Richard Mille RM 62-01 Tourbillon Vibrating Alarm ACJ: You Can Feel It!
Wake up, Joshua . . . the Matrix has you.
Oh, sorry, that’s the intro to a little short story I am writing. But, seriously, if you are like me, or approximately 70 percent of American adults, you may experience sleep deprivation at least once a month if not more. I know that I have poor sleeping habits, usually due to my tendency to procrastinate in combination with believing that I do better work at night.
Whatever the reason, I constantly need to repeat the phrase wake up to myself while drinking another cup of coffee. This also means that mornings are a difficult time where I need not just one, or two, but two dozen alarms staggered over an hour or more to rouse me from my deep NREM sleep.
To combat my tendency to sleep through multiple alarms, and even sleepwalk and turn off my phone (which is so annoying), I’ve resorted to extremes including shining a spotlight on a timer in my face, painfully loud alarms that annoy anyone within a half mile, and locking my phone in a puzzle box that needs to be solved before I can shut off the alarms (the result of which was my smashing of said puzzle box in frustration).
And, yet, sleep persists.
But one thing that always wakes me up is physical disturbance (jostling or even a vibrating phone I accidentally fell asleep on). A simple vibrating buzzer can mean the difference between making it to an early appointment on time or being woken up by a phone call asking if you are on your way (and 40 minutes late).
A vibrating buzzer is also good when other methods are not appropriate. It keeps the alarm focused on you, and that is a powerfully useful alarm.
It is also very intriguing if it is mechanical, and more so if it is ensconced within a Richard Mille watch. I’m referring to the recently released RM 62-01 Tourbillon Vibrating Alarm ACJ, the most complicated Richard Mille watch to date and one that features the first purposefully silent mechanical alarm in a wristwatch.
Continuing the aesthetic of the original Airbus Corporate Jets styling first seen in the RM 50-02 Airbus ACJ Tourbillon Split-Seconds Chronograph, the 62-01 seeks to display extremes in a variety of ways while taking the main talking point as subtly as possible.
Richard Mille RM 62-01 Vibrating Alarm
The RM 62-01 Tourbillon Vibrating Alarm ACJ is the second iteration Richard Mille designed in partnership with Airbus Corporate Jets and is intended to be appealing to private jet owners.
Like the first model, the 62-01 is jam-packed with styling cues cribbed straight from the design and engineering of Airbus with color choices, skeletonization strategies, material choices, and straight-up mimicking the shape of the jet turbine blades on the crown.
But don’t let the design fool you: this watch’s mechanics are the most complicated ever in a Richard Mille watch. And working closely with Audemars Piguet Renaud & Papi (APRP) it required five years of research and development to create an alarm never seen before.
Aside from the alarm and its time display (which we’ll get to in a bit), the 62-01 features a movement power reserve display, alarm power reserve display, AM/PM indicator, oversize date, UTC time display (also usable as a second time zone hour hand), function selection indicator, and an ON/OFF indicator for the alarm.
All of this comes in a tourbillon movement with a 70-hour power reserve. And that doesn’t include the alarm reserve.
These features are well suited to the international traveler, considering they visually remind him or her of the plane they are flying in.
The dial, shaped like the porthole window, is full of everything needed to keep track of the schedule at home and abroad as well as reminding him or her of a meeting with the vibrating alarm.
There are loads of aerospace-inspired details here, but the reason we are all here is that incredible alarm.
The development of the vibrating alarm isn’t based on existing alarms as there is nothing really in general horological theory about creating such a mechanism.
Granted, the early alarms based on a hammer striking the case would also create a physical sensation, but driving that vibration was a rather loud metal buzzing that is definitely not inconspicuous.
The closest mechanism similar to the vibrating alarm is probably the speed governor on a minute repeater, a rapidly spinning weight or an air brake designed to limit rotation speed to a specific rpm. A speed governor, however, is perfectly balanced to run smoothly since anything rotating off balance at high speed will create a dramatic vibration.
Well, how about that: there we inadvertently have the genesis of the vibrating alarm, yet that is not how Richard Mille’s engineers came about the idea.
Since the origin of wanting a discrete alarm came first from mobile phones (and how everybody seems to have it on silent nowadays), the idea for the mechanism came from that as well.
In all phones, pagers, and electronic devices that vibrate, a small offset weight spins at a high rpm to create a nice, smooth vibrating force, which seems perfectly suited to use in a watch. Until you consider the biggest and probably central legitimate concern: vibration is the enemy of a mechanical watch.
Not only does vibration have the ability to momentarily or permanently disrupt the operation of the extremely sensitive balance, vibration also makes things want to come loose. Anyone who has ever owned a motorcycle knows that sustained vibrations can make even the tightest screws simply unscrew themselves and fall out.
I don’t think I need to point out that this would be the biggest nightmare for a mechanical watch movement.
Over five years, with one constructor working exclusively on this project alone, Richard Mille and APRP developed four partial prototypes to test functionality and stability of an offset weight and its effects on the structure of the movement.
Different frequencies were tested to check for resonance (the phenomenon that can make things shake themselves apart) and to determine what speed would provide optimal vibration transfer, maxing out at a rather rapid 14,000 rpm.
Development continued through a lot of math, physical testing, and trials to land on the best speed for the mechanism based on materials.
