We may not talk about this very much, but the ease with which we affix a watch to our wrists and how comfortable it feels is a major determinant of how often that particular timepiece is favoured.
When we select a timepiece from our arsenal, style and function are considerations, but it is comfort that always wins — we pick the one that slides on our wrist easily and fits us like a second skin.
Not surprisingly, this small point is something Richard Mille has always been cognisant of during the design process. The respected Swiss watchmaker may be known for its technically outstanding watches and the complex mechanisms that power them, but it is just as famous for the smaller details that make up the entire experience, especially the straps and bracelets that hold them in place.
Previously, it was standard practice for more technical watches to have leather straps — a robust option that would not add too much weight to the overall heftiness of a watch while also providing a balanced fit for the wearer. In 2014, Richard Mille broke away from this tradition and made its first ever metal bracelet for two highly complicated ladies’ watches — the RM 07-01 and the RM 037.
Crafted by the maison’s R&D teams based in the quaint village of Les Breuleux in the Swiss Jura valley, these bracelets were incredibly difficult to perfect. “This bracelet took more of my time and energy than designing the entire movement and case. Developing it almost drove me insane,” confides the audacious and charismatic Mille, from whom the maison gets its name and much of its daring personality.
Boasting a completely new design and crafted out of red and white gold, the straps were composed of dozens of links and required 65 hours of programming and several hours of manufacture. In perfect harmony with the overarching design of the timepiece, the straps were created as an extension of the case, evoking the curves of the bezel and the case back and also the characteristic profile of a Richard Mille watch. Each link is micro-blasted, satin-brushed and polished. The ensemble is held together by 36 spline screws in grade 5 titanium and completed with a double-fold clasp in gold.
It was a surprise that Richard Mille’s first venture into metal straps was with its women’s watches, but in actual fact, it is part of the watchmaker’s long-term commitment to serving the needs of a burgeoning market of women who like technical timepieces. For Mille, straps and bracelets both reflect cutting-edge expertise and years of research and provide women with a channel to express their personalities.
“I’ve always felt that women should be given the very best,” he explains. “I’ve made it a point of honour to analyse every aspect of comfort when designing my watches, taking particular care over functional design details — because, in my opinion, it is unthinkable to create something truly luxurious that is uncomfortable to wear and use. That is why the perfect bracelet requires the same attention as each of the minute components that goes into building a watch. In the women’s collection, which applies a consistent system and a global approach, I strive for the very highest levels of quality and comfort ever achieved in every aspect of watchmaking.”
Inspired by the runaway popularity of its new precious metal straps, Richard Mille came up with the Open Link strap the following year. A curb-chain bracelet, also entirely crafted in gold, the Open Link bracelet features individual links that are bead-blasted, satin-brushed and polished. “The human body is full of subtle curves, and I wanted to respect that in the shapes of women’s watch cases through a profusion of small details,” Mille says. “It was crucial for the bracelet to be unified with the case in order to visually emphasise how the two are fully integrated.”
Exclusively designed for the RM 07-01 and the RM 037, the Open Link is a lighter, airy and extremely flexible bracelet that fully fits with the goal of offering an exceptional variety of watches and accessories — made in the highest quality available — to Richard Mille’s discerning customers.
Reflecting the maison’s continual work in material research, specifically its advances in the use of carbon, the most recent addition to Richard Mille’s range of straps and bracelets for women is carbon TPT. Crafted from Carbon TPT and titanium from the bezel to the folding clasp, the RM 07-01 Ladies combines the architectural complexity of a 200-part metal bracelet with the refined style of a technical material.
The bracelet is formed using dozens of Carbon TPT plates placed on a grade 5 titanium skeleton by means of 44 of Richard Mille’s characteristic spline screws. This micromechanical gem combines suppleness and extreme rigidity to great effect, while extending the tonneau shape all around the wrist. The combination of these materials gives a total bracelet weight of just 29g. Specially designed for the RM 07-01 Ladies in Carbon TPT, this is an extremely coherent addition to the sophisticated and technical products that the brand strives to produce.
This article first appeared on July 13, 2020 in The Edge Malaysia.