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The Raven


[06:59 pst 03/19/2017 CE, 1489931940 E]

Current audio: Alcest 'Kodama' (again)

Little change here from the last entry. We are still working out the idea of widening the main table, and performing further adjustments as admin requests alterations and focus within the main content. The legal pages have been aligned for consistency throughout, and the FAQ is still breathing. We do know the day is coming when all content except the index and archive disappears. To that end, we have work in progress for maintaining flow here. And we have it on good authority that the Clodmaster project will not be completed at all. This is disappointing, of course, but we do understand that long-term ambition is tough to rely upon.

Other than that, not much is happening in the office. We are fearing the end of this.


The Passion and the Impossibility

The Richard Mille RM039 Tourbillon Aviation E6-B Flyback Chronograph

"This timepiece embodies all of the passionate interests from which we have derived enjoyment throughout the past few decades. None of our pursuits have been fleeting, nor have any been remotely artsy. All are very technical and extremely detail-oriented. Our driving forces are machining technology, mechanical and electronic engineering, aeronautics and astronautics, and finally wristwatches themselves. When aeronautics is combined with watchmaking, we go off the deep end. The level of detail and complexity within the RM039, along with its instrument-panel styled layout and coloration leaves us absolutely speechless, and has leveraged this essay designed to describe the fascination and appreciation for this machine that Richard Mille has created. The wristwatch is unlike any other, and the most striking example of a pilot's timepiece we have ever seen -- and this after years of searching and scouring the planet. It is unreal. And we will point out the downside at the outset: This watch is unavailable. Period. Thirty examples of this mechanical art were manufactured, sold, and subsequently distributed to thirty very happy customers. Oh, one will pop up from time to time as collectors buy and sell their investment pieces, but the bottom line is that the purchase price for something of this magnitude is commensurate with the time, effort, brilliant engineering and design which has gone into it. Acquisition of such a masterpiece is something which will not happen to us in this lifetime or the next.

As painful as this fact feels, we needed to point to the impossibility first.

We have seen countless articles written about this fantastic machine, and a few video reviews as well. Many of them go into great detail about the case, materials used on the outside and inside, and the unbelievable manufacturing techniques and processes which became necessary for Mr. Mille's vision. Due to the vast material already available, we wished to focus entirely upon the function and look of the watch from our perspective. To begin, some background on how this love affair materialized.

We go.


The masterpiece in question

Months ago, we ran across a Pinterest board full of Richard Mille watches, and after seeing the RM11-02 in the tonneau-shaped case with its colorful dial and oversize date window, we began to look deeper. Eventually the RM39-01 popped up and we became enamored with the inclusion of an elaborate example of the E6-B slide rule. This is a watch feature we own in many examples, however this particular incarnation has scales on the rotating bezel, the fixed inner bezel, along the outside edge, and on the case top, thus expanding both the readability and usefulness of a traditionally compact calculator. The individual scales are in varying colors and the entire bezel is oversized. Mr. Mille's version of the historic E6-B is brilliantly executed. And he did not let this computational flight tool stop there. The middle section of the watch case has a small cylinder which can pop up for speeding density altitude calculations. On the RM39-01 it is between eight and nine, while on the RM039 the device is near two o'clock on the case. The entire affair of his E6-B design is the most complete and visually striking adaptation we have seen on a wristwatch.

Upon encountering an image of the RM39-01, we immediately dove into searches for more information and detail and eventually ran across its more complex brother, the RM039. At first glance the watches are similar, but after looking deeper we realized the RM039 is vastly different and far more complex. With five pushers, four crown functions, three mechanical apertures, eight hands, and three subdials, the microengineering involved in creating this unbelievable watch is staggering. It is unlike any other aviation instrument for the wrist.

Before we begin to gush at length regarding the remainder of the RM039 functionality, we will outline our impression of the RM39-01.

The dial side, below.


The beauty which led us to the passion, the RM39-01

The automatic RM39-01 displays hours, minutes and chronograph seconds at center, running seconds at three o'clock, totalized chronograph hours at six o'clock, and chronograph minutes on a unique subdial at nine. UTC time is also displayed from the center. There is a large aperture above center for the date, and a smaller aperture at four o'clock for the month. The chrono is a flyback.

The chronograph minutes subdial is fantastic in that it utilizes a disc as opposed to a pointer for indication. The rotating inner disc also has a scale, and as such can be read as a countdown while the chronograph is running. Very innovative.

Upon discovering this very colorful instrument, we immediately searched for images and information, and eventually ran across the RM 039. At first glance, the dial side has a bit less color and the back crystal displays a tourbillon bridge and the fact that the movement is hand-wound. The pushers are nearly identical (although more of them on the RM039) and the crown lock on the RM39-01 is absent on its more complex brother. We took in much detailed information and soon realized that the similarities are few. The RM39-01 houses Richard Mille's RMAC2 4Hz movement which is used in other watch models, while the RM039 caliber is unique.

