Lot 847, Richard Mille Ref. RM39-01 AN Ti Aviation. A very fine, unusual and oversized grade 5 titanium semi-skeletonized dual time flyback chronograph wristwatch with warranty and presentation box. Estimate: HK$775,000-1,550,000
Richard Mille broke all the traditional rules when he launched his eponymous brand just 20 years ago. The first watch, the RM 001 Tourbillon, showed the world that the complex mechanism, usually considered rather delicate, could be implemented with a more active lifestyle in mind. His passion for classic sports cars influenced his early timepieces, as his tagline, “A racing machine on the wrist”, clearly indicates. While the tonneau design remains his most famous, Mille has ventured into a number of other shapes and also sectors beyond motorsports, as we can see with this RM 39-01 Automatic Winding Flyback Chronograph Aviation.
The rather anodyne name belies this watch’s complexity, for it’s a veritable tour-de-force to cram so much functionality within a mechanical watch, even when we consider its significant 50mm diameter. Although many of these complications are familiar, such as the flyback chronograph, they have been adapted for aviation applications. Take the chronograph’s minute counter, for example: although it is located at a familiar 9 o’clock position on the dial, the hand has been replaced by a rotating disc such that the pilot can read either elapsed or remaining minutes. The hour counter is based on 24 hours, which correlates with the UTC display. Inadvertent activation of the pushers or crown can be prevented through the oversized locking mechanism, not only clearly visible but also easily operated even when wearing flight gloves. The automatic winding is assured through a key innovation from Richard Mille, the variable geometry rotor, which can be adjusted to ensure optimum efficiency based on the wearer’s activity level. Perhaps the most important function though is the RM 39-01’s E6B circular slide rule, which facilitates the mechanical calculation of critical flight data such as fuel consumption and radius of action. Although modern flight computers are certainly capable of all these calculations and more, the E6B is still used by pilots who are familiar with its operation, and it’s required learning in flight school, as an infallible backup to the electronic tools they normally rely on (in a similar way that divers may wear a mechanical watch to supplement a dive computer). All in all, the RM 39-01 is a perfect representation of the Richard Mille ethos of crafting highly evolved technical instruments.