The Perks Of Corporate Life: Richard Mille RM 50-02 Airbus ACJ Tourbillon Split-Seconds Chronograph
Have you ever wanted to know what it’s like living the lifestyle of the rich and famous?
You might find yourself flying around on private jets to exotic locales, being chauffeured in a luxurious Bentley to your villa in southern Spain where you relax in your infinity pool and dine on the finest roast beast while sipping a nice vintage Bordeaux from, say, 1961.
That type of life is a dream to many, and one glamorized throughout television history by the likes of Robin Leach and MTV’s “Cribs.” These days, you can go straight to the source and follow the rich and famous vicariously on Instagram and Snapchat, seeing behind the scenes of their lives (or the staged representations of what they portray their lives to be).
One thing is for sure, it’s a glamorous world at the top.
Sometimes, though, nothing can hold a candle to the corporate world, where deals are regularly made for billions of dollars. This environment has special demands for communication and travel, which resulted in a special branch of aerospace company Airbus opening to cater especially to those types of clients. Called Airbus Corporate Jets (ACJ), it provides some of the most luxurious and capable jets to corporations, VIPs, and government agencies.
So perhaps it’s unsurprising that Richard Mille, a company catering to similarly well-heeled clients as Airbus, decided a collaboration might work. The result is a truly high-end piece of horology intended to go hand in hand with a new Airbus Corporate Jet. Designed in collaboration with the head of ACJ’s Creative Design Studio, Sylvain Mariat, the RM 50-02 ACJ was born.
You wouldn’t be the first to think this collaboration seems a little out of left field. But when you manufacture and sell products to a customer base where a million dollars is less than can be made in a fiscal quarter, partnerships become as much about lifestyle as technology.
Airbus creates world-class aircraft using the most advanced engineering and material science available, perhaps just behind NASA. Richard Mille creates watches that are lighter than a feather but unbelievably tough with tourbillons that have been worn during tennis matches, golf tournaments, sailing regattas, and Olympic events. Needless to say, both companies make some pretty awesome things.
This means that there is a shared passion for creating amazing machines and then styling said machines to fit a lifestyle.
The RM 50-02 ACJ is a representation of an Airbus jet for the wrist, but not in the way someone like MB&F might go about it. Instead, it uses details to allude to the jets in a way that many of the automotive-themed watches could learn a thing or two from.
The design of the watch features tie-ins to cockpit controls and gauges, fuselage and window details, weight optimization designs, aerospace coatings, and even tamper-resistant fasteners. It is a pretty complex collaborative effort.
Corporate partnerships aside, what we are really here for is the watch.
The design is clearly based on an Airbus fuselage and window as the bezel is a clean white ceramic pierced by a dozen tamper-resistant Torq-Set® Offset Cruciform Drive screws (we’ll come back to those).
The window-shaped sapphire crystal opens onto a colorful, complicated, and frantic dial. Perhaps a pilot would feel right at home gazing into the cockpit-inspired indications, but for us civilians the dial is a bit more difficult to read. The movement is extremely skeletonized and, given its complexity, does not provide a coherent background for the information displayed.
The dial displays hours, minutes, split-seconds chronograph, running seconds, power reserve, torque indicator (showing the optimal state of tension for the mainspring), and a function indicator.
There are five main accent colors in use for the indications splashed around the dial in different ways. And then there is a sixth main color underneath on the coated bridges. These bridges, also found across the rear of the movement, are glazed with a specific aerospace coating used to reduce corrosion and friction on turbine blades.
The coating is similar (if not exactly the same) as a PVD titanium nitride, which is found in many places on an aircraft.
Even though the dial is hard to read, I find myself not really caring. If we are honest, at the cool price of $1.05 million, I can afford not to care, because I can’t afford to play.
Instead, I find myself enamored with the details throughout the piece. Moving out from the dial we come back to the Torq-Set® Offset Cruciform Drive screws holding the bezel to the case band. These screws are a high-torque derivation of classic Phillips screws used in many military and aerospace applications where precise high torque is needed, including on many Airbus components.
This type of intersection with Airbus components brings us to the case band. The pushers for the split-seconds chronograph are on either side along with the crown on the right.
The pushers and surrounding details are shaped as if they were crucial structural components somewhere on an aircraft, where every part that is possible to make lighter is lightened – usually following protocols for structure and strength.
Triangular ribs are a common sight on structural pieces, and this watch’s pushers and other details follow this path to create an implied framework holding the watch together while remaining as strong and light as possible.
