Richard Mille RM033 In White Gold Watch Review

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Richard Mille RM033 In White Gold Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

The five-prong torque screws of the bezel sit in their little valleys, surrounded by extremely accurately machined, beveled and polished curves – all eight of them. Four just hold the bezel, but one in each lug appears to fix the lugs to the case-band and case-back. The latter is one solid piece that includes the curve to go under the lugs, that is the traditional and highly ergonomic curved case profile that Richard Mille has on all its watches, no matter how thin.

Richard Mille RM033 In White Gold Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews
The RM033 and its massive, ceramic crown – open 2017 13″ MacBook Pro for scale.

The crown is massive and intricately crafted from unusual materials: the black bit is ceramic and the detailing is in a material that matches the case – here it has an 18k white gold spike. The ceramic even has alternating finishing which is something I have never seen done on such a small piece. Again, the price sure is stupendous, but I am yet to see a Richard Mille that did not have the widest array of such massive pain in the neck features. This crown must be so ridiculously difficult to source and get right that things like this will hardly ever be present on even mid-five figure watches – it just won’t be, because designers at the majority of other luxury brands don’t even dare think of stuff like this, and especially not with such regularity.

Richard Mille RM033 In White Gold Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

While functionality-wise the crown is solid as it should be, with double O-rings and a totally over-engineered clickyness to it, it took me a good while to get used to its looks – it just renders the whole watch more feminine in my eyes at least, though I’m sure it wouldn’t stand out this much if the watch was on a black strap (more on the strap in a bit).

Richard Mille RM033 In White Gold Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

This noted, I can still appreciate it for what I mentioned above: to get this sort of detail in this quantity, you either go for a near six-figure watch or you’ll miss out. Having visited so many manufactures and handled so many expensive watches, it’s mind-numbingly complex and difficult-to-make details like this that are what really make a watch stand out from the rest. And if there’s anything I do appreciate in a Richard Mille watch, it’s that you can sort of get lost in it and expect to discover such details even weeks after wearing the watch.

Richard Mille RM033 In White Gold Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Richard Mille RM033 In White Gold Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews
The same image at two different crops.

And I’m sorry, but a traditional watch with a traditional exterior has to have one absolutely amazing movement to justify a similar six-figure price – and again, a lot of collectors who today are buying (and wearing) Richard Milles do so because a new dial on a 5270 often just isn’t exciting enough when on other watches everywhere you look, you see detailing that will never be present on proudly traditional watches. Before you light your torches and bring out your pitchforks, I am not saying one is superior to the other, or one shouldn’t exist and the other should, but rather that beyond the show-off element, there is another reason why Richard Mille watches (and others, like an MB&F Legacy Machine Perpetual or Urwerk UR-110, et cetera) do so well at a time when others struggle.

Richard Mille RM033 In White Gold Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Richard Mille RM033 In White Gold Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

What leaves room for criticism concerning the case itself is the fact that 18k white gold scratches if you look at it the wrong way – things harder than white gold include melting ice, or the Queen’s royal selection of feather pillows. The titanium option won’t be that much better, but will certainly offer an improvement in this regard, at a cost of lost sheen that only precious metals can produce. Water resistance, despite the double-O ring crown is rated for 30m. I keep saying all modern watches should have at least 100m depth rating, though the way things are going, 30-50m appears to become the norm among non-dive watches.

Richard Mille RM033 In White Gold Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Legibility

Depending on the angle of view, I go from finding the hands perfect to wishing they had 15-20% more surface area. The hands are thick, three-dimensional objects and although they are on the smaller side, I am sure they are fairly heavy – and micro-rotor movements are rarely big on torque and hence rarely fitted with massive hands.

The counter-argument is that this is as much a showpiece as it is a watch and because it is still very legible, they decided to leave a bit more room for the eyes to see the complex movement and not cover more of it up with even larger hands.

Richard Mille RM033 In White Gold Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Over the last few weeks that I spent wearing the Richard Mille RM033 a lot, I recall two occasions when I was confused and had to look twice to tell the hands apart; the way they stood on the dial and how the lights played, I wasn’t quite sure which one was which. Apart from these two highly memorable moments of my life, I found legibility to be great.

Richard Mille RM033 In White Gold Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Luminescent material has been applied to the small white pips around the periphery of the dial as well as the hands, but not the Roman numerals – being the ABTW in-house lume addict that I am, I was sort of bummed to not see those cool-looking numerals light up, but I presume the thicker luminescent paint just didn’t fit into this ultra thin sandwich of a watch. Nevertheless, those little pips do a great job working together visually with the super sharp ends of the hands. I believe there is or was another version of the RM033 with a running seconds exactly above the 6 o’clock position, but I actually enjoyed not having to bother with that – and even without it the dial side of the RM033 offers plenty of eye candy.

