Because It’s Cool To Make A Watch That Thin

Recently [Richard Mille] and Ferrari (yes, that Ferrari) announced the thinnest mechanical watch ever made, the RM UP-01.

It measures a scant 1.75mm thick (~1/16 of an inch). The aesthetic is debatable, and the price tag is not even listed on the page, but we suspect it is a rather significant sum. But setting aside those two things, we’d like to step back and appreciate this as a piece of art. This is not a practical watch by any stretch of the imagination. This watch is the equivalent of a human-powered airplane. Impractical, costly, and not as effective as other modern mechanically-powered solutions. But that doesn’t make it any less impressive.

Since it is so thin, a regular stacked assortment of gears wasn’t an option. So instead, the gears were distributed over the watch’s surface, which led to a thin watch face. This means that winding is manual to save space, and a single winding will last around 45 hours. The heartbeat of any mechanical watch is the escapement. So they had to redesign the escapement to be flatter, doing away with the guard pin and the safety roller, instead using the anchor fork to bank the lever in case of unexpected forces or shocks.

The design is incredible but perhaps just as noteworthy is the fact that it could be machined. Machined out of titanium with a micron of accuracy, which is an incredible feat if you’ve seen a savage discussion of measurements. The smaller and more accurate you get, the steeper the difficulty curve.

A short teaser is available after the break.

48 thoughts on “Because It’s Cool To Make A Watch That Thin

  1. Caught it on a different website earlier this week. 1.8 million dollars US each. Production limited to 150 units.

    Kinda cool that it is possible, but that price is just bloody insane.

      1. That’s pretty cheap for rich people just to be able to have this watch. Resale value in several years will be twice that.

        > I seriously underestimate how rich people spend their money


    1. And the clock isn’t even complete. You can’t even wind it up or set the time without the special tool that comes with it. If you loose the tool and the clock stops, you’l have a hard time telling the right time.

    1. These sorts of watches aren’t bought in order to tell time. Their main purpose is for the buyer to be seen wearing (or even just owning) a 1.8 million dollar watch. That’s it

      1. Not long ago, a really good knockoff Rolex could get you laid. You just had to avoid ‘this person has a job’ tells.

        Really good Rolex knockoffs are common now, so less play.

    1. It seems the manufacturer looked at the cabbages people are dragging around on their arms and thought “We ought to do something with that area.”

      On those occassions when I wear a watch (when it would be inappropriate to whip out my phone to see the time,) I wear a Bulova from about 1950. Small and thin. Even watchmakers (when I take it to have it serviced) assume it is a woman’s watch. Bulova made a (much) smaller version of it for women.

      What’s with all the cabbage head watches these days?

      1. Once, as a youngster, I asked my father for a watch from a catalog. I’d chosen it because of how cool the face looked. The catalog only showed pictures of the faces. When the actual item arrived, I was surprised by how bulbously thick it was. It made it unwearable for me, so it had to be returned. I learned to be suspicious of products that only featured “beauty shots”.

        Having worn a relatively thin digital watch for years, I’ve still been surprised at the number of times I’ve snagged it on something while swinging my arm past. I’d never want to wear anything valuable on my wrist, and especially not anything bulky (more likely to snag).

    1. If analogue computers ever come back they’d surely be electronic. If mechanical computers ever come back you won’t be able to see the components without a scanning electron microscope.

    1. My guess is that bending it voids your warantee, but there’s one way to find out. :)

      But it’s two flat plates on the outside with a little space between. Might be kinda rigid? Titanium? You can probably just go look up the young’s modulus and figure it out…we know the rough dimensions.

  2. This site really needs an editor. E.g., “The aesthetic is debatable”…. Why? “This is not a practical watch by any stretch of the imagination.” What??? Explain…

  3. phones get thinner, laptops and now watches while there is no need for thinner stuff. Or is this to compensate for people in the west getting thicker all the time?

    1. For what this watch costs, your great grandson can take it back to the manufacturer for cleaning and adjustment at no cost – champagne and dancing girls (or Chippendales) included as entertainment while the technicians pull plans and spare parts out of storage and do whatever servicing is needed.

      1. No cost?

        You don’t know how ‘I’m so rich’ flexes work. The cost plus the uselessness IS the flex.

        e.g. Chuck doesn’t actually care about royal toilet seats. Having a full time, Saville row clad ‘royal toilet seat minder’ is great flex.

  4. Price aside, this is a fascinating mechanism. I can’t believe there isn’t a single comment regarding the actual mechanism. Instead we have arguments about practicality and price.

    My hat is off to the engineers that made this thing.

    1. My hat would be off to them if they quoted a timekeeping precision of useable quality. Making something thin and useless at its job isn’t impressive – could get similar effect with a bit of sheet metal and a sticker, that is thin.

      Now if it keeps time well enough to actually be useful at a human scale then its impressive, still far from the most impressive mechanical watch IMO, but still an impressive feat of flattening.

  5. Take it for what you want, but the website says it “offers chronometric precision for an extended period of time.” I don’t know if this is Swiss or what, but claiming “chronometric” precision is probably actually a legal thing. COSC defines what a “chronometer” is for mechanical time pieces and claiming it is a “chronometer” is a defined thing. It requires that the actual movement is submitted, is rated, and passed several stringent tests before it can legally be called a chronometer. This movement is not claiming to be “a chronometer,” only that it has that level of precision. But still.

    Amazing work.

    1. The swiss held the worlds last watch Olympics (don’t recall the actual name) just before the first quartz watch shipped. They haven’t embarrassed themselves since.

      The real metric is how fast it gets a model’s panties to hit the floor during party season in the south of France.
      Rich people like to think they are players, not johns.

    2. They don’t seem to have specified a figure for the accuracy (eg seconds lost/gained per day), which makes me suspect it’s not particularly noteworthy.
      I guess for this sort of watch, as long as it’s correct within about minute, every month or so, when the owner takes it out of a drawer to impress people, it’s good enough. It’s not like this would be your only watch if you owned one of these.

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