Behind the supreme technicality of Richard Mille timepieces lies a very simple objective: the produce the most robust and resistant watches. This involves the use of materials whose hardness and resistance can sometimes be a headache for those who have to programme the machines to shape the cases at the brand’s Proart Factory in Les Breuleux, Switzerland.
Apart from the more familiar carbon fibre, the brand has produced watches in such unusual materials as aluminium oxide (sapphire) and brown silicon nitride. Now, Richard Mille pioneers in the use of a revolutionary new form of carbon fibre: NTPT®, or North Thin Ply Technology.
First developed for the production of high-tech sails for racing yachts, the technology behind NTPT® was first licenced to the Swiss Alinghi team for use in the America’s Cup and later purchased by the group behind North Sails – the world’s biggest sail manufacturer - in order to develop and promote Thin Ply Technology for all rigid laminate applications using the North TPT concept.
As a result, the technology has since found applications in Formula 1, in the manufacture of the car chassis, as well as in the Solar Impulse project, in the manufacture of the ultra-light fuselage for the solar-powered aircraft.
- The RM 011 case in NTPT® carbon
The NTPT® carbon has a unique appearance thanks to its manufacturing process, which divides the carbon fibres and impregnates them with resin before they are woven on a special machine that modifies the direction of the weft by 45° between layers. After being heated to 120°C at a pressure of 6 bar, the NTPT® can be worked on a CNC machine to produce a watch case.
Because the fibres in the individual layers of the laminate are straighter and have a higher fibre/resin content (the fibres are completely “wetted out” by the resin, rather than just having one side coated as with other composite manufacturing processes), the NTPT® carbon case offers greater static strength and impact resistance even compared with other composite materials.
The new RM 011 case in NTPT® carbon will house the brand’s RMAC1 self-winding movement, which is made entirely out of titanium and offers a 55-hour power reserve from its double-barrel system, which is wound by a variable-geometry rotor.