Polo is one of the toughest sports to wear a watch during. Not only do you have to worry about your opponent smashing the delicate crystal of your timepiece with an errant mallet, but, if for some reason you fall off your horse, it’s game over for anything that happens to be on your wrist. The most famous watch design with polo in mind has to be Jaeger-LeCoultre’s iconic Reverso, which solved this problem by being able to seamlessly flip the watch around to expose a metal caseback that safeguards the watch’s mechanics and appearance. However, Jaeger-LeCoultre isn’t the only brand to introduce a watch specifically meant for polo (it’s worth mentioning that the Reverso has transcended it’s original sporty utility and is more associated with being a dress watch nowadays). Richard Mille introduced a new watch during SIHH this week that approaches the polo problem in a new way that only the technology-driven brand could dream up.
Using brand ambassador and contemporary polo icon Pablo Mac Donough as a springboard for the development of the RM 53-01 Tourbillon, Richard Mille created a cable-suspended movement with a tourbillon and a laminated sapphire glass Carbon TPT case. The big challenge here was producing a watch that would be resistant to the countless shocks that any polo player goes through during a match. Richard Mille is no stranger to this after building multiple timepieces with tennis player Rafael Nadal that offer unprecedented levels of shock resistance.
To build this cable suspended movement, the RM team used two separate baseplates. The first is fixed to the sapphire glass case to support the tensioner mechanism. The second is connected to the first baseplate through multiple cables and incorporates the wheels that comprise the movement as well as the winding mechanism. This second baseplate rests on two braided steel cables that come in at just 0.27 mm in diameter. The two cables have a 10-pulley system that is leveraged by four tensioners. The RM team has to make sure that there is an even distribution throughout the intricate pulley system, while the grade 5 titanium used in the baseplate and bridges adds a stiffness that encourages ultimate shock protection.
To create the sapphire glass case, Richard Mille collaborated with Stettler, a renowned sapphire specialist. Inspired by the use of laminated glass in the automotive world, Stettler and RM developed a system of laying down two sheets of sapphire glass that are separated by a thin Polyvinyl film that is then covered in anti-reflective and UV coating. The case is machined in Carbon TPT, which is a patented structure that has been described as “virtually indestructible.” What’s most noticeable about the case, however, is its Damascene design that recalls Damascus steel, used centuries ago to create “virtually-indestructible” blades.
The RM 53-01 Tourbillon Pablo Mac Donough is limited to 30 total pieces.
Check out our recent interview with the man behind the brand, Richard Mille, here.