The novelty of Richard Mille’s latest chronograph, the labyrinthine RM 056 Felipe Massa Sapphire Tourbillon Split Seconds Competition Chronograph (www.richardmille.com), is clear. The approximately $1.7 million timepiece, named for the Formula 1 driver who also serves as a brand ambassador, features a case made of transparent synthetic sapphire that showcases Richard Mille’s most complicated mechanism: an updated version of the skeletonized, hand-wound RM CC1 tourbillon. The company has lightened the movement by 20 percent to offset the weight of the sapphire case.
The case is hefty yet fragile. It can crack easily during machining and will shatter if struck with moderate force. The story goes that Richard Mille engineers cringed when, in their presence, a Russian collector nonchalantly tried on the prototype and asked his companion how he would look wearing the watch on his yacht. “Better,” a company official advised, “to wear it in the house.”