Watches that levitate your soul! The RM027-02 and the Rafael Nadal RM027 series.

May 25, 2015,00:08 AM

With the third, and I believe the final installment in the RM027 series released this weekend, it seems an appropriate time to look back at the Richard Mille watches that have arguably been his most advanced series: the head long pursuit of a tourbillon that defies the senses, and a watch that weighs less than the soul of the wearer. A watch that can withstand forces that would pulverize the person wearing it on their wrist, but leave the watch intact and ticking! Described in such a manner, it seems impossible! But then, this is Richard Mille and that seems a reasonable starting point!

One point before I start: in all instances I have been lent the prototype: the lack of an ‘RN’ on the dial and no engraving on the case back. Hence, there are small differences between the watch I reviewed and the watch that went into production; but not in any substantive way.

The original RM027 was a case made of carbon nanotube polymer. It was Richard’s first foray into esoteric polymer compounds where no metal was present, and in this instance it enabled the case to be feather light but rigid. The movement was made completely from titanium and aluminum lithium (except for the escapement and the gear train), and was suspended above the back plate using brackets and bolts. The RM027-01 saw the introduction of a unique suspension mechanism: a cable that runs around the case and loops through the bridge construction keeping the movement suspended above the back of the case. The RM027-02 combines the same attributes: a suspended mechanism (although this time through the mid-section of the case) and counteracting force bridges. Suspension and lightness are the key running themes of the RM027 series.

21 grams.

So where does the notion that a watch can weigh less than your soul come from? The RM027 series has produced the lightest of lightweight tourbillon watches. The RM027 weighed in at 20 grams; the RM027-01 weighed in at 19 grams; and now the RM027-02 weighs in (as the heaviest of the set) at 21 grams. A digression on the weight of your soul: in 1907, in the peer reviewed journal: American Medicine, a Dr. Duncan McDougall, a doctor in Havering Massachusetts ran an experiment with six patients who were soon to die from tuberculosis. As time of death was closely known it allowed Dr. McDougall to set up the bed of the dying patient on an accurate scale. He noted the weight just before and just after death. He recorded that on average, the patient lost three-fourths of an ounce at the moment of death. All other factors held constant that was the weight of the human soul. He published the work under the title: “The Soul: Hypothesis Concerning Soul Substance Together with Experimental Evidence of the Existence of Such Substance.” in the reknowned medical journal: American Medicine. Three-fourths of an ounce has been converted under the metric system to 21 grams. The weight of your soul is 21 grams.


Meeting Richard: I still remember the first time I spoke with Richard about the RM027. He was in London to open a Boutique in Harrods (before the Fine Watch Room was open) and it was one those last minute calls that were unexpected at the time, but which I have now grown used to. Be at Harrods, door 7, and then we will go and have some lunch. Sounded good! Lunch with Richard is always fun and a roller coaster ride across a menu of topics. He had just opened the Boutique when I arrived and was obviously in a buoyant mood. Off we set for lunch. Lunch ordered and the conversation turned to watches that were in the works. At this point it was evident that Richard was having a difficult time containing his excitement. His eyes kept darting to a folder on the table beside him; back to me, back to the folder. A few minutes of discussion and then the containment field failed: “I am designing a watch for Rafael Nadal: the tennis player!”

Richard reached for the folder next to him, flicked through the pages, and there! His hand slammed on the page with a drawing. He turned the folder around so I could see, and there it was; the initial designs to the RM027. “It has to be light! Light enough so that Nadal does not feel it on his wrist when he’s playing! But it has to be robust; robust enough to withstand high g-force and being constantly hit!” It was a challenge, and Richard was obviously excited and definitely engaged on it.

In the coming months, various rumours started to flow out of Les Breuleux. Richard was experimenting with polymers with carbon nanotubes; Richard was looking into constructing a whole movement from aluminum lithium; Richard was wondering how to reduce mass in a substance that was already hollow! And so it went on. Then, about six months after that first meeting came the call to visit Les Breuleux and see the prototype. Ushered through a door at Richard Mille S.A., up in the old building that formed part of Montres Valgines S.A., the watch was sitting on the desk! And I still remember that feeling; that elation of putting the RM027 on my wrist for that first time. An irrepressible smile just radiates from the wrist, up through the left arm, to the facial muscles, and you smile. Not a scientific reaction, but as Richard always intends with his watches, an emotional one. In subsequent visits I noted the same reaction on other faces as they tried the watch on: always that smile, that look of incredulity, that levity in their soul.