Richard Mille RM033 In White Gold Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

What’s interesting is that under the front sapphire crystal there is another pane of sapphire that is just 0.30mm (!) thick, sitting right between the movement and the main hands. This disc has an oval-shaped cutout in its center that is fun to see when the light hits it just the right way, and it is this crystal that appears to carry those big indices. I wish Richard Mille would stop using this weird anti-reflection coating on these dial-crystals that keep casting a strong blue-purple hue when light meets it the right way – the blueish tint never shows up on the front crystal, but the one inside the case.

Richard Mille RM033 In White Gold Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Richard Mille actually provides some interesting specifications that I don’t recall ever seeing elsewhere, not even with other ultra-thin watches. The case as we said is 6.30mm thick, but the movement is just 2.60mm of that. Richard Mille says that the front sapphire crystal is 1.00mm thick throughout, while the case-back is 1.00mm at the center and 1.53mm thick at its outer edges. All three crystals have anti-glare treatment on all of their sides.

Richard Mille RM033 In White Gold Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Measured in the center, then, we know that the movement and the three crystals make up for 4.9mm of the thickness of the watch, leaving just 1.4mm of space for the pinion of the hands and the two stacked main hands to work with – and yet we expect (and see) the hands to appear three-dimensional and even be lumed on their center. The RM033 is not trying to be the thinnest watch out there – but even as it is, that 1.4mm space I find something cool to think about.

Richard Mille RM033 In White Gold Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

The Titalyt surface treatment of the movement (that practically also serves as the dial) looks either dark grey or this dark military green closely reminiscent of the colors of tanks and the like. I found this color choice really cool, but to each their own, we are talking aesthetics here; though the contrast between it and the silver sheen of other parts and the hands is just great, no matter the lighting conditions.

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Richard Mille RM033 In White Gold Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Movement

The RMXP1 movement inside the Richard Mille RM033 is a highly impressive 2.60mm thin and is still rather wide with its 33.00mm diameter, filling the case nicely. The plates, as pretty much always in a Richard Mille, are in hand-polished grade 5 titanium which in this instance have been wet sandblasted and Titalyt surface treated. There are burnished pivots, diamond polished sinks, pinions with undercuts, sandblasted, rhodium-plated and beveled wheels with concave chamfering. The steel parts of the movement have sapphire blasted and hand-drawn surfaces with hand beveled and polished edges.

Richard Mille RM033 In White Gold Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

The RMXP1 runs at a frequency of 3Hz and still only manages about 45 hours of power reserve – as I said above, ultra-thin micro-rotor movements are rarely big on torque or power reserve and looking at the case-back there truly doesn’t appear to have been any space left to accommodate a larger mainspring barrel. The RM033 and its movement in different variations have been around since 2011 and the only ultra-thin that I recall to be in production today that provides a substantially longer power reserve is Bulgari’s all-new Octo Finissimo (hands-on here) with 60 hours of power reserve.

Richard Mille RM033 In White Gold Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Movements in Richard Mille watches are produced either by Vaucher Manufacture or Audemars Piguet Renaud & Papi and are further worked on and cased up by Richard Mille – the RM033 caliber is from Vaucher. All the tech-talk aside, it is the movement’s looks that really make it stand out.

Richard Mille RM033 In White Gold Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

The movement in the Richard Mille RM033 has been heavily skeletonized, though since it is a proper 21st century movement through and through, it isn’t skeletonized in the traditional sense where someone takes a solid movement and removes all removable material from the plates and bridges. Rather, it is a movement that was designed to be as “airy” as possible from the get-go.

Richard Mille RM033 In White Gold Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

I am fairly confident in saying that the various holes inside the plates have been removed by a CNC machine and not by a hand-operated saw – the former produces these round corners, while with the latter some very sharp, pointy corners can be achieved. Still, as mentioned above, all surface treatments that could be are indeed performed by hand, so the end result is more of a merger between high-tech machining and hand applied decorations than pure old-school skeletonization.

Richard Mille RM033 In White Gold Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Richard Mille RM033 In White Gold Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews
The dial-side cutout that reveals the movement of the platinum micro-rotor.

