Richard Mille’s RM 020 Tourbillon pocket watch is an ultra-modern time machine that transports men back to a more civilised age

When the wristwatch became popular a century or so ago, men may have gained convenience, but they lost one of their few means of fancy adornment: the pocket watch fob chain.

Even more tragically, they were also denied the ability to execute one of the most graceful movements in a gentleman’s repertoire: the elegant withdrawal of a pocket watch from a waistcoat.

Much like smoking a cigarette (another dying art, forgive the pun), taking one’s pocket watch in hand to glance at the hour forces the body into a proud, sophisticated pose. The chest swells forward, the chin is raised, the torso slightly profiled, the feet take the stance of a duelling swordsman—and, indeed, the movement of the arm also recalls the removal of a sabre from its sheath. It’s a fabulously flattering, super-suave stance. The act of looking at a wristwatch is rather oafish and clumsy in comparison.

In his great munificence, Richard Mille has restored these potent gifts to the male populace (or at least the small percentage of men possessing the wherewithal to purchase one of Mille’s timepieces). Launched a decade ago and now considered among Mille’s most iconic creations, the RM 020 Tourbillon pocket watch may allow its wearer to bust a thoroughly old-school move, but it is a very modern piece of machinery.

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With a titanium central case band and front and back bezels in a choice of red gold or titanium, it is the first pocket watch to feature a base plate made of carbon nanofibre. This material, developed for use in US Air Force fighter jets, is moulded at temperatures beyond 2,000 degrees Celsius and under pressure greater than that faced by an X Factor finalist. Mounted on the base plate is a manual-winding RM 020 movement, the tourbillon escapement spurred into action by a double-winding barrel, providing a formidable 10 days of power reserve.

Tourbillons were originally invented to counter the effects of gravity on pocket watches, which can remain at a fairly constant angle throughout the day. Thus the complication serves a far more practical purpose here than it might on many contemporary wristwatches.

This is especially so given that the RM 020 is provided not only with a handsomely husky fob chain (containing no less than 65 separate components), but also with a stand that allows it to function as a desk clock—in which case it will certainly stay in a static position. The same couldn’t be said for the timepiece’s owner, who will doubtless revel in flourishing his pocket watch at every opportunity. 

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This article was originally published on Hong Kong Tatler.

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