Initially, it was not all smiles for one man! The RM027 weighed on the soul and conscience of Yves Mathys at Richard Mille S.A. at Les Breuleux. Yves is the General Manager and has the very responsible and enviable (or unenviable depending on what way you see it) job of actually producing the prototypes and watches from Richard’s thoughts and designs. Outside of the research that goes on at Renaud et Papi S.A. on Richard’s behalf, that usually involves testing the new materials and movements, it is Yves who must oversee it all: from inception to completion. Chatting with Yves, he described the RM027 as “nerve-racking”. Late in 2009 Richard approached Yves and told him a similar tale to the one told to me. “Sure” Yves replied, “No problem in getting the prototype ready for Roland Garros 2011.” “No!” came Richard’s reply “It’s for next year’s Roland Garros: for 2010!” The next few months were a whirlwind of activity on the prototype as Yves pushed forward to get the watch match ready by Roland Garros. Yves remarked that he did not enjoy Roland Garros that year: he spent the entire tournament glued to the television making sure the watch was still working! But it worked perfectly throughout: as did the wearer of the watch! Rafael Nadal won the French Open that year: 2010.

Suspension and G-Forces

It seems incredulous that a watch, weighing less than your soul, can withstand a g-force that would separate you from yours! In the same way that the human body can withstand a sudden impact (a punch or kick) that may unleash a large g-force with little or no permanent effect, a sustained series of high g-force impact hits will sustain damage, and a high g-force sustained over a longer period of time (it need only be a few seconds) can cause considerable damage and even death. From experiments, where an individuals is subjected to linear g-force through deceleration, it is thought that a human body can withstand up to 1500G for about 0.03 seconds, but any time beyond that can cause serious damage and within a second or two, death. A standard tennis ball is approximately hit with 1000G when it connects with a tennis racquet being wielded by a professional tennis player. Probably a greater force if Nadal is holding the racquet.

Suspension has a role to play in the design of the RM027 series. It is a common theme. The suspension for the RM027 was via the brackets that coupled the movement to the middle part of the case. For the RM027-01 a completely new suspension mechanism was designed. Although the RM027-01 came along two years after the first RM027, the cable design had been in the works for years before. The trick was getting a cable thin and tensile enough to hold the movement rigid inside the case. Although only 0.35mm in diameter, the braided steel cables were held taut by tensioners (as in a suspension bridge) that were tightened by the watchmaker with a special tool. The cable is held in place with pulleys located in the four corners of the middle section of the case. Once again, the case was a carbon nanotube injected polymer, and the movement parts were titanium or aluminum lithium (otherwise known as LITAL – an esoteric metal compound consisting of aluminum, copper, magnesium, and zirconium).

But the suspension mechanism on this occasion allowed the watch to withstand g-force shocks of up to 5000G. So what was the key? Why suspension? Suspension allows any ‘body’ to withstand a greater g-force shock and remain unaffected than if the shock was direct. Think of it this way: the RM027 design is acting like a G-Force Suit for a pilot. It is isolating the inner area from the g-forces affecting the outer area. By locating the mechanism away from the back and front bezel, the mechanism inside the watch is able to withstand a far greater impact than would normally be possible because of the suspension. It’s the kind of thing that NASA pays attention to: how to survive high sustained g-forces without causing damage. Typical of Richard that he should apply it to his watch!

The King of Cool!

So what does the RM027-02 bring to the series? The movement is still the same: that beautiful erudite and refined time only tourbillon that is the mainstay of the Richard Mille limited series. After years and years of seeing the movement, I never tire of the escapement’s perpetual dance. The innovation for this third iteration (even though it is titled: RM027-02) lies in the case construction: a three part approach that provides both the suspension for the mechanism, but a new feel to the wrist. The first thing that will strike you about the case is the look of the front bezel. An extreme concoction of carbon and quartz ply: layers at 45 degree angle to each other, the fusion of the two filaments creates not only a highly tensile material, but an alluring pattern between the black of the carbon fibre and the light of the quartz. Constructed in the same manner as the NTPT carbon, you have to ask yourself: so what? What does the infiltration of the TPT Quartz bring to the case construction?

