the watch — which was introduced at the SIHH watch salon in January — is still being perfected and has not yet been priced. So, perhaps this is less a Watch to Watch and more a Watch to Watch For.
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