Horology is an ancient art. The watch industry as we know it began long before collectors ever thought about carbon, ever considered tourbillons, or could ever fathom the concept of sapphire crystals. That said, the industry has come a long way. Today, we have luxuries in the manufacturing process that watchmakers never could have dreamt of. These innovations have lifted the limitations of old, allowing for the opportunity to pursue new designs and exploit new materials. Today, we are comparing AP vs Richard Mille through two models: the AP Royal Oak reference 26265FO Concept in Carbon and the Richard Mille RM 002-V2. Let’s take a deep dive into the world of modern high horology.
Audemars Piguet has generally used the Concept collection to experiment with new ideas, materials and designs. The first Concept watch was the reference CW1, introduced in 2002 in a limited run of 150 pieces. Under the Concept umbrella, AP has also released a Laptimer timepiece for F1 driver Michael Schumacher. The Concept line as a whole features an ultra-modern rendition of the Royal Oak case, with exaggerated lines and a cushion-style oversized case. This design language conveys an almost futuristic appearance, and serves as the most progressive interpretation of the Royal Oak available. In 2008, AP released the Royal Oak Concept Carbon, with a tourbillon and chronograph, cased within the recognizable Concept package.
Unlike AP, for RM, rebellious, hyper-modernist designs are the norm. Rather than being relegated to a separate collection of pieces, RM’s entire catalog comprises these types of watches. The RM 002 was first introduced in 2002 with a titanium baseplate, but unfortunately, this baseplate proved to be incredibly difficult to handle in manufacturing without scratching easily. Thus, RM chose to come back years later, and remake the RM 002 in a second version with a carbon nanofiber baseplate. This is the story of the RM 002-V2. This commitment to continual refinement of design is part of the reason that RM has positioned itself as an innovator. Rather than viewing each reference as complete, RM views each watch as a draft so to speak, awaiting further enhancements and improvements to performance and appearance.
The AP Royal Oak Concept Carbon Tourbillon Chronograph is a substantial wrist presence. At 44m in diameter and 16mm in thickness, the watch is not going to slide under your cuff at work. While the piece has maintained the octagonal underlying theme, the case adds heft and faceted surfaces that broaden the wrist presence and expand its presentation on the wrist.
This piece uses a fairly unique chronograph display; rather than employing a traditional subdial, a black dot advances in a bar on the right side of the dial, indicating the number of elapsed minutes in ten minute sets. At 6 o’clock an indicator shows the crown position, notably, whether the crown is in its neutral position, winding position, or time setting position. At 9 o’clock, the tourbillon is suspended in its aperture, providing a great view of the beautiful movement. The case of this piece is quite intriguing, with a black ceramic bezel and carbon case. This is a modern piece, and AP has thus leaned heavily into the utilization of modern materials.
Opposite the Audemars Piguet, Richard Mille has its own distinctive look reinforced on the RM 002-V2. The piece has the classic RM tonneau case shape and exposed spline screws, the standard in RM aesthetics. The piece is 12.4mm thick, much thinner than most would picture the piece being. For context, this is consistent with the thickness of a Daytona. That said, this watch has a tourbillon.
Another foundational attribute of many RM pieces is the “floating” dial aesthetic, whereby the numerals are painted on a pane of sapphire underneath the crystal. The carbon nanofiber baseplate then provides contrast with the white numerals to give the illusion of a floating dial. This makes for a hyper modernist look that few brands have replicated. Once more, a tourbillon at 6 is visible through an aperture display. At the top of the piece are the torque and power reserve indicators. This piece is produced in 18k white gold, an ironic choice for such a powerful tool watch. This is truly the paradox of the RM brand. The company makes super performance oriented timepieces, yet at a high end price point and in precious metal. Somehow, the combination works remarkably well.
The AP is powered by the 388 part Caliber 2895. The in-house manually wound caliber houses a tourbillon, and fully integrated column wheel chronograph. To establish the carcass of the movement, AP has used many materials. The mainplate (which doubles as the dial), is made from carbon, while the bridges are constructed from anodized aluminum. The central bridge is also made from aluminum, but it has been greened, which creates both a flash of color, and a strong contrast for the PVD-coated componentry and black carbon. One of the great things about this movement is how AP has reoriented componentry to establish symmetry on the caseback.
While this piece has a visually intriguing movement, don’t erroneously assume there isn’t an equally strong spec within. The Caliber 2895 uses a double cone power reserve system and dual mainsprings to achieve an exceptional 10 day reserve. For a manually wound piece, this is a welcome feature.
To keep things simple, Richard Mille named the movement of the RM 002-V2 the RM 002-V2, and that wasn’t a typo. This version of the movement has the updated carbon nanofiber baseplate mentioned earlier. Next to the AP it may seem lacking, but the RM has 78 hours of power reserve, an impressive number in 9/10 power reserve comparisons. The piece has a built-in shock absorption system that is industry leading, allowing these mechanically delicate movements to withstand considerable abuse quite resiliently. Don’t take this as our blessing for you to throw your RM 002-V2 against a wall, but you get the idea. A mixture of finishes are present on the movement, and the spline screws have been mirror polished. It’s an impressive execution, and somehow feels more traditional next to the Audemars Piguet…
While these watches are aimed at similar audiences, they occupy different parts of their respective brand’s collections, thus impacting the watch’s focus. In the case of AP, most of the brand’s pieces are more traditional Royal Oaks. And while the Royal Oak on its own is a modern watch, the Concept is an entirely different level. That makes this piece perfectly situated to please the collector who enjoys AP history but wants a rebellious design. Within the collections, the Concept pieces are sort of viewed as the bad brother, the piece that pushes just a bit further than the rest. That’s perfect for a certain customer.
RM on the other hand, has made its reputation for being rebellious. Every watch in their offerings shares that rebellious streak, and that is part and parcel of the brand identity. When someone pictures an RM, chances are they think of a piece like the RM 002-V2. The same would likely not be the case with AP and the Concept. So where the AP Concept is the most unconventional for Audemars Piguet, the RM 002-V2 is precisely what one has come to expect from Richard Mille. If you have moved beyond entry-level RM (if there’s such a thing) and want something with high complications, this is the place to look.
For Audemars Piguet, it’s important to remember that the brand’s centuries old history was really established on high horology dress watches. The experimental streak the brand has been participating in, in particular with the Concept, is really a newer phenomenon. The brand is sort of in a transitional phase as they redefine their focus and offerings.
Both these watches have pushed the limits of watchmaking in a hyper-modernist direction. Using high performance materials and movements, each of these watches is a direct byproduct of the movement toward casual high complications. Arguably, it was RM that truly started this trend to this degree, but the Concept has played an equally vital role in catapulting the style to its present level of fame. Which would you choose?