The TPT quartz, apart from the aesthetic pleasure has the advantage in that its size does not change with temperature fluctuations. Fused quartz is often used for laboratory equipment that must not change shape along with the temperature. TPT quartz has a very low coefficient of thermal expansion; meaning that it does not change with temperature variations (such as when it is next to your wrist in a tennis tournament), it is ideal when playing in extreme heat. Because of this property, ingrained with the TPT Quartz material, the RM027-02 watch remains cool on the wrist.

The weight of the watch is such that you don’t ‘feel’ the watch on the wrist, but the isomorphic temperature properties of the quartz means that it remains cool; not just figuratively (because it is!) but also in the contact of the watch with the wrist. Richard has developed a quartz/carbon ply that remains perpetually cool! Necessary if you play tennis at Nadal’s level: you do not want to feel the watch on your wrist either through weight or annoyance. You can wear it all day – I know this because I tried – and be unaware that the watch is on your wrist. Of course, that does not stop you looking at it all the time, just to confirm that it is there, and to simply gaze and marvel at the watch.

The bridges and parts are now in grade 5 titanium. But it’s the design that catches the eye. The bridges that arch from the left side of the case: the shot blasted surface with the beautifully beveled polished interior. But against the force from the bridges, the back bridge, CNC machined from a solid block of NTPT carbon for the mid-section of the case, provides the countervailing forces to suspend the movement against shock. The movement is still suspended; it still has that suspension against the g-forces that may prevail; but the movement and case design is now integrated. The effect of course is stunning. The first thing that catches the eye is the bridge work; the second is the intricate movement balanced on screws and brackets that are built up from the NTPT carbon mid-section that moves the g-forces from the centre to the outside of the case; still insulating the movement from excessive shock.

With the aesthetic changes to the RM027, you can see a progression. The first RM027 had very rigid or angular lines: the suspension elements were there for a purpose and that purpose (while stunningly rendered) is carried out in the most efficient way through brackets attached to the case. By the RM027-01, the design had become less angular and more suspended through cables: the movement design reflected the forces on the various points: part suspension bridge, part watch movement, the mechanics were literally suspended within the watch case by a tensile cable. Finally, the RM027-02 provides an almost organic form to the problem: insulating the movement from excessive g-forces that might affect the timekeeping properties. The bridges act on forces in one direction; the NTPT carbon midsection moves forces in the other. The NTPT carbon and TPT quartz case allows the watch to become a second skin against your own; it becomes at one with your wrist. As light as your soul; at one with your skin; and more robust than your to forces affecting your body. You strap the watch to the arm and (as with any of the RM027 series) there it is again: that levity in your soul, that smile on your face (that try as you might just won’t go away), and the euphoric emotion in the sight and feel of the Richard Mille watch next to your skin. Your soul momentarily soars above as that smile lifts it away from the gravity of earthly confinement. The RM027-02 is a worthy and truly remarkable addition to the force majeure that is the RM027 series.

Andrew H This message has been edited by 219 on 2015-05-25 00:10:24 This message has been edited by 219 on 2015-05-25 02:07:21 This message has been edited by AnthonyTsai on 2015-06-23 06:13:34

More posts: Rafael NadalRM027RM027-01RM027-02

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excellent review...

 By: fomar : May 25th, 2015-00:50
as always ! great read. Thanks Andrew.

Awesome review Andrew.

 By: foversta : May 25th, 2015-03:12
You really underlined the strong asset of this watch: the case construction. If we forget the aesthetics rendering which sometimes makes me think to marble (but a very light one! ;) ), I'm sure as you say that the watch leads to a new feeling on the wrist... 

It is an amazing feeling to have the watch on the wrist. I did

 By: 219 : May 25th, 2015-10:33
not expect to like the watch as much as I did. But it does feel and look so cool on the wrist. Highly recommend trying it on when arrives at the new Paris Boutique. Thanks for the kind words Andrew H

What a review....

 By: Fricks : May 25th, 2015-03:22
... fantastic watch and you sure know how to tell a story. Any info about the price? As with all Rm, there is no taboo about mentioning the price...

But on the Purists we try to stay away from such discussions....

 By: 219 : May 25th, 2015-10:35
Although ownership of the watch does require thinking about the price; appreciation does not. That said, think large six figures and if you want to know more then please PM me. Thanks Andrew H

Fascinating article.

 By: carl : May 25th, 2015-05:41
I now have a greater appreciation of these time pieces. Spent a while trying to work out how the crown functions when isolated from the suspended mechanism. Still cannot quite see it... Most enjoyable. Thanks.

