As an athlete, perhaps no watch brand endorsement is more prestigious than one from Richard Mille. The brand’s identity is intertwined with sports; from diving to racing to golf to equestrian sports to skiing to track, Richard Mille has partnered with some of the world’s most famous athletes, and endeavored to build timepieces capable of withstanding the grueling demands of hard use in real applications. The Richard Mille RM 61-01 Yohan Blake All Grey limited edition is just another manifestation of RM’s partnerships. A celebrated Jamaican runner, Yohan Blake is one of the fastest runners in recorded history, holding many gold medals and world championship victories and serving as an inspiration for many young athletes globally.
Richard Mille’s partnership with Yohan Blake began in 2013, with the release of the RM 59-01, a skeletonized tourbillon movement with asymmetrical case design and unique green and yellow color scheme. The piece was limited to 50 examples, and retailed for over half a million dollars. The choice for partnership came directly following Yohan Blake’s monumental 2012 London Olympics, where he broke world records in the men’s 4 x 100 relay.
Shortly following the successful partnership in 2013, RM released the RM 61-01, a slightly more compact, and less complex variant on the 59-01’s design language, incorporating the fundamental characteristics of the 59-01, while updating its aesthetics. The new piece was time-only, but featured a skeletonized movement and updated technologies. The RM 61-01 was offered in a variety of limited configurations, the most famous being the classic Jamaican flag color scheme. Today we will be discussing a lesser known variant known as the RM 61-01 All Grey. This piece is predominantly monochromatic in its color scheme, with black case and black strap. Only the dial features include accents of gray to provide contrast. The RM 61-01 All Grey was limited to 150 pieces.
The Yohan Blake RM 61-01 All Grey features a unique case profile that is asymmetrical both in size, and thickness. The case slopes upward towards the crown, creating a unique presence on the wrist. Simultaneously, the diameter of the case tapers from small to large, creating an aesthetic reminiscent of some of Picasso’s portraits. The three-part case is made from Tetragonal Zirconia Polycrystal ceramic, which is a biocompatible ceramic composed of over 95% zirconia (ZrO2), which keeps the overall weight of the watch quite low without compromising durability. The idea was to make a watch that would seamlessly fit on the wrist without inhibiting the running motion of Yohan Blake. Heavier timepieces would have generated an imbalance that would interfere with running capabilities. In addition to the ceramic case architecture, the movement is fully skeletonized, further stripping weight off the piece.
An additional benefit of TZP ceramic is its remarkable resistance to scratches and corrosion. You’re looking at a material that’s tougher and more scratch resistant than sapphire, yet that has a structural density that allows for the creation of its sleek matte finish. On sports watches, bezels often become scratch magnets that forever frustrate their owners, so this kind of robustness is a welcome change of pace. Its movement is made from grade 5 titanium and the baseplate is PVD coated, maintaining the dark stealth presentation that is characteristic of the piece. The ceramic case sides feature a textured design that occurs within the graining of the ceramic, playing with the light in certain environments, and adding a bit of character to the otherwise predominantly neutral case. In terms of contrast, the majority of the oversized crown guards and hands are brushed to jive with the matte black of the rest of the case.
Ultimately, every design choice on the watch was made with performance in mind. It’s a materially sophisticated creation that exploits materials innovations in every possible way.
The RM61-01 is powered by the caliber RMUL2. The skeletonized movement is designed with shock prevention in mind, suspending the gear train within a network of PVD coated titanium components. The piece was tested for shock resilience in excess of 5000 g’s. The RMUL2 is fitted with a pair of mainspring barrels to help stabilize the delivery of its 55-hour power reserve.
The high performance RMUL2 is visible through the sapphire case back of the timepiece. From the dial side, it is possible to view straight through the skeletonized caliber to the wrist. Richard Mille has placed two horizontal stabilizing bridges to maintain the stability and rigidity of the movement in the absence of a standard base plate structure.
The brilliance of the design is the fact that in traditional cases, skeletonized movements are significantly more fragile than typical calibers. In this particular case RM hasn’t sacrificed the resilience of the construction in spite of the aesthetic enhancements the skeleton movement requires.
Versus the Competition
Richard Mille has made an array of intriguing limited editions that may be of interest when considering alternatives to the RM61-01 Yohan Blake. Firstly, the RM005 limited edition of 300 pieces for motor racing legend Felipe Massa affords an exciting flash of color within an automatic winding time only piece. The unique design is rounded out with a racing inspired date display at 7 o’clock. The piece is fully constructed from titanium.
Yet another limited piece, made in only 30 examples in black carbon, the RM030 Americas was offered exclusively in North and South American points of sale. Like the RM61-01, the RM030 features grade 5 titanium PVD coated bridges and a titanium deployant clasp.
Another intriguing RM reference is the 50 piece limited RM60-01, which unlike most RM pieces is round rather than tonneau-shaped. The piece was designed with a flyback Regatta chronograph complication and was fashioned from titanium.
These pieces all reflect Richard Mille’s embrace of modern materials while prioritizing resilience and durability for sport applications.
There are several classes of collectors that will appreciate the RM61-01:
Firstly, there is a full segment of the market that emphatically collects limited editions from Richard Mille, assembling an arsenal of special pieces for future investment.
Alongside these collectors, many will be attracted to the fact that the Yohan Blake RM61-01 is asymmetrical in case geometry. This defining characteristic helps to distinguish the model from previous references from RM. Thus, for a collector that wants to diversify their RM collection, this piece could be a good place to look, affording a modified tonneau as opposed to the traditional symmetrical version.
A particularly niche segment of the collecting interest will come from followers of Yohan Blake specifically. While this may seem like a small subset of collectors, brands can make this choice when dealing with limited productions at these quantities. Ultimately, RM only requires a few collectors to be interested for a watch to be successful.
The Yohan Blake reference RM61-01 represents what RM does best— limited editions based upon partnerships with brand ambassadors and athletic superstars. This reference showcases the brand’s continual embrace of modern materials and commitment to accuracy and durability. RM pieces are overbuilt mechanisms designed to withstand incredible mechanical strains and trials. Thus, although these watches represent a luxury, they are simultaneously designed and executed as a tool, an aspect that is often neglected. The RM61-01 is light by design and resilient by necessity, and demonstrates that luxury can also be built like a tank.