In horology you’d find plenty of pilots pieces, but a watch designed specifically for passengers – discounting world-time or GMT complications – is far rarer.
Perhaps the first of its kind is this Richard Mille RM 50-02 ACJ, a tourbillon split seconds chronograph designed in partnership with Airbus Corporate Jets.
The latter is the arm of the aerospace giant that caters to personal clients: oil sheikhs, government leaders and their ilk, for whom flying commercial simply isn’t an option.
Bearing a price tag of just over US$1 million, the watch attracts the same clientele as those who can afford to spec up, at a minimum, their own ACJ319 (based on the single-aisle A319 jet), all the way to a private double-decked ACJ380.
In other words, this watch better be bloody special – which, thankfully, it is.
First, the aesthetics. The result of a two-year collaboration, the RM 50-02 ACJ’s most obvious aviation link is the white ceramic bezel in the rounded rectangular shape of an airplane window, bolted down to the watch case with the Phillips offset cruciform Torq set screws deployed in – you guessed it – aeroplanes.
This marks the first time Richard Mille is deviating from its trademark pentalobe screws.
The colourful dial, while not to everybody’s taste, takes its cue from aeronautical instrumentation, and the crown, from the wave-patterned Airbus logo.
Other – and far less obvious – ties to the ACJ include the special anti-corrosion coating used on some of the internal components that hails from that of engine and chassis parts, which imparts on them an interesting bronzed look.
And the case, made of titanium-aluminium alloy, which Airbus uses for its jet turbine blades thanks to its resistance to high temperatures and pressure.
But it’s not all flash and no dash. In true Richard Mille fashion, the RM 50-02 ACJ makes extensive use of skeletonising as well as superlight grade 5 titanium to shed weight; additionally, a nod to the aerospace industry’s never-ending quest to lighten their aircrafts for fuel economy.
The open-worked treatment clearly shows off the complexity of the watch’s architecture and the obsessive finishing of the parts – to be expected for a watch of this price, for sure, but it’s definitely not cheap to do.
In another technical feat, the movement is designed to eliminate the initial jump of the chronograph seconds hand during starting and stopping. Not that it’s that bothersome, but it’s good to see that Richard Mille is paying attention to the details.
If you want one, better act fast: the RM 50-02 ACJ is produced in a limited edition of 30 pieces that are, pardon the pun, certain to fly off the shelves.