I’ve been away from The Truth About Watches for a year. Simply put, I burned out on the topic. But here I am, again, catching-up on watch industry news, picking-up what I need to put down. Looking back over the last few months, I gotta say the new-for-22 Richard Mille RM UP-01 Ferrari is a triumph of engineering, branding and aesthetics. It’s beautifully made, cynically marketed and ugly AF.
At just 1.75 millimetres thick, the RM UP-01 Ferrari constitutes a triumph of technical prowess and exemplifies a new approach to watch mechanics in which technicity more than ever dictates aesthetics.richardmille.com
Triumph schmiumph. Why Mssr. Mille’s website didn’t trumpet the fact that the RM UP-01 Ferrari is the world’s thinnest watch is an open question. We’re talking about a watch that’s a full [sic] 0.05mm thinner than the previous record holder, the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Ultra.
I’m thinking RM’s modesty has something to do with the fact that the RM UP-01 Ferrari isn’t a Richard Mille.
By RM’s own admission, the RM UP-01’s world record mechanical movement was born and raised in Audemars Piguet’s Le Locle facility. If it looks like an AP, works like an AP and it’s built like an AP, it’s probably an AP. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Even if Audemars Piguet’s crack horologists did all the engineering work – which I strongly suspect – that sort of “we-make-it-you-sell-it” arrangement is hardly unprecedented. Rolex made movements for Panerai’s Nazi frogman specials. Once upon a time, Jaeger-LeCoultre made movements for Audemars Piguet. What goes around, comes around.
Wondering about the origins of the RM UP-01 Ferrari’s “technicity” doesn’t keep me up at night. Nor do I spend any time denying the genius of the end result. But I would like to take a moment to point out that the RM UP-01 Ferrari fits Richard Mille’s brand – and Ferrari’s – like The Rock’s T-shirt fits Richard Simmons.
For one thing, the RM UP-01 Ferrari doesn’t look anything like any other watch Richard Mille has ever made, or, presumably, will ever make. Oh sure, the RM Ferrari watch is kinda sorta roughly the same shape as its RM cohorts – only squashed flat. But a five-year-old looking at the pic above could pick the odd man out in a quick game of “one of these things is not like the other.”
RM built his brand on watches with high-tech components and club sandwich-thick cases. Not to mention Mille’s liberal use of lurid colors and “light-hearted” themes (e.g., the Smiley watch, top left above). Not to put too fine a point on it, a Richard Mille is as subtle as a train wreck and almost as expensive.
In contrast, the RM UP-01 Ferrari is as expensive as Switzerland’s entire train system, dour as an Danish dowager and duller than John Stuart Mill. It’s a Savile Row suit hanging in a Gucci store. A labrador running with a pack of Malinois. A Bentley Continental GT parked next to a Ferrari FXX K. Speaking of which . . .
The RM UP-01’s Ferrari branding is the horological elephant in the room. Mssr. Mille’s traditional (if insanely thin) mechanical watch has no obvious connection to Ferrari – whether race, road or SUV. Quite the opposite.
A Ferrari is exuberant. The RM UP-01 Ferrari has about as much joie de vivre as a mental patient doing the thorazine shuffle. Ferrari’s prancing horse logo looks tiny, sad and completely out of place on the RM, especially when compared to its placement on every other Ferrari-branded watch ever made.
I could rag on the RM UP-01’s lack of practicality and its fragility but that would undermine my assertion that there’s no similarity between RM’s Swiss watch and Ferrari’s Italian automobiles.
I ended my post Richard Mille Ferrari Watch – Who’s On First? with “I can’t wait to see what over-engineered abomination Mssr. Mille will place in pole position.” Wrong! The RM UP-01 Ferrari is magnificently under engineered. It’s not an abomination – at least not in Mille’s kitsch-me-quick tradition. The RM UP-01 Ferrari is just a really thin, really expensive ($1.9m), mostly illegible, boring watch.