January 19, 2016
by Ariel Adams
Debuted at SIHH 2016 is this new and truly awesome (in both price and design) aviation watch from Richard Mille designed in collaboration with Airbus’ private jet division. ACJ stands for “Airbus Corporate Jets” and this arm of the French airplane company produces jetliners for usually 20-50 passengers for the ultra-wealthy, corporations, or even governments. ACJ chose to partner with Richard Mille, and this rather interesting Richard Mille RM 50-02 ACJ Tourbillon Split Seconds Chronograph watch is the result.
According to Richard Mille and ACJ, the companies spent about two years working on the Richard Mille RM 50-02 ACJ Tourbillon Split Seconds Chronograph limited edition watch. What makes the watch so unique are the many Airbus plane-inspired design elements. I know that some people will no doubt dislike this watch, just as all Richard Mille timepieces have their friends and foes. I will admit that on paper, nothing about the design of this watch works. The colors, design inspirations, and overall explanation of the shape makes the watch sound insane to silly, but in person and on the wrist, it totally works. I can say that the present aBlogtoWatch team fell in love with the Richard Mille RM 50-02 ACJ Tourbillon Split Seconds Chronograph at first sight. Not that it matters, since the $1,000,000-plus watch is not likely to ever have a permanent place on our wrists. I should also mention that the Richard Mille RM 50-02 ACJ Tourbillon Split Seconds Chronograph is one of those watches that looks much better in person than in its marketing pictures (which is, ironically, usually the other way around).
The most notable plane-inspired design element of the Richard Mille RM 50-02 ACJ Tourbillon Split Seconds Chronograph is the dial which is meant to look like a curved rectangular plane window. Other “jet” design elements include the wheel and tire-style crown, Airbus ACJ logo and other symbols on the side of the case, and the modern plane instrument readout-inspired hands and dial design. The dial colors are a bit loud, but it really does go with the theme well.
Very light on the wrist in mostly titanium and some alloy, the Richard Mille RM 50-02 ACJ Tourbillon Split Seconds Chronograph is 42.70mm wide and 50.10mm tall by 16.50mm thick. Another distinctive element is the white ceramic bezel plate. On it are small versions of Airbus’s own special tension screws which adds an additional level of distinctiveness to the design.
In typical Richard Mille character, detailing and finishing are hyper-meticulous on the case as well as movement. Inside the watch is an in-house movement that isn’t technically new, but with a lot of new parts and some new materials, it feels quite new. You’ll notice an interesting, almost oxidized-bronze look to some of the movement parts – these are actually coated with a special anti-corrosive material used in Airbus planes. I can’t say that it has an enormously functional element in the Richard Mille RM 50-02 ACJ Tourbillon Split Seconds Chronograph, but it is pretty cool-looking. The movement itself is deep with a lot of character as well as functionality.
The Richard Mille RM 50-02 ACJ Tourbillon Split Seconds Chronograph watch has a new version of Richard Mille’s tourbillon split second chronograph manually wound movement. Much of the dial is a piece of sapphire crystal, but the tourbillon (with bridge) and mainspring barrel bridge have their own openings. The 60-minute split-second (rattrapante) chronograph is joined with a power reserve indicator, movement torque indicator, and crown selection indicator. There is, of course, the tourbillon as well which doubles as the running seconds indicator.
Bright colors are clearly more and more important to Richard Mille as the brand founder and creative soul continues to release watches with brightly toned dials (such as this RM 60-1 Automatic Flyback Chronograph For St. Barth) as well cases in unique materials such as NTPT Quartz. It is easy for horology traditionalists to shun these designs, but for those who are wealthy and edgy, it is difficult to go from a more conservative watch to a Richard Mille, and then back again.
In addition to the titanium case, most of the calibre RM50-02 manually movement inside of the Richard Mille RM 50-02 ACJ Tourbillon Split Seconds Chronograph is in titanium – albeit very nicely polished and finished titanium. The extreme level of effort and finishing is clear, and Richard Mille himself seems to enjoy really pushing the envelope not merely on a movement’s functional complexity, but architectural complexity as well. The tourbillon-based movement operates at 3Hz (21,600 bph) and has a power reserve of about 70 hours.
In fact, at its heart, the Richard Mille RM 50-02 ACJ Tourbillon Split Seconds Chronograph is a very traditional Richard Mille (within a very non-traditional brand) watch with some unique design elements for a special partner (ACJ). That said, what makes it unique does not take away from the core wearing and functional experience that makes a Richard Mille a Richard Mille. This watch feels like a successful blend between something familiar and something new within a brand that continues to be mega hot despite is pricing which is attainable for the 1% of the 1%.
The people who purchase Airbus’ large private jets are also no doubt the perfect target demographic for this type of limited edition watch. Why not pony up an extra million for a watch that goes really well with your shiny new ACJ319 plane? The Richard Mille RM 50-02 ACJ Tourbillon Split Second Chronograph watch is a limited edition of 30 pieces and is priced at $1,050,000. richardmille.com