Below is the back of the RM39-01. Stunning.

RM39-01 back

The rear of the RM39-01, with its automatic rotor

If ever there was such a thing, the RM39-01 is a pure aviation instrument. Every aspect of this timepiece shouts aircraft, and we fell in love with it immediately. The fact remains that this model is likely the only one of the two which could be considered attainable. At somewhere north of $100k, it is a chunk in its own right, but realistically something which could happen for a person dedicated to the purchase and passionate enough to focus upon such a goal. The watch is worth every penny, even if to display prominently and spend years just staring at this type of horological accomplishment. The fact remains that the E6-B flight computer on this watch is identical to that found on the RM039. The only difference between the two models as related to the bezel is the mechanism mentioned above. Inside, the two are vastly different and clearly define the very idea of creating something so wondrous with a price tag which remains in the stratosphere, and then another 'version' that is more affordable. We believe the prototype for the RM039 arrived first, and the RM39-01 came later. However it happened, we are pleased to see such unbelievable examples of flight-related mechanical wonders for the wrist.

On to the main point of this whole endeavor: the Richard Mille RM039 Tourbillon Aviation E6-B Flyback Chronograph -- otherwise known to us as the Passion.


Supreme aeronautical coloration


The incredibly detailed dial with a nice sapphire glare


The tourbillon bridge of the hand-wound RM039 stands out beautifully

The RM039 holds a hand-wound movement and prominently displays hours and minutes at center, along with a striped UTC hand, chronograph seconds, and chronograph minutes. Running seconds are displayed on the lovely tourbillon at six, and totalized chronograph hours are at nine. The outsized date window is above center, and between two and three is the power reserve. So far, there is much happening on this timepiece, but more is to be found. At four is an aperture, surrounded by yellow and black striping, which is the crown mode indicator. Opposite this, there is another aperture with a matching decorated outline which indicates whether or not the countdown is enabled/running. Yes, a countdown function which shares hands with the flyback chronograph, and this on a mechanical watch.

Above center, and similar to that of the RM39-01, are the exposed date windows. On this model, the apertures are framed in white -- for readability -- and the black numerals on each wheel are 'backlit' in a manner of speaking, due to the white background behind where the date digits meet in the center. Each date wheel is nearly fully exposed, furthering the complexity of the dial. To add a bit more, the date can be quickly advanced at any time thanks to a dedicated pusher (at two). The RM039 has no month indication, and we don't care. If you do not know the month at any given time, you may need a different wristwatch. Heh.

All of this indication and function is colored so as to resemble parts of an aircraft instrument panel. Many of the gauges and mechanical displays on an airplane are brightly and differently colored for instant recognition during flight. This watch is showing off black, white, yellow, green, orange, and red on the dial information alone, not to mention all of the varying colors around the bezel, pushers, and crown. Never before have we seen a timepiece more fitting for aviation, nor any which have looked more the part. It is beautiful to gaze upon, and this considering all that is going on inside.

The power reserve is a retrograde-type, and employs a small striped hand for indication. We are pretty certain that the reserve on this gorgeousness is roughly seventy hours, and the display is from sixty to zero. The power reserve is not intrusive at all, being nestled up and away from the main hands.

dial detail

Absolute complexity and appearance

further in

Right at home in a plane

The chronograph is also a flyback, meaning the mechanism can be immediately reset while running. This is important in aviation for quickly measuring successive points without the need to stop, reset, and start again. Chronograph seconds and minutes are indicated from the center, and the two pointers are very different for instant readability. The totalized hours are indicated by a subdial at nine. Naturally, the chrono reset and flyback share one pusher. Did we mention that the oversize pushers around the case are all labeled? And further, they are decorated beautifully with stark red against their metal construction.

One of the pushers -- at nine on the case -- turns on the countdown function (the aperture at seven will display 'on'). Another pusher -- at four -- is then used to set the number of desired minutes. A light press moves the center hand in one-minute increments, while a further press advances the hand in five-minute increments, thus speeding the process of setting the countdown duration. When the start/stop pusher (at eight) is engaged, the coundtown runs its course, eventually causing the indicator to move to 'off' when time has elapsed. Keep in mind that this function is sharing a part of the chronograph and flyback while running. The sheer amount of engineering required for this feat is staggering to consider.

Another little tidbit as related to the apertures... since this watch is completely mechanical, and due to the fact that Richard Mille's movements are largely exposed from both sides of the watch, the indicators for the countdown and crown mode can be seen through the crystal despite their position in each aperture. This is fantastic because they appear to be 'waiting' in a standby position until required. The entire affair of the function indicators as well as the date is simply incredible to look at. Insane. Add to this the fact that the two apertures flanking the tourbillon are not evenly spaced on the dial. Why does this matter? It adds yet another level of visual and mechanical complexity to an already unreal appearance and function. And then between them the tourbillon spins its magic with a bright orange pointer. There is just no end to the staggering beauty of this watch.

