In a unique double interview, Haute Time dives into the world of high-tech materials, created by NTPT and Richard Mille. They deploy cutting-edge technology to create materials that are as strong as they are light. This is not an easy task, as it is very demanding on both the material producers, watch designers and -makers. In our first installment, we are talking with Aurèle Vuillemier, R&D Manager at Richard Mille.
Richard Mille is known for the use of innovative materials. How do you discover them, and what put you on track of NTPT?
The RM team is motivated by all novelties and follow the latest developments closely. Candidates for new materials are also suggested by friends of the brand, and also by our suppliers and partners. NTPT was introduced to the RM team through personal connections.
When you have discovered the products of NTPT, how long did it take you to be able to work with it and integrate it into a new model?
The carbon TPT® composite materials were known by the RM development team in 2012. The first product presented to the public was an RM011 carbon TPT® edition in October 2013.
What is the main challenge to work with Quartz or Carbon TPT®?
Both materials require know-how to form, machine and polish to get to Haute Horlogerie components. Carbon composites are very stiff, on the other side, their use in the industry is well established. This means that tools and techniques exist and are reported in the literature. Quartz fiber composites on the other side are really exotic materials, with different challenges and require a passion for exploration to reach the necessary excellence in watches.
What is the difference/how much more work need to go in crafting a case from a metal such as titanium or gold, compared to one of Quartz/Carbon TPT?
Generally, composites are a bigger challenge in the machining than traditional metals like titanium, gold, or steel. The machining takes longer, the proportion of rejected parts is much higher. But most important: prior to machining, the fiber impregnation with resin, the lay-up of the composite plies and the curing in the oven request a huge amount of care. For the quartz composites, the need for cleanliness led NTPT and RM to set up a dedicated production facility in a clean room.
Will Richard Mille in the near future expand the use of Quartz/Carbon TPT® to other parts of the watch as well?
This is already the case! The RM27-02 and RM 27-03 Nadal tourbillon watches feature a baseplate in carbon TPT® integrated into the middle case. The RM 50-03 McLaren tourbillon chronograph presents carbon fiber bridges. And it’s not the end; we have ideas and ongoing projects!
In the next interview, which will be published in the upcoming weeks on Haute Time, we continue our journey through high-tech materials as we sit down with Ludovic Chichignoud, COO of NTPT.