WATCHES: Coolest travel watch?

I sometimes used to wonder, if I was ever going to hang up my suit and move to a peaceful island somewhere, which one watch would I take with me? With so many to choose from the answer isn't as obvious as you might think.

In my search for the ideal beach/travel watch, I will be posting the contenders with pros/cons on each then hopefully, one day, a winner. 


CONTENDER: RICHARD MILLE RM028 'DIVER'

Despite the whopping (US$100,000) price tag, very few people recognize a Richard Mille, something I liked about the watch.

Perhaps not the first travel watch that comes to mind due to the price that goes with it, the RM028 is one of the coolest out there and a strong contender for the ultimate travel model. The standard version as pictured is created in a 47mm diameter titanium case with automatic movement and date. The luminous hands, due to their size, are clearly visible at night and the revolving bezel is an over-engineered piece of geek heaven. Constructed out of no less than three layers and secured together using 22 screws, the bezel remains locked in place unless both the raised 60 and 30 minute buttons are simultaneously pressed, allowing it to rotate anti-clockwise. This sounds more complex that it is and with some practice the bezel can be set quickly and efficiently. The winding crown is, well, huge and I found dug into the back of my hand, hence the yellow string in the picture to act as a barrier (it really does make a difference). The sand does get into the bezel which is a worry, although it always seemed to wash out at the end of the day, still, this might have a long-term effect as some sand could remain and with such a complex bezel, if it fails, it really fails. The strap is super-soft vulcanized rubber (looks great in the optional red) secured to the case by large titanium bolts, combined with a trustworthy titanium pin-buckle you don't have to worry about losing your $100,000 purchase to the depths of the ocean.

This wouldn't be a good time to be worrying about the reliability of your strap.

One of the big drawbacks I found on the RM028 is the depth, not the rating but physical thickness. The watch is 14.6mm thick and this makes it big enough, believe it or not, to create noticeable drag when swimming, it also means it knocks into doors and things (usually after a few beers) and gets caught on clothes or backpacks when removing them. Nothing serious but frustrating.

 At 47mm in diameter and 14.6mm thick, the watch is large, although thanks to the titanium case, which is exceptionally well crafted, the model only weighs 127g with strap.

At 47mm in diameter and 14.6mm thick, the watch is large, although thanks to the titanium case, which is exceptionally well crafted, the model only weighs 127g with strap.

After wearing the watch for a while, as much as I loved the construction and finishing quality of the case, I simply grew tired of the size. For a watch of this value I would also liked to have seen a more secure crown, it's so large that I felt it could snap the stem very easily. The minute hand also has a tendency to jump (by several minutes) when pushing the crown back into its winding position after setting, I have seen this on more than one time-only RM model and assume it's a design flaw or common wear-issue with the movement. 

Call me crazy but I swear my morning swim always took a little longer when wearing the RM028 due to the additional drag the case creates.

Pros. Amazingly well constructed lightweight case with great attention to detail, including the most over-engineered roating-bezel imaginable. The clear, legible dial is easy to read at a glance and you never worry about losing it due to the secure strap. Despite its obvious size, I doubt you would be targeted by thieves as few would believe its value, not sure if it's a plus but those people who do recognize it will call you 'Sir', no matter how tattered your clothes. Ultimately the best thing is the design; it is one cool looking watch.

Cons. If used regularly in the sea or on a beach, I would be concerned for the long-term effects of wear on the bezel and future servicing options. The crown is also so large and with little support for the stem you could easily create enough leverage to snap it during hand-setting (not that I have heard of this happening). The biggest problem though is the size, if the movie Expendables 3 was more true to life (!) Stallone, wearing a slightly larger RM032 in the movie, would be constantly catching the watch on doors, or anything you walk past, through, or put on or removed. In short, even the smaller RM028 was just too thick to be practical for adventure travel. One more small point, at 20 meters under the water the colour red becomes invisible, making the last 15 minute red warning on the bezel turn black when diving.

The red bezel numerals and dial accents look great on dry land but the colour is the first to be lost underwater, turning the same accents a dark grey/black colour at  depth.