Spending Time With The Richard Mille RM 07-02 Pink Lady Sapphire
I will admit (and if you’re a regular reader you have surely noticed this) that I’m fully enamored of transparent watches. And this is why when the industry began experimenting with innovative uses for sapphire crystal I was all for it (see Give Me Five! Sapphire Crystal Cases At Baselworld 2016).
I am fascinated by the difficult technology involved, but even more I love the fact that a transparent case allows me to look right into the depths of the mechanics. This idea, which was probably first successfully implemented in a serial wristwatch in 1980 by Corum with its Golden Bridge, was explored thanks to the belief of Corum co-founder René Bannwart and independent watchmaker Vincent Calabrese that the work of the watchmaker should not be hidden from view.
So when Richard Mille launched the Pink Lady back in 2016, I was excited to see a fully transparent wristwatch designed especially for the female wrist.
However, I did have to curb my enthusiasm for two years before I was finally able to actually handle a physical specimen.
Luck was with me during a recent trip to London when – wonder of wonders – the Richard Mille Mayfair boutique had a Pink Lady on hand for a client. This is actually one of the rarest serial watches in existence, and few collectors or press have even seen one let alone touched one. The reason is that once one a Pink Lady is made – a long, laborious process I describe below – it gets shipped straight off to its (lucky) new owner.
The most visually spectacular element about the RM 07-02 Pink Lady is its rose-colored case made of the synthetic corundum more commonly known in watches as sapphire crystal.
Until now, watches like this have generally been released with clear cases; Richard Mille released its first sapphire crystal-encased timepiece in 2012, the RM 056 Felipe Massa Sapphire.
True to form, Richard Mille has taken the experimentation process a step further by adding color to something already fantastic. For more examples of the brand adding vivid color to an unusual case material see Surprising Use Of Quartz: Richard Mille RM 011 Red TPT Quartz Automatic Flyback Chronograph and Richard Mille’s Celebration Of Jean Todt: Limited Blue RM 11-03, RM 050, And RM 056 Sapphire.
The Pink Lady, however, represents the first example of colored sapphire crystal.
This watch’s 46.7 x 32.9 x 14.35 mm case has an inherent visceral pink that changes color, becoming deeper or lighter, with the external light conditions. And don’t be fooled by the large-sounding size of those case measurements: this watch is perfectly shaped for the female wrist, even if it is slightly larger than the precious metal and/or ceramic versions of the RM 07-01, which the brand calls a “cocktail watch.”
I suspect that this has to do with the way the sapphire crystal parts have to be manufactured.
The other thing that struck me when I picked up the watch was its relative lightness.
I expected the Pink Lady to be heavy – which it was not. Now, it doesn’t weigh the 18 grams of the RM 27-02 (with strap!), but it is in no way near a weight that I would even begin to call heavy.
Machining the three parts of this case took more than 40 workdays, including pre-forming the case components (430 hours by itself) and another 350 hours for polishing the bezel, case band, and case back.
The case is carefully assembled (tightening a screw just half a turn too much could prove fatal when it comes to this material) using 24 titanium spline screws – a type of screw that the brand says ensures better control of the torque applied during assembly than conventional screws – and stainless steel washers. Two gaskets ensure 30 meters of water resistance – no mean feat in such a complex tonneau-shaped case.
Variable winding automatic movement
Don’t let the beauty of this piece fool you into thinking that the movement has anything less than the stellar complicated quality that Richard Mille applies to all of its timepieces.
Let’s start with the escapement. While it’s a conventional Swiss lever escapement, I want to draw your attention to the fact that the bearing jewels here are not the usual synthetic red ruby (another form of corundum) generally used in watches, but rather transparent corundum jewel bearings. This is certainly a design decision, but a non-off-the-rack one that makes sense in this context.
The balance is free sprung, something usually reserved for complicated mechanisms or where precision is visibly metered; this is not usual fare in a time-only watch destined for a feminine wrist (thank you, Richard Mille!).
This is yet another display of the attention to detail Richard Mille’s engineers regularly exercise.
In-house Caliber CRMA5 also contains one of Richard Mille’s fast-rotating spring barrels, which takes only five hours per revolution instead of the conventional 7.5 hours. The reason is to improve chronometric performance by providing more regular torque.
My favorite element in this movement, though, is the gorgeous, diamond-set, variable geometry rotor, a Richard Mille specialty.
This innovative function allows the speed of winding to be adjusted to the owner’s personal activity level. A watchmaker can easily do this by sliding the assembly’s two weights sideways into the appropriate position and then fixing them in place with spline screws.
When the weights are closer together, the barrel winds more quickly (see above for why this is advantageous). The rotor, bidirectionally winding on ceramic ball bearings, contains a heavy metal segment in addition to 5N red gold elements to guarantee proper weight distribution.
The beautiful 18-karat pre-skeletonized red gold base plate and bridges, micro blasted and hand-beveled, are clearly visible through the pink sapphire crystal case back.
What’s a pink lady?
This watch is at once a valuable gem and a mechanical delicacy completely in line with Richard Mille’s trademark feminine approach to watchmaking. Other examples include the incredible RM 19-02 Tourbillon Fleur and the Tourbillon RM 19-01 co-designed by Natalie Portman.
And thus the name “Pink Lady” has more of a background idea than one might at first think.
The moniker is derived from the name of a gin-based cocktail concocted in the U.S. prohibition era of the 1920s as an alcoholic beverage for women forming a response to the chauvinistic “gentlemen’s clubs” of the era.
I kind of like the idea of this sensual watch also having a feminist side to it. But it certainly doesn’t need anything further than its own looks and mechanics to be loved by the right women.
For more information, please visit www.richardmille.com/watch/rm-07-02.
Quick Facts Richard Mille RM 07-02 Pink Lady Sapphire
Case: 46.7 x 32.9 x 14.35 mm, pink sapphire crystal
Movement: automatic Richard Mille Caliber CRMA5, rotor with variable geometry
Functions: hours, minutes
Price: £962,500 (including tax)