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Review: Richard Mille RM 032

For most people the function of a watch is, really, just about telling the time. Maybe the date. For Richard Mille, it’s a challenge to break every convention known to man and then some. The $150,000 RM 032 dive watch is indeed no exception, packing everything you can think of and more into perhaps the craziest watch in the segment. Here are five things this watch does that are just—well, you’ll see.

The Dial

First off, let’s start with the way the RM 032 looks. It’s insane. Trying to read the time is so complicated that it makes you feel stupid not being able to do it at a glance. There’s so much going on in the layers between the topmost second hand and the calibre RMAC2 behind that I’d wager you’d need a doctorate in quantum physics to make sense of it.

And the more you look, the more ridiculous it gets. What at first appears to be a simple three-handed watch—the hour and minute hands both the size of a building—quickly turns into a magic eye puzzle of displays. There’s what appears to be a big date at the top, but then there’s also what appears to be a small date bottom right. There’s a sub-dial at six marked up to twelve, and what looks like a static motif at three—until you realise it’s moving. There’s a tachymeter around the outside, followed by a scale that goes to sixty and then a further unmarked scale that breaks the previous one down even further. Then, in amongst the hours, the top right quadrant is split with eleven smaller red markers floating in between. And then, to top it off, it becomes apparent there’s yet another hand so bright and yellow you wonder how you’d missed it in the first place.

The dial is such a bombastic array of information both useful and otherwise that’s it’s hard to even make your eyes focus. If you’ve ever come out of a general anaesthetic and tried to read the time on a normal watch, you’ll know the feeling.

The Case

I think we’ve got a good sense of just how crazy this dial is now, but there’s no time to ease up, because the design of this watch only gets even more bonkers from here. First off, this watch is not small. No, it is not small at all. It’s 50mm wide, and that’s very wide—but that’s not even the most outrageous dimension of the RM 032. At 18mm deep, it’s as thick as a house brick and twice as solid. You know it’s a serious dive watch when you have to take an advanced open water dive course to get deep enough to submerge the whole thing.

And talking of depth, this watch isn’t all bark and no trousers. Being ISO 6425 compliant, the titanium case is resistant to a healthy 300m, and whilst that seems rather underwhelming for a watch that looks big enough and solid enough for James Cameron to pilot to the bottom of the ocean, there’s another feature that we’ll get to that actually makes it rather impressive.

The case alone, however, clamped together with twelve beefy titanium bolts that run through deep-set channels in the case sides, looks like it would survive a direct hit from a Honeywell Mark 50. The porthole in the back that reveals the calibre RMAC2 is actually a curved piece of sapphire that blends with the ergonomic case back, which, even if you might look like the watch is wearing you and not the other way around, combines with the comparative lightness of the titanium and the wide rubber strap to make it a surprisingly comfortable watch to wear.

The Bezel

For most dive watches, the bezel is a footnote. It turns one way and not the other to prevent accidentally leaving yourself short on air. For Richard Mille, however, it’s not the craziest dive watch ever without the craziest dive watch bezel. First off, even the shape of it defies belief. It’s deeply concave, making it a complete pain to make. It has eight slots munched from the outside to access the case clamping bolts that put me in mind of The Very Hungry Caterpillar. It has twenty-two of its own splined titanium bolts to keep the turning mechanism secured.

But … the bezel doesn’t seem to turn. That’s because, unsatisfied with the standard method of producing a free-turning unidirectional bezel, Richard Mille has gone one, if not one hundred steps further. After all, you wouldn’t want to graze the bezel on a nearby coastline and accidentally reset it.

So there’s a button at the top and a button at the bottom. Press both together and you have a turning bezel, 120-clicks of smooth, mechanically satisfying rotation. It’s still unidirectional too, so just in case you’re about to dive and a pair of passing albatross decide to rest a minute on the buttons, you won’t find yourself an hour later with no air left in your tank.

The Chronograph

So far, so dive watch, if maybe turned up to insanity. But the RM 032 is just getting started here, because now we’re going to try and make some sense of this bonkers dial. You may have noticed that Richard Mille has repurposed two accelerator pedals either side of the crown, and those, unsurprisingly, are chronograph pushers, the reason I think this watch is limited to just 300m—which I think is pretty impressive. The size of the pushers marks, for the first time, the distinction between pushing and pressing.

Set it going and you’ll see the centre second is for the chronograph, making one full sweep per minute. After that, the yellow hand, which corresponds with the yellow outer scale, advances one increment, making it a centre minute chronograph display. This correlates with the red markers in the top right quadrant, usually found on the bezel. Being that the watch has a chronograph, it means the bezel and the chronograph can both be used to time separate events. Oh, and did I mention that this chronograph is also a flyback?

But a dive watch needs a running indicator to comply with ISO 6425, so with the centre second repurposed for the chronograph, that duty is handed to the right-hand sub-dial. Rather than being designed to read the seconds, its high contrast blades make it easy to tell at a glance that the watch is indeed running and that you won’t die a horrible death. It’s for that reason it’s probably the most legible thing on the watch.

We’re still not done with the chronograph. If we’re at a 9.5 on the crazy scale, we’re about to turn it up and then some. To prevent accidentally knocking the pushers on a passing ship and stopping or resetting the chronograph, there’s a collar on the crown that turns to lock both the crown and the pushers, so you know the watch is safe to dive with. Now all you need to do is remember if the green indicator means “ready to set” or “ready to dive”.

The Date

What an absolute lunatic of a watch. Flyback chronographs with locking pushers, a push-button bezel with twenty-two screws. Oh wait, you want more? Well the RM 032 has got it, because we’ve left the most impressive feature until last. Knowing full well that most of these watches are going to get as wet as a camel’s umbrella, Richard Mille has fitted it with a date big enough to read from space.

It’s actually pretty neat to see the skeletonised big date wheels doing their thing as they advance towards the window and … oh, that’s still not good enough for you? You want better than that? Well how about this then: it’s not just a big date; it’s an annual calendar.

Tucked away in the bottom right-hand corner is a month indicator that can be quick set into place and determines whether the big date will show the full month’s worth of days, taking away the angst of remembering to set it after a shorter month—to leave you free to contemplate getting it through the next doorway intact.

It’s big, it’s expensive, and it’s not short of a feature or two. You might say that it’s ridiculous—and it is—but it’s also hugely, entertainingly impressive. Talking about watches is something I really enjoy because it makes me happy, but looking at, playing with and talking about a Richard Mille as insane as this one makes me feel like a kid again. And I’d say that’s priceless.

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