Among the eclectic mix of timepieces on show at SIHH 2012, one model stood apart among the polished glass cases, for it was itself encased in a transparent and polished watchcase - the Richard Mille RM 056 Felipe Massa Sapphire - backlit, sidelit and extremely tricky to photograph it caused quite a commotion, not only for its technical ability but also for its unattainable price tag.
The piece has a case constructed entirely from sapphire, which although tough and scratch-resistant in its finished form is a precarious material to work with. Each case is measured in the time given to its construction - 1000 hours, with 430 hours taken to make the case components and 350 hours on the polishing process of each tripartite case, not including the bits which must inevitably have ended up in the reject pile and the years of research and development which were invested in bringing this vitreous piece of horological anatomy to life.
Inside is the RM 056, a manual winding tourbillon with hours, minutes, chronograph split seconds and both power reserve and torque indications, a movement which, based on the RMCC1 had to shed 20% of its weight in order to be suitable to power this extraordinary piece even though skeletonisation would reduces it to its bare bones. No strangers to weight-reduction, the designers at Richard Mille had to create over 400 new parts in the creation of this calibre.
It's even water-resistant to 50m thanks to the inclusion of 2 rubber nitril seals and just in case you'd dare to let more than a droplet of water near it the screws used to assemble the case are made from grade 5 titanium with steel washers.
The Richard Mille Tourbillon Split Seconds Competition Chronograph RM 056 Felipe Massa Sapphire is a limited edtion of just 5 pieces, which incidently were all sold by day two of SIHH 2012.
The Richard Mille RM 037 - Monocoque and Engine Perfectly Balanced - As Standard ....