Richard Mille RM 004-V2

Classical Rebellion: Richard Mille RM 004-V2

When is a watch a classic complication, and when is it a rebellion against convention? The distinction between these two polar opposites becomes very difficult to define, yet the Richard Mille RM 004-V2 lives comfortably as both extremes. RM as a brand has thrived on the inexplicable dichotomy between traditional complications, and modernist case design and stylistic appeal. Some swear by the achievements of Richard Mille whereas others malign the brand for its heretical destruction of conventional attitudes to watchmaking. Regardless of where you fall in the debate, the RM 004-V2 represents Richard Mille’s approach to watchmaking perfectly, highlighting their classical mechanical influences, and simultaneously, their rebellious and individualistic communication of those complications. 

Richard Mille RM 004-V2
Richard Mille RM 004-V2

History

The first RM 004 was introduced in 2003, representing the beginning of a legacy of RM chronographs. The RM 004 was originally offered in titanium and rose gold. With time, RM had customers claiming that their watches were losing accuracy as a result of magnetism of the movement. With research, RM discovered that the steel hands they were using were generating static electricity that was magnetizing the movement, and in turn, shortening the frequency of the balance, speeding up the watch. With time, RM changed the hands to titanium to deal with this issue. Similarly, the first RM 004 pieces were constructed with titanium baseplates, although the brand quickly shifted to nanofibre baseplates for aesthetic advantages. These shifts in design ultimately led to the birth of the RM 004-V2, introduced in 2018 with the nanofiber baseplate. The piece incorporates titanium bridges wherever possible in the movement to help reduce the weight and presence on the wrist and combines many of the elements of later RM 004 variations into a single reference.

Richard Mille RM 004-V2
Richard Mille RM 004-V2

Design Details

The RM 004-V2 is fashioned in classic Richard Mille style, with a tonneau-shaped case that swells towards its center and tapers off into the strap. A massive crown sits on the right side of the case and is joined by the rattrapante pusher. On the left side of the case, the two chronograph start and stop pushers reside, polished on all surfaces to accentuate their presence alongside the brushed, industrial white gold case. The dial is constructed from sapphire, providing visual access to the topography of the carbon nanofibre base plate from the movement side of the dial. The piece is clearly inspired by the brand’s relationship with automotive racing, with red accents placed on the hand of the 30 minute chronograph totalizer and on the chronograph seconds. Richard Mille has distinguished between the chronograph functions which receive the red markings, and the running seconds, which is painted yellow at 6 o’clock. The automotive motif is extended to the power reserve and torque indicator, which resemble speedometers. 

Richard Mille RM 004-V2
Richard Mille RM 004-V2

Torque indication is actually a very interesting complication commonly found on RMs and some AP timepieces, which allows the wearer to optimize the torque of the mainspring to ensure consistent timekeeping. This complication reiterates the point made earlier: although this watch is quite polarizing in case design and appointments, the brand’s complications lend credibility to the watch as a whole. When a brand invests so much time and money in R&D for its complications, one has to assume that an equal time was placed in considering those other elements such as the case and hour markers. Thus, even those collectors that don’t gravitate towards this piece’s visual appearance should still appreciate and compliment the brand for its achievement. There is no doubt that the rattrapante is one of the most difficult complications to execute. Equally selective are the customers that gravitate towards this complication. Thus, Richard Mille’s audacious combination of design and complication somehow fuse to form a compelling piece that is in high demand. 

Richard Mille RM 004-V2
Richard Mille RM 004-V2

Inner Workings

When the RM 004-V2 is flipped over, it is immediately apparent that RM knows what they are doing. The complexity of the split-seconds mechanism should not be deemphasized— rattrapantes approach minute repeaters in a league of their own for complications. The fact that a brand as young as Richard Mille has executed this complication so flawlessly demonstrates a tremendous amount about Richard Mille. The caliber RM 004-V2 is perfectly consistent with the theme of the rest of the piece, one that communicates the dichotomy between the industrial appointments of the piece, and the traditional roots of the complication, with the black carbon base plate contrasting vividly with the titanium componentry of the movement’s complex network. This technique causes the bridges to pop on the piece, and also emphasizes the brand’s embrace of modern materials. 

