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Everything you need to know about Prototype Watches

Nikkan Navidi

4 Rare Prototypes

Everything you need to know about Prototype Watches

In the industry of Haute Horology watch manufacturers, the concept of prototyping plays a vital role. To be able to continuously innovate in an industry with fierce competition, watchmakers have to test their ideas and refine them ahead of a launch and especially production. This can include testing an intricate and complicated movement, a non-conventional case design, or even a dial composition that has never been implemented before. In this article, we will present to the Konvi community three watch prototypes that combine unique designs with extraordinary mechanical engineering capabilities.

Richard Mille, Prototype No. 2, Ref. RM056

Today, Richard Mille is probably amongst the most well-known high-end luxury watch manufacturers but what many people don’t know is that the brand is amongst the youngest with its establishment in 1999. Their mission was to push the limits of innovation and incorporate it into top-of-the-line watchmaking. Two years later its first model the Richard Mille RM001 was launched, astonishing the watch enthusiast world with its price tag of €159,000. The watch had neither gold nor diamonds, it solely prevailed with its engineering.

Today we are presenting the RM056. The watch is a masterpiece that combines different resins, metals, carbons, and materials you have never heard of which are aero or weapon-grade. The extraordinary Richar Mille is the second prototype of the first edition RM056 line, of which only five examples were manufactured. However, while the watch we are presenting was marked as no. 2, it has not been publicly announced how many prototypes were produced.

What makes the watch truly special is that it is completely made of synthetic sapphire, which is considered the second hardest material after natural diamonds. The material is manufactured in special laboratories, usually in colorless 3-inch wide and 12-inch long cylinders. After the raw synthetic material is done it will follow an 800-hour-long shaping and polishing process ensuring the high-quality standards of Richar Mille are met. The material is considered top-of-the-line of the Richard Mille watches. Furthermore, The RM056 contains presumably one of the most complicated movements that have been featured in Richard Mille to date.

The exclusive Richard Mille RM 056 Prototype No. 2 was auctioned for $1.2 million at the ‘Watches And American Icons’ Auction in June 2017.

MB&F LM1 “Longhorn” prototype in stainless steel

In the past, we have presented MB&F, which has developed exclusive out-of-the-box designs such as the HM9. However, the company has also developed watches that offer a more wearable experience for the owner such as the LM1. The prototype of the LM1 was the so-called “Longhorn”. The creator Max Büsser and Eric Giroud named the watch after the long lugs (or possibly horns) that they envisioned implementing in the LM1 but eventually abandoned due to constructional factors that would have impeded the perfect comfortable fit for the wearer.

The solution to this problem which came to Büsser years later was simpler than expected. They proposed that to ensure a perfect fit for all the wearers they would make a customization option available where wearers could decide the best positioning of the strap. However, that is not the only feature that makes this watch unique. While most LM1s were produced in gold, platinum, and titanium, the LM1 Longhorn is made of stainless steel, like the LM1 Final Editions of 2017. The base plate is rhodium-plated, and for the first time in the LM1’s history, the glossy white lacquer of the sub-dials has been replaced with a shiny black lacquer that contrasts exceptionally well with the blued hands. The ‘Longhorn’ nickname of the prototype came to the MB&F team during a brainstorming session and is a direct reference to the rhinoceros; an endangered species hunted for its longhorn. A significant portion of the proceeds from the auction of the prototype had therefore been given to the London-based Save the Rhino International organization, created to protect five species of rhinoceros in Africa and Asia.

On November 7th, the MB&F LM1 Longhorn pièce unique was auctioned in Geneva by Phillips in association with Bacs & Russo for CHF277,200.

Richard Hoptroff's Atomic Wristwatch Prototype

While today's Haute Horology watch manufacturers set their priorities on manufacturing never seen before intricacies and designs, in the early 18th century the core of the development by the biggest names such as Breguet laid within the creation of the most precise watch possible.

The creator of this exceptional timepiece, Richard Hoptroff, took this as his silver lining when developing the “Atomic Wristwatch”. Inside the watch is a CSAC (Chip-Scale Atomic Clock), which regulates timekeeping with extraordinary accuracy. Normal mechanical watches keep their time for maybe one week, quarts watches can keep ±20 seconds/per month. Hoptroff states that the watch he developed will lose just 1.5 seconds every 1,000 years. The CSAC is the same chip used inside what is recognized as the world's first atomic wristwatch, the Bathys Cesium 133. While the original-sized chip would be able to offer such accuracy, the battery life of the prototype is two to three days, with the atomic function continuously engaged. Hoptroff has devised a low-energy consumption mode during which a full charge will last an estimated three months. According to Hoptroff, the circuit board is both designed and manufactured in the United Kingdom. However, the heart of the movement, the CSAC, is produced in the United States.

As the watch is currently in the prototype stage, the production model is still subject to final design changes. The No. 16 will be produced in steel (GBP 18,000), gold (GBP 27,000), and platinum (GBP 52,000), each in a limited edition of 100 pieces.

MCT Vantablack Prototype

MCT, short for Manufacture Contemporaine Du Temps, was founded in 2007 by Denis Giguet. Located on the shores of Lake Neuchatel, MCT dedicates its time to crafting unique and charming timepieces, without concerning itself with the practicality or functionality of those timepieces. The ‘standard’ S200 comes with a semi-open dial that allows a peek at the base plate underneath the prisms. The "Only Watch" edition has a dial painted in Vantablack. But what exactly is Vantablack? It’s a color coating that is the most black substance ever created by humankind. Vantablack absorbs up to 99.965% of visible light. The only thing that can absorb more light would be a black hole. Vantablack was created as a material for scientific instruments, like deep-space telescopes, as the ultra-matte black stops additional light from interfering with viewing, but in recent years it has seen many other artistic use cases. The result of using Vantablack on a watch dial is that the visible portions of the movement and time display give the impression of hovering above a bottomless void.

This watch started as a chance meeting between the CEO of MCT and artist Anish Kapoor, who has exclusive artistic rights from Surrey Nanosystems to use Vantablack. One thing turned into the next and eventually, Kapoor decided to work with MCT on this limited-edition watch.

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