Round and round with Richard Mille

Richard Mille has us running in circles as he takes on a different shape once again with the RM 33-02.

When Richard Mille releases a watch featuring a round case, worldwide attention descends upon it with full force. Humans crave change just as much as they tend to resist it, and any veer off the road of tonneau shapes into round town will inevitably draw a crowd. If the new RM 33-02 looks somewhat familiar, it’s probably because Richard Mille ushered in the previous decade with its predecessor: the first ultra-thin round case watch, the RM 033, in 2011.

The 41.7mm case of the RM 33-02 is 4mm smaller than the RM 033, and is presented in a mix of red gold and carbon TPT, the latter making its debut in an automatic round watch. All this makes for a sporty-luxe version that’s more contemporary in dimension and suitable for everyday wear. “We have reinterpreted its aesthetics without doing a disservice to the original version by accentuating its lines,” notes Julien Boillat, the brand’s technical director, who also oversaw the RM 033’s creation. “Meanwhile, the exterior decoration, case and dial have been reworked to project a sportier vibe. The RM 33-02 thus achieves a delicate synthesis of the so-called ‘lifestyle’ style and sporty style.”

The skeletonised RMXP1 calibre houses a 45-hour power reserve and is expertly crafted from grade-5 titanium, keeping a steady 3Hz thanks to its variable-inertia balance. The movement can by wound bi-directionally via an off-centre platinum micro-rotor that’s positioned rear-side to minimise the entire movement’s overall thickness. Despite its slim silhouette, the unique architecture and delicate finishing hasn’t been compromised in any way; the baseplate was tended to entirely by hand, initially wet-sandblasted and treated with Titalyt. Meanwhile, the microblasting, stretch and satin-finished surfaces along with the anglage create a mesmerising interplay of light and shadow from the deliberate and expressive lines of the skeletonisation.

Moving to the exterior, it would be remiss of the RM 33-02 not to reference design characteristics of the brand’s quintessential tonneau shape. The case has incorporated the contours of the tonneau into its round shape and the eye is drawn to the carbon TPT bezel, which is accentuated by a satin-finished case band in red gold. The hypnotising battle between light and dark continues dial-side, with the 5N red gold hour markers positioned along two titanium rails fixed to the flange and movement, bringing a sense of dimension, uniformity and continuity, and further highlighting the round case shape. It’s worth noting that the grade-5 titanium spline screws used within the case and bridges offer greater torque control during the assembly stages and will age well. A black rubber strap brings a sense of increased informality to the piece and blends in seamlessly with the case.

With only 140 pieces to go around, you’ll have to contend with the full population for this one. It’s 2020, after all, so Richard Mille has deemed the RM 33-02 equally suitable for women as it is for men, whether dressed up or down – and we certainly don’t disagree with that proclamation.

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