Open hearted

Recently at SIHH 2013, I sat with the RM 56-01 Tourbillon Sapphire and we commenced our session by discussing its childhood. I felt a full analysis was justified.

Richard Mille RM 56-01 Tourbillon Sapphire

There is an alluring appeal in the innocence of youth. If you talk to a child, they will share many of their inner feelings. They have not developed a sense of caution or inhibited expression.

Sadly, with maturity and wisdom we develop a veneer, an armoured plated shell to protect ourselves from revealing to much of our inner feelings. Few adults will not have experienced some form of unrequited love which has lead to a sense of rejection and failure. Moreover, a candid exchange with a confidant can come back to haunt the foolish, as friendships dissolve.

It is not surprising that with middle-age, many people have developed a psychological husk, formed from tungsten carbide.

Sincerity is a virtuous trait, seldom proffered in adulthood. To be open hearted is a rare gift to be cherished. It shows the provider is at ease with revealing their inner workings, in candid elucidation.

This preamble brings me to the latest offering from Richard Mille, the RM 56-01 Tourbillon Sapphire. It is unusually presented in a clear sapphire crystal case. It reveals its psyche to the wearer with forthright parlance, conveying every nuance of its inner mind. No misdemeanours are hidden from view, nor undesirable traits covertly disguised. This watch bears it soul and invites analysis by all those who make its acquaintance.

Recently at SIHH 2013, I sat with the RM 56-01 Tourbillon Sapphire and we commenced our session by discussing its childhood. I felt a full analysis was justified.

The dial

Richard Mille has never sought to emulate others by following well trodden paths. It is a brand which invariably ventures off-piste and in so doing finds new, undiscovered concepts for the delectation of its customers.

Richard Mille RM 56-01 Tourbillon Sapphire

The RM 56-01 Tourbillon Sapphire perfectly demonstrates this with a sapphire crystal baseplate. It provides a near-invisible canvas to express the watchmakers art. The central bridge and third wheel of the going train, repeat the colourless theme.

The wearer is presented with a view of the remaining elements of the movement and the various indications on the dial. It is the horological equivalent of showing the vital organs of the torso. However, this is not a gruesome sight, quite the contrary. Indeed, it captivates the interest of any would-be wearer with the matchless micromechanics, floating in an almost ethereal way.

The hour and minute hands are skeletonised and tipped in white.

At 11 o’clock a power-reserve indicator floats in midair. A lithe red hand points to the arc-like scale.

Richard Mille RM 56-01 Tourbillon Sapphire

At 1 o’clock is a torque display. This is an example of the profound engineering prowess of the Richard Mille brand. It shows the mainspring’s tension. There is an ideal tension range for isochronism and reliable operation and this is shown on an indicated area on the display, between 53 dNmm and 65 dNmm. The display mirrors the design of the power-reserve indicator, affording symmetry and balance to the dial.

Richard Mille RM 56-01 Tourbillon Sapphire

I adore the function selector on previous Richard Mille models and I am pleased to see it appear on this model. The wearer presses a push-button located at the hub of the crown and this selects one of three options for the operation of the crown. A red hand points to W (winding), N (neutral) or H (hands). Simple in its presentation and use, yet, like many aspects of Richard’s watches, incredibly challenging in its conception and delivery.

The tourbillon cage sits proudly at 6 o’clock and a titanium flange frames the dial.

The case

Sapphire crystal is an incredibly hard material. In this instance, it has a hardness of 1800 Vickers. Often used in the watch industry for dials, its scratch resistance is well known. However, its hardness presents many challenges for engineering multi-faceted parts.

The clear material necessitates time consuming machining to produce the case of the RM 56-01 Tourbillon Sapphire. It takes over 1000 hours of machining to create, of which 430 hours are spent pre-forming the case and a further 350 hours are expended on the subsequent polishing process. Moreover, the machining process does not allow for even the slightest error during milling and cutting. All these aspects conspire to raise the price of manufacture, but perfection invariably comes at a high price.

Placing the RM 56-01 Tourbillon Sapphire on my wrist recently, I found it incredibly comfortable. This has become a given, based on my experience with other Richard Mille models.

Richard Mille RM 56-01 Tourbillon Sapphire

The caseback arcs, following the contour of the wrist, enhancing wearer comfort thanks to the tripartite construction of the case. This is where the front bezel, caseband and caseback are joined together, in steadfast union, courtesy of 24 spline screws in grade 5 titanium and abrasion resistant washers in 316L stainless steel. The complexity of the case is mind-boggling, but the outcome is magnificent.

Richard Mille RM 56-01 Tourbillon Sapphire

Removing the watch from the wrist and admiring the caseback is equally impressive. The matchless horological expertise is simply stunning.

The movement

Reading the specification sheet of any Richard Mille model is a technical feast of delicious details. The aesthetic brilliance of this model is equally matched by the depth of engineering with numerous enhancements to improve rate keeping.

Obsessive attention to detail ensures friction is mitigated, reducing energy consumption.

The RM 56-01 Tourbillon Sapphire has a power reserve of approximately 70 hours which is impressive when you consider the various functions on the watch.

The aspect of the movement I particularly adore is the finishing. Modernity does not mean Richard Mille have eschewed finissage. On the contrary, the movement features hand-polished sections, bevelling and circular decorated surfaces. All aspects of the movement are distilled to perfection.


It is brave to bear your soul and open your heart. But, Richard Mille has never lacked courage and the honesty exampled in this fine horological form is unlikely to be subject to reasoned criticism.

Alas, perfection comes at a price, reputedly 1.65M CHF + VAT (£1.14M + VAT or €1.32M + VAT). However, if you are in the fortunate position to have the fiscal means to acquire one of these exceptional timepieces, then don’t delay, this is a limited edition of only five pieces.

Technical Specification

  • Model: Richard Mille RM 56-01 Tourbillon Sapphire
  • Reference: RM 56-01
  • Case: Sapphire crystal; dimensions 50.50 mm x 42.70 mm; height 16.75 mm.
  • Functions: Hours; minutes; ; power-reserve indicator; function selector; torque indicator; tourbillon.
  • Movement: Caliber RM56-01; manual-wind; frequency 21,600 vph (3 Hz); 28 jewels; power reserve 70 hours.
  • Strap: Aerospace nano®.
  • Limited Edition: 5 pieces.

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