The solid micro-rotor is in 950 platinum and is one of the most quietly operating micro-rotors (or automatics, even) that I have handled, especially when considering how the super thin case and sapphire dial, plus the wide front and back crystals allow sound to come through. The operation of the automatic winding is barely audible and never ever annoying – I have had watches that tick-tocked more loudly than this one winds. This said, there may have been some improvements performed because I recall handling a similar micro-rotor Richard Mille a few years ago that was noticeably more audible. This one does set the bar though for micro-rotors.

Richard Mille RM033 In White Gold Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Wearability

Like every Richard Mille I have tried on so far, the RM033 is sublimely comfortable. I have mentioned before how the shape of the watch with a sized and closed strap is a good gauge of how comfortable the watch is going to wear. Close this one and it takes up this oval shape with the folding clasp neatly following the shape of the strap, not pushing or digging into the strap or the wrist. The steeply angled lugs and the perfect and tight integration of the rubber strap all further enhance ergonomics. Another rule of thumb to remember: the better and tighter the integration of the strap into the design of the case, the more comfortable the watch is to wear… Unless it’s under 38mm wide, then it doesn’t make so much of a difference.

Richard Mille RM033 In White Gold Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

What I found a bit strange at first was the wide and slim design of the case and how it wore. It is totally different to the absolute majority of watches that I get to wear (even the slim-looking and -wearing Panerai Luminor Due that I reviewed here was almost twice as thick, although just as wide). The RM033 is the only watch that I like to wear both tight and 1-2 settings looser. Because of the super low profile and the evenly distributed weight of the white gold case the watch sits, or rather lies on the wrist very nicely – a rare occasion where I am not missing the lightness of the titanium variant.

Richard Mille RM033 In White Gold Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

I remember an engineer in the Richard Mille manufacture telling me that while launching the brand the biggest challenge was to get the straps right – they claim to have spent 5 years until they got to the current material and manufacturing process. Rubber straps are very common even on watches with five- or six-figure prices, but the apparent ease with which Richard Mille can integrate them into whatever the shape of the case is just outstanding. I presume the straps are molded, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the compound of the material allowed them to mill it afterwards, because the line-to-line connections with the metal cases that they can create is just so accurate.

Richard Mille RM033 In White Gold Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Richard Mille rubber straps don’t smell or get dirty – I am just realizing this now – “How I did not ever bother about getting this matte white strap dirty?” It is as crisp white now as it was on day one, and it doesn’t take months but rather just a bad day for most white rubber straps to show wear, and few of them can be cleaned effectively afterwards.

Richard Mille RM033 In White Gold Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

If you have ever held a piece of metal freshly crafted with a precision milling machine (like the raw case of a watch), you’ll know that the edges can be extremely, and I mean dangerously sharp. I have even seen buckles with super sharp edges here and there. Both the case and white gold and titanium buckle of the RM033 have all their most obscure angles and surfaces either sand blasted and/or bevelled and polished, so there are no sharp edges anywhere – and while that is the very least to be expected from a watch at this price point, it still shows attention to details that are at times forgotten on other watches where the price level (and prestige of the brand) would render it expectable.

Richard Mille RM033 In White Gold Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

All this was to say that Richard Mille stays at the forefront of wearing comfort by merging the most important, though scarcely acknowledged elements of good and comfortable watch design: strongly angled lugs, deep and seamless integration of the strap, slim and nicely crafted folding buckle, comfortable strap material. Although these cannot be implemented on traditional watch designs, I do want to see all these elements in one single design more often on modern watches on sale for 1/10th of the price of the RM033 – and I wonder why it isn’t encountered more frequently.

Richard Mille RM033 In White Gold Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Summary

Getting back to where we were coming from, the Richard Mille RM033 is a true “sleeper” of a Richard Mille. It offers everything that can be expected from a watch by the brand, but entirely disposes of the ever so popular and recognizable design of the RM011 and the associations that come with it. If you prefer a black RS6 to a purple Lamborghini – meaning you have the greenbacks and want the performance and fun-factor but not the attention – and are looking for a watch with that same approach, the RM033 is a good, if rather obscure option to consider. Oh, and did I mention that one could buy four Lange 1’s for the price of one of these and how no one considering this watch cares about that?

Price for the Richard Mille RM033 is approximately $125,000. richardmille.com

Necessary Data
>Brand: Richard Mille
>Model: RM033
>Price: $125,000
>Size: 45.70mm wide, 6.30mm thick
>Would reviewer personally wear it: Yes, but I’d still possibly fall for an RM011 first.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Someone with insane amounts of money and an appetite for ultra high-end items, but little to no desire for showing off.
>Best characteristic of watch: Proven to be an under the radar Richard Mille adds to the cool factor. This, plus the usual great wearability and quality of execution.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Would love to see what it’d look like with larger hands.

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