The Swiss manufacture has presented its new Richard Mille RM 038 Tourbillon Bubba Watson high-end watch. Officially unveiled at SIHH 2011 trade show, the new device makes a very strong impression with its unusual mix of modern shape, which is mixed with a skeletonized dial that would look archaic if it wasn’t so high-tech.
Although Richard Mille watches remind me those hipster guys in the way that most of them look pretty much alike, it still remains a go-to brand when you want to get yourself a timepiece that doesn’t look like the rest of the crowd, but you still don’t want to look like a punk.
Their cases always look very unusual, but you can easily recognize them thanks to their overly complex design.
While very few of them can be called ‘dressy’ in the usual meaning of the word, in the age when an iPhone and a premium-priced ultra-book is often considered the best companion of a business person, their high-tech appearance, too, makes them a very nice accessory that looks quite home with an expensive formal suit.
This new RM 038 Tourbillon Bubba Watson model, however, is a bit too sporty for a businessman to wear in in the office.
The very light grey color of the ceramic case requires something like polo shirt and trousers rather than business attire (and this is exactly what we see on most of their promotional photos, so that must be the very idea behind the collection.)
As the name implies, the watch is equipped with their new Caliber RM 038 hand-wound tourbillon movement that, as the company never fails to emphasize again and again, features very impressive shock protection that literally allows you to play golf wearing this thing. Although I wouldn’t test this claim with my own version of the timekeeper, Bubba Watson, a professional golfer whom you can recognize on these photos, seems to be quite confident as to the gadget’s resistance to damage.
The watch is presented in RM’s signature tonneau-shaped case, which is made of only three parts.
As usual for Richard Mille in general and this line in particular, the watch is rather large, measuring 48.00 mm in length, 39.70 mm in width, and 12.80 mm in diameter.
However, let not these numbers mislead you. Although the length of the body sounds really scary, especially if you happen to have thinner wrists, you must keep in mind that RM 038 features a lugless design. Or, rather, the lugs are integrated right into the case, so in reality the device will cover no more (probably even less) space on your wrist than a standard diving watch 42 or 43 millimeters in diameter.
Also consider that, while being relatively thick for a watch that is powered by a hand-wound movement, the timekeeper is still thin enough to be almost unnoticeable on a wrist when you get used to its presence.
Made of Magnesium-Aluminum AZ91 alloy (magnesium 90% and aluminum 8.9%) that offers low density together with high structural rigidity, the watch is feather-light, yet very robust.
The lugless design and has one draw-back though. As the rubber strap wears off, you will be a bit limited in your replacement options.
Its grayish color comes courtesy of the Titalyt II electro-plasma oxidation treatment, which covers the case with crystalline oxide ceramic, significantly increasing its hardness and scratch-resistance, but also providing it with somewhat plastic look.
Thanks to a transparent dial and a sapphire display back, the case provides a superb view at the skeletonized RM038 movement. Sporting an openworked baseplate and with its bottom plate, bridges and balance cock made of grade 5 titanium, the movement is a real pleasure to look at.
While the crown with its glossy surface doesn’t look really convincing, the black rubberized coating will probably provide a good enough grip for you to easily wind the mechanism and operate it in different ways.
The movement’s base plate actually acts like a dial and, as it is often the case with modern skeletonized watches, doesn’t do a very good job when it comes to ensuring maximum legibility. Taking into account that even the hands are open-worked and treated with the same grayish coating as the mechanism, you probably get the idea that legibility is not a virtue of this model.
At least, the lack of a seconds hand is compensated by a visible balance wheel: standard two-handers with manual wind usually make me a bit nervous provoking the same sort of ‘range anxiety’ that owners of electric cars know all too well.
It is not yet known how much Richard Mille plans to charge for the watch, but it is clear that it won’t be cheap*.
Build Quality: 5/5
Overall Legibility: 3.5/5
Nighttime Legibility: 4/5
Value for Money: 4/5
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
* UPDATE ON PRICE: The price is half a million dollars. Well, okay.
Photos: Richard Mille
Richard Mille RM 038 Tourbillon Bubba Watson manual-wind watch specification
Price: Approx. $520,000
Movement: Manual (hand-wound,) Caliber RM 038, in-house, 30.60 mm x 29.37 mm x 7.55 mm, Swiss Made
Frequency: 21,600 vph
Functions: Hours, minutes, tourbillon
Power reserve: 48 hours
Case material: Magnesium-Aluminum AZ91 alloy
Bezel material: Magnesium-Aluminum AZ91 alloy
Case shape: Tonneau
Bezel shape: Tonneau
Case size: 48.00 mm x 39.70 mm
Lug width: No data
Case height: 12.80 mm
Dial: Black, skeletonized
Water resistance: 50 meters
Strap: Rubber with pin buckle
Crystal: Sapphire, antireflective
Case back: Sapphire