Respected watchmaker Richard Mille smashes expectations with its new RM 53-01 Tourbillon Pablo Mac Donough polo watch

Tatler Asia
Above The Richard Mille RM 53-01 Tourbillon Pablo Mac Donough

Despite being known as a gentleman's pasttime, the sport of polo is still a decidedly violent sport—as can be somewhat expected when mallets and galloping are involved. This school of hard knocks presents an interesting challenge for watchmakers, as most watches are usually not robust enough to withstand blunt-force trauma at close range—most mechanical watches are fragile feats of micro-engineering. But it was a challenge that Richard Mille took on with gusto. At SIHH 2018, Richard Mille presents their new RM 53-01 Pablo Tourbillon Mac Donough, which uses two groundbreaking innovations to solve the impact-induced problems.

(Related: Partners In Time: An Unlikely Friendship Between Richard Mille and Jean Todt)

The RM 53-01 Tourbillon Pablo Mac Donough tackles two different problems—that of shattering glass, and a tourbillon movement's structural integrity. Normal sapphire glass would not be able to withstand the extreme force that polo players exert, so a direct blow to the watch would most likely result in the protective glass shattering outright. To combat this, Richard Mille worked with sapphire glass specialists Stettler to produce a laminated glass. Inspired by technology already in use in the world of fast cars, the laminated glass conprises of two sheets of sapphire glass separated by a thin polyvinyl film—a first in the world of watchmaking. When hit with a mallet, the laminated glass might crack, but it won't shatter, so it will continue to protect the delicate movement from the violence of the polo field. This glass, with accompanying anti-reflective and UV coatings, is a patent-pending Richard Mille exclusive.

On top of that, the case of the RM 53-01 Pablo Mac Donough is machined in Carbon TPT, Richard Mille's trademark carbon fibre material that is extremely tough and resilient to micro-cracks and tears.

Even if the glass doesn't shatter, a blow would severely impact the functioning of a delicate tourbillon movement. To ensure the movement's structural stability, Richard Mille created an entirely new movement architecture that uses braided steel cables to absorb the impact of any shocks.

The cable-suspended movement uses two separate baseplates, a peripheral plate that is linked to the case, and a central plate that is linked to the peripheral plate. The central plate is held in place by just two cables, each 0.27mm in diameter, running through a system of 10 pulleys and four tensioners. By ensuring an even distribution of tension, the watchmaker can ensure that the whole mechanism is balanced, and is able to absorb any shocks from the field. 

Tatler Asia
Above The movement of the RM 53-01 Pablo Mac Donough.

Richard Mille has worked with world-renowned polo player Pablo Mac Donough for a number of years now, and this is their second collaboration together. The first was launched at SIHH in 2012. The RM 53-01 Pablo Mac Donough is the result of much back and forth between the brand and the sportsman himself—what better way to field-test a watch, right? The fact that Richard Mille is willing and able to construct a watch that is robust enough for a polo player is a testament to both the brand's ingenuity and the strength of the bond between brand and ambassador. Plus, since we get an excellent watch out of this partnership, we'd say that us consumers are the real winners on this field.