In the short 20 years that Richard Mille has been operating his eponymous watch brand, he has managed to create the go-to status symbol watch for the elite. The brand basically only produces “grail” watches, and despite any controversy around its designs and exorbitantly high price point—most if not all Richard Mille watches sell for over six figures—it’s undeniable that the brand has had a huge impact on the watch industry. This Richard Mille RM002-V2 is one of the company’s earliest watch models; it illustrates so much of what makes the brand great and is surely a future classic.
Richard Mille watches often build off innovations put into the models that came before them. This constant improvement has helped the brand stay on the bleeding edge of watch innovation. For example, the original RM002 was released in 2002 and used technology pioneered in the RM001, like a proprietary clutch mechanism and a PVD coated titanium baseplate. However, as we see with this watch, Richard Mille will sometimes go backward and take technology from new watches and introduce it into older models. This particular watch is the second version of the RM002 hence the V2 at the end of its name.
You see, when you’re constantly innovating, you can quickly surpass even recent improvements, and despite its advantages over brass, the PVD coated titanium used in the original RM002 turned out to be a handling and servicing nightmare. It was extremely prone to scratches. One slip up by a watchmaker could mean having to replace the baseplate entirely.
A few years and a few watches later, Richard Mille had figured out how to solve this with the RM006. The RM006 utilized a carbon nanofiber baseplate which was even lighter than titanium but not as scratch-prone. The improvement was so substantial that Richard Mille decided to go back to the RM002 and create the second version of the watch—which is the model we have here—that utilized this new carbon nanofiber baseplate.
That, in a nutshell, is what I love so much about Richard Mille, the brand had already moved on to other watches, but the problem with the PVD titanium baseplates still ate away at Richard Mille enough that he had to go back and fix it. He could have just introduced the improvement and accepted that an older watch just wasn’t going to be as good as a new one, but he didn’t and because of that, we have this, the best possible version of the RM002.
Richard Mille timepieces have a very distinct look that makes them recognizable from a mile away, and this watch is no different. Here you have the classic Richard Mille tonneau case shape, the spline screws holding the case together, and the easily recognizable recessed, satin-finished case flanks. Richard Mille’s watches are so distinct visually that you can easily recognize them just by seeing the case flank. This is generally considered the most boring part of the watch on other watches, but Richard Mille’s unique case construction and finishing make the view decidedly interesting.
This 18k white gold RM002-V2 measures 38mm across and is just 12.4mm thick. Those measurements might catch you off guard because the watch looks so thick in photos, but it’s deceptively svelte. Along with being as thick—or thin—as a Rolex Daytona, you’ll also notice from the profile view that the entire case, including the front and back sapphire crystals, are curved to hug the wrist. This added touch of ergonomics makes for an exceptionally wearable timepiece.
Also adding to the optical illusion of thickness is the depth of the “floating” dial. In addition to the curved sapphire crystal that protects the hands and other read-outs, there is a second crystal underneath that the Arabic numerals are painted onto. This allows for full visibility to the watch’s unique components without sacrificing legibility. One can see the carbon fiber baseplate, the tourbillon, and more while easily reading the time at a glance. This is a trait most other skeleton or see-through dials fail to achieve.
In addition to the splendid view of components and the time, you’ll see a few other key pieces of information. At the top right side of the dial, you’ll find a torque meter assembly that displays the amount of torque the mainspring is putting out, then to the left of that, you have the power reserve, and finally, in between four and five o’clock, you have the crown gear display with W, N, H. This is one of the key innovations on this watch. The W indicates the watch is ready to wind, the N indicates neutral, and H lets you know it’s ready to set. These different modes are shifted through by simply pushing the crown. This feature not only serves as a connection to the automotive world, which Richard Mille loves, it also eliminates the significant wear and tear put on the crown stem and movement when one pulls the crown out. Like most of Richard Mille’s watches, this RM002 is thoughtful, forward-thinking, and connected to automobile racing.
Powering the RM002-V2 is the appropriately named hand-wound caliber RM002-V2. As stated earlier, one of the key features of this movement is its innovative use of carbon nanofiber. You’ll also find a Glucydur monometallic free spring balance, and Elinvar balance spring from Nivarox and KIF-Elastor shock protection. Additionally, the movement has an impressive 78-hour power reserve and beautiful hand finishing. The view from the display case back is unique with its combination of novel and traditional finishing techniques. However, the attention to detail is extremely high; even the Richard Mille trademark spline screws are black polished. This level of movement finishing is only rivaled by the best in business, and it illustrates that while Richard Mille is willing to constantly challenge the status quo, the brand also has great respect for traditional craftsmanship.
Versus The Competition
When Richard Mille first started producing watches, the brand was in uncharted territory; there really weren’t many other watch brands out there making totally original, status quo shattering timepieces that cost as much as most people’s houses. Go figure. Even now, this watch is in a very specific market segment with a value of over $400k. However, as I’m sure you’ve learned from reading this blog, there are always alternatives.
Consider this Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept Carbon Tourbillon Chronograph. For about half what the Richard Mille costs at around $200k, you get a watch that masterfully combines exotic materials with a case and movement consisting of forged carbon, titanium, and ceramic. This all black tourbillon chronograph not only adds an additional complication but it makes the Richard Mille look positively old-fashioned. It also has an insane 237-hour/10-day power reserve. That said—and I can’t believe I’m saying this about Audemars Piguet—it’s not a Richard Mille and thus doesn’t have the “billionaire bad boy” cachet. Now whether or not that matters enough for you to spend an additional 200k is up to you.
Another watch worth your consideration in this market segment is the F.P. Journe Vagabondage II. F.P. Journe and Richard Mille are very much cut from the same cloth. However, while Richard Mille has a tech-heavy, race car inspired take on the wristwatch, F.P. Journe has an equally innovative yet classical take on his timepieces. Like the RM002, this is a tonneau-shaped precious metal timepiece with a see-through dial, but it offers an interesting steampunk aesthetic with its digital time display. With the RM002, you get an undoubtedly well-finished watch; however, the finishing on the Vagabond case and movement is done in a more traditional style which some may prefer. This Vagabond is also one of only 68 pieces making it exceptionally rare. With a value of $299,000, it makes it a serious competitor to the RM002.
This RM002-V2 is a sporty but somewhat subdued Richard Mille. If you’ve come to love the brand but find some of their other pieces to be a bit loud, this watch is a great option for you. It offers all the key traits that Richard Mille is famous for but in a svelte, versatile package. It also offers a bit of street cred, being one of the brand’s early models.
Richard Mille’s influence on the watch world is becoming more and more understood, and I think as time goes on, the appreciation for the brand will only grow. Because of that, I also think early models like this one will become increasingly collectible. A savvy enthusiast would be wise to snatch these up now while the opportunity is still within reach.