Richard Mille RM 004-V2
Richard Mille RM 004-V2
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Versus the Competition

The split-seconds chronograph is notorious for its complexity, and as such, few brands have successfully made split second’s timepieces while preserving thin cases. Additionally, since the complication is dominated by high horology brands, the watches that house the rattrapante are generally dress watches. This makes the RM a bit of an anomaly within the industry. 

Richard Mille RM 004-V2
Richard Mille RM 004-V2

Other prominent references to incorporate the split-seconds complication would be the Patek Philippe 5370P that we previously covered here. What’s interesting is that the 5370 and the RM 004-V2 are priced in a very similar range. Although the timepieces are completely different and likely wouldn’t be sought after by the same collectors, the parallel complications create an interesting point of comparison. The 5370P is made from platinum (vs white gold), and has an enamel dial (vs sapphire). These two watches perfectly exemplify the uniqueness of the Richard Mille placement within the industry as a modernist interpretation of the complication of old. The split-seconds is featured both on a platinum timepiece with enamel dial and classical proportions, and on a white gold sports watch with carbon fibre and racing inspiration. Arguably no other brand would have so successfully pulled off the tight rope between respect for tradition, and rebellion against the unwritten rules of design

Richard Mille RM 004-V2
Richard Mille RM 004-V2

To further highlight this divide, the IWC Da Vinci Perpetual Calendar Split-Seconds Chronograph shows the classical combination of complications in a precious metal, refined dress package. The final piece that may be of interest would be the F.P. Journe Chronographe Monopoussoir Rattrapante. This distinct Journe design certainly leans sportier (similar to the RM). I think that both the Journe and the RM constitute the more progressive extension of the rattrapante into more modern packages befitting the new audience. The success of Richard Mille speaks to two distinct phenomena: 1, the overall shift of the market away from the dress watch and towards sports pieces, and 2, the undeniable impact of pop culture on the face of the watch industry. Richard Mille’s F1 fame has undoubtedly solidified the brand’s position within the market, and has also exploded RM’s popularity globally.

Richard Mille RM 004-V2
Richard Mille RM 004-V2

Personality

The beauty of the Richard Mille RM 004-V2 is the fact that it appeals to a market segment that may have had no alternatives. If you are looking for an incredibly recognizable sports watch that doesn’t sacrifice or lose sight of the value of high complications, look no further than the RM 004-V2. No matter your feelings for Richard Mille, the brand deserves an immense amount of respect and admiration for starting a cult-like following of passionate collectors that care deeply about horology, but are searching for something completely unprecedented. There have always been collectors that pined for a well finished Patek Philippe, but only in recent years has this newer segment of the market existed. In many ways, RM’s success is reassuring, in that it has demonstrated that a younger group of consumers can appreciate elements of watchmaking that were previously reserved for the likes of Patek Philippe, Lange, Journe, and others of that market segment. RM now has extended their design philosophy to incorporate tourbillons, chronographs, time-only watches, and more, with a fan base that is growing exponentially. 

Richard Mille RM 004-V2
Richard Mille RM 004-V2

Final Thoughts

The RM 004-V2 is undeniably a walking paradox. On the one hand, it’s traditional, and at the same time, rebellious; at first glance it’s a sports watch, yet it’s also fashioned from white gold. The best watches are arguably those that inspire this sort of questionability and inconstancy. When Rolex released their two tone Explorer, segments of the market rejoiced, while others fumed that Rolex would take a tool watch, and combine it with precious metal. This controversy drives the discussion and lifeblood of collectors globally, and is the foundation for a strong brand identity. When a brand can evoke such strong feelings in collectors,  you know that that brand is here to stay.

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