The Richard Mille RM UP-01 Ferrari Is Still A Watchmaking Milestone

It may not be the thinnest watch in the world anymore, but the Richard Mille RM UP-01 Ferrari is still a milestone in technical watch development. Launched in 2022, it was an unexpected and powerful statement from a partnership that was, at the time, freshly inked. At just 1.75mm in thickness, it was the thinnest for a time, beating out the Bulgari Octo Finissimo Ultra (1.80mm thick) and the Piaget Altiplano Ultimate Concept (2.0mm thick).

Bulgari has since fired back with the 1.70mm-thick Octo Finissimo Ultra COSC, but UP-01 still stands out in a few significant ways. The watches from Piaget and Bulgari both have the mainplate doubling as a caseback, and key components—geartrain, balance wheel, barrel and the like—in plain view. Richard Mille’s watch, however, is more traditional in construction, sandwiching the 1.18mm movement between two case layers, and obscuring most of it from view—in fact, only the balance wheel is visible. As a result, instead of a display of watchmaking finesse, the UP-01 has a brushed metal appearance that recalls automotive design. And then there is the Ferrari logo in one corner, as the UP-01 is a product of Richard Mille’s partnership with the storied Italian marque, the first co-branded watch, in fact, and one limited to 150 pieces.

Titanium is the metal of choice for both the case, as well as the baseplate and bridges of the movement, due to its strength and flatness. The watch represents a monumental amount of work: 3,600 hours spent on the movement, 2,400 on design and 2,000 for the casing, which measures 51mm by 39mm. The barrel and escapement are patented. The 1.5mm required for a winding stem was deemed too excessive; instead, two crowns—one for function selection, the other for winding or settingare integrated into the top of the case. They are ringed with black ceramic for protection and waterproofness, as the UP-01 has a water resistance rated for 10m. The two sapphire crystals, one over the time indicator and the other over the balance wheel, are 0.2mm thick each.

The UP-01 was also subjected to rigorous testing, including wear, twisting and flex, shock resistance; it is also rated for up to 5,000g of acceleration. This, combined with its water resistance, assures that it is a suitable watch for daily wear, even with its envelope-pushing mechanics.

The watch came as something of a surprise for the brand. Technical audacity is nothing new to Richard Mille, of course, having built a reputation for ultra-light and ultra-durable watches made of advanced materials—the kind of timepieces you would find on Rafael Nadal. The UP-01 is, however, a new direction in terms of aesthetics. There are no colourful materials here, or obvious showcases of overbuilt horological mechanisms, or chunky bezels and statement wrist pieces. There is only a pointed industrial aesthetic and, on the wrist, the UP-01 seems more a crafted engineering accessory than something that screams ‘watch’. One wonders if this is the Ferrari influence—along with input on the material used, the automaker had some design input as well. Either way, the UP-01 is one of the most interesting watches ever released and bodes well for the ongoing partnership.

Richard Mille


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