The Swiss watchmaking brand has received the JEC World 2016 Innovation Award in the luxury category for the TPT® Quartz employed in the case of the RM 27-02 Rafael Nadal tourbillon calibre.
TPT® Quartz, created by Richard Mille and North Thin Ply Technology (NTPT), has just won an award at the recent JEC World 2016, the largest international composite materials show. This distinction is the culmination of four years of work and collaboration between the two companies.
It all began in spring 2012, when NTPT presented engineers at Richard Mille with a section from the mast of the Alinghi, made of NTPT carbon, an exceptionally resistant material that is, among other properties, particularly difficult to machine. Intrigued, ProArt Prototypes SA, the machining company attached to the Richard Mille group, devoted hours to perfecting machining programs and researching cutting tools that were adapted to carbon. Once this stage was complete, tests began to assess the material’s biocompatibility and its resistance to UV rays, 5,000 g impacts, wear and tear, and water. These extremely intense tests highlighted a lack of water-resistance, to which ProArt responded by reducing the material’s porosity. This marked the real start of Richard Mille’s partnership with NTPT. Following multiple trials, North Thin Ply Technology found a solution which, in turn, gave rise to the first watch case to be made from NTPT carbon—a world premiere in the watchmaking industry. The RM 011 was born. “We had never seen a material pass all our tests with flying colours the first time round!”
enthused Julien Boillat
, Technical Director at Richard Mille. “When we showed the prototype to Richard and Dominique Guénat (Richard Mille’s associate), they loved it. NTPT carbon is simply magnificent and fiendishly tough.”
Following the success of NTPT carbon, Richard Mille set the development teams a new challenge: to obtain a new white-coloured composite. In partnership with North Thin Ply Technology, the Jura-based brand conceived and developed what has since become TPT® Quartz. This material had to meet the brand’s very strict set of specifications, the first of which involved obtaining a naturally white fibre that was not dyed, as is usually the case in watchmaking, and which also offered a very high resistance/weight ratio. Furthermore, the material had to be non-allergenic as well as resistant to UV rays and a wide range of chemical products with which the watch was likely to come into contact on a daily basis. Once again, machining represented the main difficulty, as it was impossible to use the same cutting tools as for carbon, because the quartz fibres cause much greater wear.
Armed with a unique expertise of machining amassed over years of experimenting with the various materials used in Richard Mille watches, Alain Varrin (Director of ProArt Prototypes SA) and his team rose to the challenge. It is thanks to the flawless execution of this project involving a material with a crucial set of properties (low mass, excellent electromagnetic transparency and resistance to impacts and harsh environments) that North Thin Ply Technology has been recognised at the JEC, and that Richard Mille was able to present his visually and technically accomplished RM 27-02 Rafael Nadal timepiece.