That's a great review Andrew

 By: Mark in Paris : May 25th, 2015-07:49
You say at the beginning "I believe the final installment..." does it mean final of the RM027 series ever or to date ? What I like in RM's tourbillon watches is that they usually keep the small size case. In this new version, I especially love those 2 bri... 

Thanks Mark - the bridges are what struck me first when I saw it.

 By: 219 : May 25th, 2015-10:44
Up close, they are highly stylized and beautifully finished: beaded on the lead surface, beveled and polished on the inner surfaces. Stunning to look at. But the case is the next wonder: it really does 'disappear' in feel against the skin. Andrew H

You're right about the finishing

 By: Mark in Paris : May 25th, 2015-13:40
I saw also the videos on the official RM website and the clos ups, the finishing is amazing :) And I imagine the feel on the wrist you talk about .... My RM035 is 40gr so 21gr must feel like a feather ! Cheers, Mark

A true pleasure to read

 By: colton_d : May 25th, 2015-07:54
I really felt the emotion in this one, Andrew. Beautiful pictures, and expertly detailed on-the-wrist impressions. Thank you very much for taking on the task for us.. I'm sure it was difficult handing it back ;) One question on the TPT case. what does the... 

Yes, after a number of expletives about how good the watch was,

 By: 219 : May 25th, 2015-10:48
I handed it back with more of the same about screwing with my head! The quartz is more like a super fine sandstone in feel. It does not react to anything and stays cool against skin. Really a masterstroke to use such a material. Thanks for reading and you... 


 By: chris4 : June 8th, 2015-01:59
Great write up Andrew, very very interesting indeed. I really like the look of the case material on the latest incarnation, and loving the way it blends so nicely with the orange strap. Unfortunatley I cannot get on with the look of the movement, funny th... 

A pleasure

 By: nacho217 : May 25th, 2015-09:15
Just finish to read , ! Congratulations ! A real pleasure ! , i could even imagine it in my wrist , and about the watch , ¿what to say? , for me RM is the best brand of watches undoubtely and this must be the best RM ever made , the first time I saw the c... 

I love the case... looks like someone has taken to an electric sander to a carbon case!

 By: andrewluff : May 25th, 2015-09:48
But in a very cool way and amazing that each case will have a different unique look. I know from wearing the original how amazing this piece is and the weight is just out of this world, but I do question on thing... I love the orange strap but why on eart... 

Remember that despite the price, this is a sports tourbillon...

 By: 219 : May 25th, 2015-10:55
It is made with, and with Rafael Nadal at the forefront of thinking: hence the colouring reflects what Nadal wants and how it will be seen on him. His tennis gear tends to vary in colour and tone and my bet is that the colouring scheme to this watch will ... 

Now that's a mind-blowing article - and stunning watch!

 By: cazalea : May 25th, 2015-10:03
plus your photography is great. I have got to see one of these someday soon! Thanks Mike

My thanks Mike. Do see it if you can. It is a mesmerizing and

 By: 219 : May 25th, 2015-10:59
alluring watch.... If only for a few moments. Andrew H

Excellent article Andrew!! Your personal insight into the watch goes far beyond...

 By: MichaelC : May 25th, 2015-10:37
the great photos. It helps someone like me - who has not yet owned a Richard Mille or had the opportunity to handle them - really understand the soul of this brand. And now I want to own one in my collection thanks to your passionate review. So thank you ... 

Thanks Michael - hope that some of the passion about Richard Mille

 By: 219 : May 25th, 2015-11:01
came across. I find the high end RM tourbillon pieces have a special feel about them and this was no exception. Wonderful watch and if you get the chance, try it on! Thanks Andrew H

I'll be back!

 By: kolosstt : May 25th, 2015-10:44
It is such a great report that I will come back and read it again. Excellent work. Thank you!

Andrew, thank you for a great article!

 By: blomman Mr Blue : May 25th, 2015-11:56
Fantastic - I really hope to get to see this "lighter than my soul" watch in real! Must have been fantastic to had the chance to wear the prototype for a longer time. To try a watch for a few minutes is one thing, but it is only after a certain amount of ... 

