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The Richard Mille RM 030 Japan Limited Edition

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Since its founding in 1999, Richard Mille has rapidly ascended to the top of the luxury watch industry. The company's timepieces are among the most sought-after in the world owing to their astounding complexity, inimitable design, and the brand's widely publicized collaborations with celebrities. As hours of work are necessary to ensure the highest quality of every timepiece, Richard Mille watches are produced in extremely limited numbers, driving up prices even further.

First released in 2011, the RM 030 remains a staple of Richard Mille's extensive catalog. Over the years, the brand has produced the watch in several limited editions. In 2016, Richard Mille released the RM 030 Japan Limited Edition. Limited to 50 pieces in white ceramic, the RM 030 Japan Edition is an exclusive take on a watch which was the culmination of years of development.

Years prior to the release of the RM 030, Richard Mille began developing an innovative winding system in which the rotor could "declutch" automatically. Requiring four years to produce, this mechanism would serve as the signature feature of the RMAR1 caliber which powers the RM 030.

In traditional winding systems, a flange slides into the mainspring barrel to limit further winding once the mainspring is fully wound. As the flange brakes on the barrel's interior, debris can build up, negatively affecting precision. The winding system of the RM 030 eliminates this issue. When the spring is close to fully wound (at 50 hours' power), the rotor's winding mechanism disconnects from the winding barrel. After a torque sensor detects that the power reserve has fallen to 40 hours, the rotor clutches once again. This window maintains the ideal ratio of constant torque to power in order to optimize precision.

The rotor itself is given equal consideration. Segments are made of 18 karat white gold with a high palladium content to add weight. Besides the obvious skeletonization, the variable-geometry rotor can be adjusted to six possible positions. These adjustments change the component's inertia to adapt to the activity level of the wearer. For leisurely activities with less movement, the rotor can be made to spin more easily, while in sporting activities with more movement, winding can be slowed.

The RMAR1 caliber also features a free-sprung balance wheel for increased shock protection. The wheel has four, variable-inertia weights to improve accuracy. The movement's energy is distributed across two barrels to keep torque more stable. This distribution also reduces pressure on the barrel components, resulting in greater longevity.

While its technical ingenuity may steal the show, the RMAR1 caliber's aesthetics certainly do not disappoint. As with most Richard Mille watches, the movement is finished in a quasi-utilitarian style with a high degree of skeletonization. The functional look belies the extraordinary amount of effort required to skeletonize and hand-finish components. Every detail is considered: spline screws are beveled and polished, levers are brushed, pivots are burnished, barrel bridges are coated with black PVD, wheels are sandblasted and plated with rhodium, and edges are beveled. The baseplate and skeletonized bridges, which are made of hand-ground, grade five titanium, must undergo several validation tests to ensure proper strength.

The transparent dial matches the technical nature of the movement. In addition to its skeletonization and Arabic numerals in the typical Richard Mille style, the dial features a uniquely vertical, big-date indication at seven o'clock. As the dial is clear, the sapphire crystal date discs are visible below. A useful power reserve indication sits at six o'clock while an indicator of whether the declutchable rotor is engaged sits beneath twelve. The tip of the seconds hand, the full seconds track, and the "RM 030" dial text match the red of the crown.

The large, barrel-shaped case wraps up the ensemble nicely. Secured by 20 of Richard Mille's signature spline screws in grade five titanium, the sandblasted white ceramic which comprises the front and back of the case gives the watch avant-garde appeal while keeping its weight low. The conspicuous, bright red crown features a torque-limiting system that prevents possible damage from overwinding. The sporty, white rubber strap is not neglected; aerodynamic vents offer breathability and a deployant clasp provides additional functionality.

Each part of the RM 030 is thoughtfully considered, giving rise to a masterfully executed whole that is distinctively "Richard Mille." Whi le the RM 030 Japan Limited Edition is recognizable from across the room due to its large, bright white, barrel-shaped case, the timepiece truly shines in the details. The hundreds of hours of technical development, design, and hand-finishing are on display in every aspect of the watch.