Richard Mille has unveiled its latest technical timepiece with a rebellious spirit — the “Horn To Be Wild” RM 66 Flying Tourbillon.
Attired in a fully curved, tripartite tonneau-shaped case made of Carbon TPT and grade 5 titanium, the Richard Mille RM 66 Flying Tourbillon features an incredibly complex build that underwent an arduous manufacturing process with high level of quality control. It stars a golden skeletal hand gesturing “the devil’s horns” as the centerpiece, which is set in place over the manual winding tourbillon calibre.
Positioned at the 12 o’clock mark is a skull seal that pays homage to Richard Mille’s iconic RM 052 model, which is also the brand’s first watch to “stir up rebellion and the advent of non-conformity in haute horlogerie.” The skull motif is echoed on the spidery and claw-like torque-limiting crown, accompanied by polished red gold pyramid studs. In addition, the watch incorporates unusual-looking hour markers that are screwed onto the upper flange, which comes in a shape that emulates guitar picks to add to its rock’n’roll aesthetics.
Richard Mille knows how to get conversations started on the world-wide-watch-web. Whether you love the brand or hate it, you’re bound to feel something when confronted with a picture of a new RM release on your Instagram feed. Which kind of means they’re doing something right.
This latest model is anything but short of divisive. At first glance, the Richard Mille RM 66 Flying Tourbillon “Horn To Be Wild” looks like a watch made for two sides of extreme. Exhibit A : aging rockstar who wears deep v-neck t-shirts, skinny jeans and prayer beads, this rockstar once lived to beat the system, and now resides in a 20 million pound home in Kensington. Exhibit B: L.A. hypebeast decked out in Amiri with zero taste barometer and a rose gold Brabus G Wagon (car reference courtesy of Highsnobiety automotive editor Jonathan Schley).
Now for the actual watch and its contents . The rose gold openwork hand, which sits as the proud centerpiece of the RM66 is instantly recognizable. Its representation of the “sign of the horns” symbol was popularized by Ronnie James Dio of Black Sabbath fame. The link isn’t hard to make: think Ozzy Osborne biting off bat heads, think Gene Simmons and his “The Demon” stage persona (or the Family Guy parody thereof), think Hells Angels and faded “I heart mom” tattoos.
The “sign of the horns” is ultra emblematic to a modern audience, but this type of skeletal imagery has always been imbued with meaning. Visual artists have employed the same code for hundreds of years, typically as a Memento Mori – a symbolic reminder of the inevitability of death. Found across various mediums, these ancient skulls weren’t intended to scare. Peversley, they were a jovial reminder of the imminent pleasures of the afterlife as famously depicted in the Danse Macabre. This watch uses much of the same code. The RM66 isn’t morbid, it’s life affirming, it’s rock and roll.
The message carries through onto the design of the rest of the watch. No surface or detail is spared of the punk rocker aesthetic. The Carbon TPT bezel and caseback almost resembles a Glam Rock style monochrome animal print, the caseband features 5N red gold plates with a clou de Paris pattern (aka a studded belt pattern, the ultimate punk rock signifier and early 2000s Kelly Osborne / Avril Lavine accessory) and the gothic-inspired spider-like crown displays a small skull engraving and encases a synthetic ruby. The crown resembles the top of a scepter, a symbol of gothic culture; it embodies something I like to call The Great Frog aesthetic: a crossover of gothic, punk and leather.
But let’s set these audacious looks aside for a second, because there’s a whole lot of fine watchmaking happening inside of this black carbon TPT tonneau shaped case.
The openwork Richard Mille RM 66 Flying Tourbillon features a manual winding caliber which showcases a fast-winding barrel positioned at six o’clock and the tourbillon at 12 o’clock. The grade 5 titanium movement, whose lines follow those of the hand, is highly skeletonized. This is possible thanks to a flying tourbillon with a cage that is fixed at only one end of its axis, eliminating the upper bridge.
The tripartite case is assembled using 20 spline screws in grade 5 titanium and is fitted with 2 Nitril O-ring seals to 50 meters of water resistance.
Of course it’s all in the material at Richard Mille: The Carbon TPT used is composed of multiple layers of parallel filaments obtained by dividing carbon fibers. These layers are then woven on a special machine and heated to 120°C. Using Carbon TPT basically means there’s far less chance of you scratching, cracking or making nicks in your watch. The damascene effect (I’m still calling it animal print) differs from one watch to the next, making each watch unique.
Back to the decorative elements of this openwork splendor. There is a small skull engraving set atop the tourbillon, which echoes the skulls we’ve seen in previous RM designs. The indices could be mistaken for joint sockets, or tiny baby teeth. Turns out they are meant to be guitar plectrums.
The engraved hand is attached to the barrel bridge, with the index and little fingers outstretched and visible from the front, whilst the thumb holding the middle and ring fingers are visible from the back of the watch. Whether this is very much your cup of tea or your worst possible nightmare, the engraving work executed here deserves all the praise and more. As somebody who has collected and inherited charms since their early teenage years, the level of detail on this x-ray hand has me wondering if RM only hires engravers with doll-sized hands. The finishing is indeed manual, with the contours of the bones and delicate joints created by deburring and polishing.
Yes, ossuary artifacts are inherently morbid, but the point here is to turn that natural instinct on its head. Something that should be weird, scary and gross is instead associated with free spirit and rebellion which echoes the RM anti-conformist spirit perfectly.
Richard Mille just gave us permission to stick up our horns and embrace our inner rebel, something I enjoy doing in this sometimes very stuffy watch space.
OK, so the watch has a million-dollar price tag, but this watch isn’t for us mere mortals. It’s for the actual aging rock stars collecting their royalties from a castle in France. I don’t see the problem with enjoying Richard Mille from afar. Are we not allowed to enjoy something without owning it? This is an objet d’art!
Divisive as the brand’s products may be, their cultural relevance is so significant that the Tonneau-shaped RMs are not just relegated to the musings of hardcore watch enthusiasts, Richard Mille is part of the mainstream cultural discourse. Yes, it helps when Pharrell and Rafael Nadal are your brand ambassadors, it also helps when the price tag can sometimes be north of a million dollars. But I love RM for pushing the boundaries and essentially reframing the definition of a luxury watch: Luxury is no longer just about owning a giant gold or platinum brick timepiece.
The RM66 is an accessory with a whole lot of personality, done in the most Richard Mille way. The high grade materials, the progressive mechanical function, the top-notch decorative elements. The various themes and motifs used by the brand can often be tongue-in-cheek but they are always done to material and mechanical perfection. This type of watch world rebellion is what keeps me interested in the brand. Serious haute horlogerie but always fun, always with a f**k you approach.
Wearing a Richard Mille is like the rich man’s equivalent of dying your hair blue. It’s punk with a price tag. Is this going in my personal Richard Mille hall of fame? Probably not. I’m an RM88 Smiley, RM07-03 Bon Bon kinda gal. This watch would have even scared the 14-year-old version of me who listened to slipknot and wore safety pins in her jeans.
Does this look like an archeological excavation gone wrong, does this watch belong to James Goldstein? Richard Mille doesn’t care. They are sticking it to the purists.