Thanks - and yes - do feel privileged to have tried out each one of the

 By: 219 : May 25th, 2015-13:21
series as well as the latest. Truly brilliant and memorable watch series. Love the latest one; but then, love them all! Andrew H

Wow thanks for the awesome review and preview of the RM027-02!

 By: AnthonyTsai : May 25th, 2015-13:04
Now this is the ultimate Richard Mille watch! I like this one better than the sapphire RM because it's a practical watch to wear. The TPT Quartz & NPTP Carbon bezel and caseback are mesmerizing to look at. In every single photo that I've seen, the wat...  

Thanks Anthony! Sharp eyed Purists will notice that all other websites

 By: 219 : May 25th, 2015-13:17
have these photos. Feel fortunate to have been able to wear and review the RM027-02 prototype. You can tell because the case lines, a little like each set of tree rings being individual, are different. Thanks Andrew H

Contribution of air to the weight of your soul

 By: MTF : May 25th, 2015-16:54
Andrew, Thanks for the review and contemplation on the evolution of the latest RM027 watch. I agree that the value of this watch is not measured by its diminutive weight but the exultation it induces. I like this iteration if the RM027 series purely becau... 

Brilliant Melvyn! you should have been a research scientist! :)

 By: 219 : May 26th, 2015-03:34
Of course the 21 grams might also be the mass change from the nervous excitement of handing over your credit card or bank draft to pay for the watch! But like the reasoning! Thanks Andrew H

I'll bet these guys lost 21 grams . . .

 By: Dr No : May 27th, 2015-10:17
. . . after this performance, and then some. :-) Come to think of it, after Sunday night's performance . . . . . . the next notable Richard should consider as an ambassador cum beta tester is your countryman, still performing at full tilt in his seventies... 

Great review and pictures Andrew!

 By: jrwong23 (aka watchthebin) : May 26th, 2015-06:30
I am generally not a fan of futuristic watches as I prefer the classics but this RM is very very impressive, pushing the boundaries of high tech watch making yet beautifully crafted and finished ! Well done RM and thanks very much for your nice review And... 

Thanks Robin! And the watches are all that! At the base of

 By: 219 : May 26th, 2015-13:14
Richard's thinking is that it is the skill and the hand craft that matters: he has just applied the luxury of that to new materials and concepts. Andrew H

RM is indeed impressive

 By: jrwong23 (aka watchthebin) : May 27th, 2015-06:53
To blend luxury and high tech innovation and engineering so well. Respect! Cheers Robin

Awesome review!

 By: mjnoumoff : May 26th, 2015-11:04
and writeup about the evolution of the RM27!!! Thank you!

1 additional question Andrew

 By: Mark in Paris : June 5th, 2015-05:54
I've been reading about the watch lately and I had 1 question I'd like to ask you They switched from the "cables" to a baseplate completly linked to the bezel and caseback: do you know how they managed to help the movement to resist to shocks? Maybe they ... 

Thanks for the questions Mark...

 By: 219 : June 6th, 2015-08:49
In response: 1. I dont know exactly how it helps other than the movement is not directly connected to the front or back bezel. That helps if the watch comes into direct contact with a high g-force shock. 2. The quartz has a two fold effect. As mentioned i... 

Quartz TPT

 By: Mark in Paris : June 6th, 2015-09:07
I read once more you rexcellent article and could find the answer to my 2nd question thanks for repeating this :) Concerning your 1st reply I can indeed imagine how working with the NTPT baseplate and mouvement material can resist to important shocks. Tha... 

Superb review...

 By: patrick_y : June 9th, 2015-16:45
Great photos and great watch. A watch that weighs as much as one's soul. That's an interesting coincidence. I will definitely be looking out for this watch when I'm traveling in major cities that have a Richard Mille boutique. The materials of this watch ... 

Thanks for the kind words Patrick. I would try and get to see and

 By: 219 : June 14th, 2015-13:50
try the watch on; if only for the moment, as the watch really does have that levity... Thanks again Andrew H

Thanks for sharing Andrew!

 By: BABKA : August 30th, 2015-15:31
That prototype looks out of this world. I love the strap design and color too.

Thanks Babka!  Appreciate the kind...

 By: 219 : August 31st, 2015-02:27
Thanks Babka! Appreciate the kind words. Andrew H From: www watchprosite <[Email address suppressed for privacy]> To: [Email address suppressed for privacy] Sent: Sunday, August 30, 2015 11:31 PM Subject: {7111693} AutoForum response Thanks for shar...