Adding lightness is something that Airbus and Richard Mille actively work on with every watch and every aircraft.
Shape gives way to function
The crown is yet another place where aerospace feels at play as it looks like what would happen if a landing gear wheel and a jet engine had a lovechild. Appropriately, it features the Airbus logo machined into the end. Oh, Little Junior!
But after all of these varied details, the best part is yet to come.
I am a person that values function over form in most cases, so the rear of the RM 50-02 ACJ is where the true magic resides and pure horology comes swinging back into play. The RM 50-02 tourbillon split-seconds chronograph movement is fantastical.
If the rest of the watch wasn’t what it was, this would be the star of the show to any observer, not just to horology nuts like me. But still, the back is where I spent most of my time, slowly tracing the split-seconds chronograph mechanisms around the window.
Without a doubt, this is one of the best executions of a skeletonized chronograph movement I have ever seen. It is futuristic in its design and finishing, yet wholly classic in its mechanical construction. Everything is clear and straightforward while also looking like a sci-fi implementation of something from the turn of the century (but which century?).
The most startling aspect of the design is the extreme skeletonization of the split-second wheels, mirrored by the arms and bridges of the mechanism smattered around the movement. The tourbillon bridges are a work of aerospace art as well, and yet the tourbillon itself seems treated more like a normal run-of-the-mill component than the highly prized and glorified mechanism many watches like to emphasize.
I think this is a conscious decision to keep the focus not on one “whirligig” in the center of the dial, but on every detail that the eye can behold all at the same time.
And that is, I believe, what makes Richard Mille perpetually popular: its watches are spectacle and wonder. It does a lot of what other brands do horologically, and the way it does it rivals anybody out there, but the spectacle created by Richard Mille watches, and standout pieces like this, is what separates Richard Mille from the pack.
This watch may be ungodly expensive, but it is also inhumanly cool, to the point that I don’t know if anyone really can pull it off. It is like wearing an Airbus jet on the wrist, it’s just too much awesome.
The technology, engineering, and effort that goes into building an Airbus aircraft is immense. As someone who has seen inside that industry and prototyped products meant for the skies, I sometimes stand in awe that things like jumbo jets ever even get built.
And the RM 50-02 ACJ is a little version of that. There is so much going on with it on the case, the dial, and of course the movement that it seems incredible that it even exists.
The movement alone is worthy of praise and admiration, but the whole package shakes my notions of what an aerospace-inspired watch can actually be. It is a bold piece for sure, and definitely not for everyone’s taste.
Heck, most of the watches were made to be offered to the people actually buying the planes from Airbus, clearly a purchase that most can never even imagine writing a check for.
But for the rest of us, I think we can agree this watch is impressive, and as collaborations go, a well-considered and executed idea. The details are what make up the RM 50-02 ACJ, but the whole ends up being bigger and better than one could have guessed.
And then: the breakdown!
- Wowza Factor * 9.65 Seeing a watch designed after a jetliner is a pretty big wow, but seeing the movement is what captured me!
- Late Night Lust Appeal * 89.98 » 882.402 m/s2 Just like watching movies on a red-eye flight, I spend plenty of early morning hours lusting for the RM 50-02 ACJ.
- M.G.R. * 67.55 Fully skeletonized tourbillon split-seconds chronograph movement is pretty darn geeky!
- Added-Functionitis * Severe Four added functions (though a split-seconds chronograph I feel is more than one function) makes for a desperate case of high-altitude horological swelling that calls for emergency strength Gotta-HAVE-That cream.
- Ouch Outline * 11.05 Sliding down a steep hill after slipping on wet leaves! The ouch factor is combined with a miserable quotient for this one, yet I would slide down that rocky, root-filled hill all day for a chance to own this piece!
- Mermaid Moment * Looks like I can fly on it to the honeymoon! At least I would be flying on a private jet from Airbus, right?
- Awesome Total * 700 Multiply the hours in the power reserve (70) by the number in the limited edition (30) and divide the result by the balance frequency in Hz (3) for an 8 mile high awesome total!
For more information, please visit www.richardmille.com/watch/rm-50-02-acj.
Case: 42.7 x 50.1 mm, titanium-aluminum and ATZ ceramic
Movement: manual-winding Caliber RM 50-02 with one-minute tourbillon
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; split seconds chronograph, power reserve, torque indicator, function indicator
Limitation: 30 pieces
Price: $1.05 million