Deep breath. Moving on.

The four-o'clock aperture is the crown mode indicator. The massive crown on this watch has the selector built into the center and controls four modes: 'N' for neutral (basically freewheeling), 'W' for winding the movement, 'H' for setting the hour and minute hands, and 'U' for setting the center UTC hand (or second time zone, if you will). While the 39-01 has a dedicated pusher for changing the second time zone, the 039 already has five pushers, so the crown adjustment for this function seems necessary.

three pushers

Three of the six pushers

Throughout all of our research and consideration for this masterpiece, one aspect of the design still remains a tad bit of a mystery. Like many mechanical timepieces, there are crystals on both front and rear of the case to show as much as possible, but in perusing the images over and over we find that there seems to be some secondary level of crystal or glass beneath the top. This movement is like a skeleton, in that there are moving parts visible through both sides (although we do not believe one can see all the way through like a true skeleton -- just way too much going on inside to have that much space available). Beneath the top sapphire crystal, however, we see labeling (silkscreening?) for the hour indicators, aperture borders, etc. This material is not above the dial, but seems to BE the dial -- like there is glass below the top crystal yet above any mechanical movement parts other than the hands. For example, in the image above showing the lower half of the dial, one can see cutouts in the clear material in the center of each subdial (this is very apparent when looking at the power reserve). We are fairly certain that the dial itself is glass (or sapphire... very likely), below the center hands, and we are scrutinizing this for no good reason other than to know every detail. Of course, if the watch were in our waiting hands at this very moment, it would undergo hours, days, weeks, months, and possibly years of protracted macro photography in order to magnify and appreciate the endless complexity within this highest order of aviation-born horology. The closest we can figure without in-person examination? The thickness of this watch is partly due to the inclusion of so many stacked hands on the center wheel, and Mr. Mille's exposed movements require a level of material above the mechanical area for labeling.

We may have just answered our own question. Whatever. Something is in there, and the resulting dial appearance due to this type of design is stunningly beautiful.

And now the difficulty of knowing we will never be in the same room with one of the most incredible machines we have ever seen is setting upon our heads. Ugh. We are not going to be any closer than digital images. What a damaging thought.

Anyway, let us get back to the point of this writing

the other three pushers

Even the crown resembles an airplane's wheel

As if the complexity described thus far wasn't enough, the entire movement is protected against misuse. That is to say that the functional nature of each aspect while running -- flyback, countdown, or otherwise -- also engages mechanical limitations which will not allow pushers to be used out of order, and this extra level of design and microengineering means that the wearer need not worry about harming the extremely complex movement during daily use. Really? Yep. Just another unbelievable facet piled upon the many horological feats within this wondrous machine. Richard Mille is one of the most brilliant figures in the world of watches. There are seven-hundred and thirty-eight parts to the RM039's movement. And every single one of them has been placed inside the case with every possibility taken in to consideration, thus yielding this... this highest level of an art which never ceases to amaze.

Whatever we have strove to write and place on this entry, nothing will ever be enough. Just look at the thing... the images of all that we have attempted to describe. Nope, we cannot do it justice no matter the word choice nor count. Even the images fall short. Despite extensive searching for months, the images are too diminutive to capture all of the detail. No one seems to be capturing high resolution images and placing them for all to see. This is disappointing, to say the least. We would love to see EVERY DETAIL on this most beautiful of machines. Oh well.

Regardless, we are gazing upon the very embodiment of wrist-worn aviation instrumentation, and as we sit in this chair, nothing like this masterpiece will ever grace the horological world again. Every aspect of such a timepiece is incredible -- form, function, and the seemingly endless complexity of engineering involved in its creation. Superlatives aside, we cannot begin to conceive of this thing which Mr. Mille has designed and built. The RM039 is now the only wrist instrument which matters to us. We are finished searching.

And the impossibility rears its ugly head one more time -- nothing like this will ever be close enough to see, touch, or appreciate. Just like the many damaging essays we have thrown to the world wide web throughout these past fifteen-plus years, this is yet another facet of the difficulty inherent in having an obsession. There is no difference between this wristwatch and Julianne. Or Her. Or all of the many works of art through which we have trod in a futile attempt to understand why we must throw everything -- all of ourselves -- into one direction and then realize that we are suffering because of the effort."

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Random Quote:

"Life is not lost by dying; life is lost minute by minute, day by dragging day,
in all the thousand small uncaring ways."
-- Stephen Vincent Benét


Maltese Cross