How Richard Mille and Ferrari created the RM UP-01, the world’s thinnest watch

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Richard Mille and Ferrari now hold the record for the world’s thinnest watch. Crystal Lee reports from the global launch of RM UP-01 in Maranello, Italy.

That Monsieur Richard Mille loves cars is no secret. His garage houses some of the world’s most covetable racing machines, such as the 1966 M2B, Bruce McLaren’s first Formula One car; the Ferrari 312B that won the 1970 Italian Grand Prix; and a 1970s Porsche 917. His eponymous watch brand has also been an avid supporter of motorsports, with partners including Le Mans Classic, McLaren and numerous Formula One drivers.

Reinforcing its commitment to auto racing and performance, the independent watchmaker established its own racing team last year. For its latest line-up, the brand has recruited endurance driver Charles Milesi, rally legend Sébastian Ogier, and Lilou Wadoux, who is the first woman to win in the Alpine Elf Europa Cup series.

It seems inevitable, then, that Richard Mille would join hands with Ferrari. Both brands stand at the pinnacle of their fields and share an obsession with precision, reliability and innovation. Their multi-year partnership, which began in August 2021, spans Formula One, World Endurance Championship programmes, Competizioni GT, Ferrari Driver Academy, the renowned Ferrari Challenge, as well as a series of Richard Mille timepieces sporting the famous Prancing Horse logo.

By now, the silhouette of the first Richard Mille and Ferrari watch has made its rounds on the internet, as it claims the title of the world’s thinnest mechanical watch. Measuring just 1.75mm in thickness, the RM UP-01 dethroned previous record holder Bulgari’s Octo Finissimo Ultra by a good 0.05mm. This is made possible by assembling the entire movement – which is just 1.18mm thick – within the case, rather than having the caseback doubling as the baseplate as other watchmakers do.

All 210 components of the watch also have to be as fine and flat as possible. And since stacking will only add depth, the hours, minutes, seconds and function selector (a crown for winding or setting the timepiece) are spread out over the watch face to achieve maximum flatness.

Created with the laboratories of Audemars Piguet Le Locle, the record-breaking creation is, as Richard Mille’s technical director for movements Salvador Arbona says, “far from being a concept watch” and is “up to the task of following a wearer’s daily life, whatever the circumstances”.

Over 6,000 hours were spent on development and laboratory testing to ensure that the RM UP-01 Ferrari “met the same validation requirements of all of our other models,” adds Arbona. For lightness and strength, grade 5 titanium was used to craft the case, which can withstand accelerations of more than 5,000 Gs. If that’s not impressive enough, the technological marvel weighs a mere 2.82g, boasts a 45-hour power reserve and is water-resistant to 10m.

To reach where no one has been is to do what no one has done. In making the RM UP-01, Richard Mille had to break its established stylistic and watchmaking codes. Says Julien Boillat, the brand’s technical director for cases, “For such a project, it was necessary to set aside all the knowledge we had amassed over years of practice, and every conceivable standard of watchmaking.” Going off the beaten path led to two patents: an extra flat barrel fitted with a super fine hairspring and a new ultra-flat, dart-free escapement with a variable-inertia balance.

A scene from the RM UP-01 campaign film titled <em>The Rest is Noise</em>
A scene from the RM UP-01 campaign film titled The Rest is Noise

The launch of this exceptional watch was held in Maranello, Italy, the home of Ferrari. A day before the highly anticipated unveiling, a select group of international journalists and VIPs were invited to tour the Italian marque’s sprawling compound, which houses a factory,  museum, racetrack and Ristorante Cavallino by renowned chef Massimo Bottura of the three Michelin-starred Osteria Francescana. Needless to say, lunch was served at the “Ferrari restaurant”.

On the day of RM UP-01’s debut, we continued our immersion into the world of the Prancing Horse with lunch at Ristorante Montana. Specialising in the cuisine of the Emilia-Romagna region, it is where the Ferrari team – the drivers, engineers, designers etc – go to eat.

Proof of its close association with the marque and its people is plastered all around the interiors – think race suits, helmets, photographs and plenty of autographs. Once we tasted its Gramigna pasta with sausages and what could be the world’s best tiramisu, we understood the restaurant’s magnetism.

The Ferrari campus in Maranello, Italy
The Ferrari campus in Maranello, Italy

Our two-day jaunt around Maranello culminated in a glitzy reception held at a specially constructed venue beside the Fiorano Circuit, Ferrari’s private racetrack used for development and testing purposes. Guests were treated to an extravagant four-course dinner featuring chef Bottura’s signatures, including the Parmigiano Reggiano flan, Beef Fillet “Testarossa” and a pretty lemon tart.

The extraordinary affair, from its locale to the food, perfectly encapsulates the timepiece it’s celebrating – one that, while charting new frontiers, remains faithful to luxury, performance and excellence.

This story first appeared in the August 2022 issue of Prestige Singapore

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