Due to the proposed offset weight in gold, it was decided to find an rpm on the lower end of the scale since gold is not inherently stiff, and if shocked under high speed it might deform enough to strike the movement.
That is a big no-no, and so an rpm of 5,400 is the final speed Richard Mille’s team settled on.
This also would reduce the wear and tear on the pivots since the 12-second total run time of the alarm means that at the maximum rpm tested the rotor spins approximately 2,800 times, whereas with the selected rpm it only rotates 1,080 times – a difference of more than 1,700 rotations.
Now that would be a lot of additional wear.
As mentioned, even with finding the optimal speed for the vibration the engineers couldn’t let the movement be subjected to that vibration without altering how the movement is made.
Material choices were made for the movement, as well as the case, to direct vibrations to the wrist and reduce the detrimental effects on the movement. Titanium and Carbon TPT are light and don’t resist vibration like heavier brass or steel, which is good for helping the wearer to feel the vibrations.
But since there isn’t a lot of mass within the material, it doesn’t protect or isolate the gear train and balance from the energy transfer, so the shape of components needed to consider how to direct vibration through the movement.
That negative also can act as a positive, though, as lighter and, more importantly, rigid materials have a hard time amplifying the vibration to create a runaway resonance effect since they will resist flexing. Yet in some components that is a negative, such as the screws holding everything together.
This is because a rigid material likes to resonate, which is a steady complementary vibration due to its ability to reflect the energy back away from it, but not before taking a little energy into itself.
In the case of a screw, this can cause it to rotate just a little as it absorbs that small amount of energy since it won’t flex but instead translates the energy into a rotational force. With extreme vibrations, this is how screws unseat and completely unscrew themselves.
This caused the watchmakers to choose tempered steel screws instead of the standard Richard Mille titanium screws because, due to their flexibility and pliability, they can be put under greater tension, resisting the likelihood of coming unseated from the repeated vibrations the movement sustains.
All of the laborious work put into understanding the resonance issues resulted in a vibrating alarm that works perfectly to alert you silently without destroying itself in the process. The alarm subdial has both a 24-hour hand and an additional minute hand, allowing the owner to set the alarm precisely to the minute as well as in the correct half of the day so he or she isn’t accidentally alerted at 10:00 AM about a 10:00 PM meeting with Japan.
Another key aspect to isolating the alarm from the movement is having it powered independently thanks to a small mainspring wound via a pusher on the side of the case, requiring 12 pushes to charge it for 12 seconds of operation, one second per press.
Since the energy isn’t coming from the main gear train’s mainspring, this further removes the alarm from influencing the going train as it only interacts in the moment it is activated.
This is less critical than controlling the vibration throughout the movement, but it does add to reliability. When no alarm is needed, it can also be switched off to save the mechanism from excess wear.
Even with all the dramatic styling cues of the RM 62-01, being the most complicated Richard Mille seems appropriate given the context.
Since most watches from the brand are for extreme environments and intense sporting competitions, building a watch to such extreme standards for the businessman makes technical sense. Professional athletes aren’t the only ones purchasing Richard Mille watches, and now the needs of the business traveler have been considered.
Is the watch necessary? Probably not. Is it awesome regardless? The answer to that is a definite yes.
It might be hard given all the titanium and carbon, but let’s break it down!
- Wowza Factor * 9.93 Whether you like the styling or not, this watch can easily be described as bold! That is enough make me go wowza!
- Late Night Lust Appeal * 115.5» 1,132.668 m/s2 This watch will literally keep you up if you set it to, so of course the lust is high!
- M.G.R. * 71.1! Any new invention immediately raises the bar, and something that is supremely functional and useful takes it to another level. A vibrating alarm? Yes, please!
- Added-Functionitis * Severe With multiple power reserves, setting indications, time displays, and a brand-new vibrating alarm, this definitely requires prescription-strength Gotta-HAVE-That cream for the jam-packed features!
- Ouch Outline * 11.9 The moment you see a cart careening toward your car on the other end of the parking lot! The helplessness that you feel is visceral. You can’t get there in time, you can’t stop it. Yelling out won’t do any good. It has to happen. And it hurts you to your core. Yet I’d take that any day if I could get this watch on my wrist!
- Mermaid Moment * A Vibration To Get You Going! Sometimes all it takes is a feeling, the right feeling, to know!
- Awesome Total * 770 Begin with the number of jewels in the movement (77) and multiply by the number of pieces in the limited edition (30), then divide by the frequency of the balance in Hz (3) for a shakingly awesome total!
For more information, please visit www.richardmille.com/collections/rm-62-01-tourbillon-vibrating-alarm-acj.
Quick Facts Richard Mille RM 62-01 Tourbillon Vibrating Alarm ACJ
Case: 42 x 49.94 x 16.9 mm, titanium and Carbon TPT
Movement: manual winding Caliber RM 62-01 with one-minute tourbillon, 21,600 vph/3Hz frequency, 70-hour power reserve, titanium bridges and base plate, 816 components, twin spring barrels, Chronofiable certification, free-sprung balance with variable inertia
Functions: hours, minutes; date, power reserve indication, vibrating alarm, alarm power reserve, UTC indicator, AM/PM indicator, function selector
Limitation: 30 pieces