As you can probably guess from the name, the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) is all about high-end watchmaking. But this year, Richard Mille decided to think off the wrist a bit. In addition to a few new watches, the brand introduced the RMS05, a mechanical fountain pen that uses watchmaking technology to deploy the nib and comes with a six-figure price tag.
No, you didn’t misread that.
At first glance, the pen just looks like a large carbon-fiber pen with a glass window at the top. In fact, though, the body is made of a dark gray NTPT carbon, a special composite that’s lightweight, strong, and has a distinctive surface pattern reminiscent of Damascus steel. Inside the sapphire container at the top is the movement for controlling the nib. It’s made mostly of titanium and has 12 jewels to keep the rhodium-plated gears moving smoothly. The whole thing is finished by hand to the same specifications as Richard Mille’s watch movements.
The mechanical system itself is based on that of a minute repeater. You hit the button, and a system of gears and springs slowly transfers energy at a constant rate to send the nib sliding out of the front of the barrel. Instead of giving it an external winding system that would require a small bit of human labor, Richard Mille engineered the winding mechanism into the barrel of the pen itself; putting the cap on sends the nib back into its home, generating enough energy for the next deployment. It’s a deceivingly complex solution to a difficult problem you’ve never thought about.
I didn’t get a chance to write with the pen, but I did give the mechanism a whirl during a short demo. The pen is heavy in the hand, even with the carbon exterior, but it’s weighted nicely and doesn’t feel like it would be uncomfortable to write with if you like larger pens. When you activate the mechanism by pressing the button at the top, the whole thing starts to vibrate softly in the hand. It feels like something important is happening. Once deployed, the nib is beautiful and has two-tone frosting and polishing on it that reminds me of a watch movement’s bridges. Putting the cap back on made me a little nervous, but everything closed up smoothly and without a hitch.
If at this point you’re thinking, “Wait, this sounds completely insane,” we’re on the same page. Yes, the RMS05 is crazy. And yes, there’s no reason why one would need this or why it does its job any better than a nonmechanical fountain pen. But, as the manifestation of a thought experiment about how mechanical watchmaking technology can be applied outside of wristwatches and pocket watches, the pen is interesting and even fun. It’s tough for me to suggest that you actually buy one, but I certainly recommend you find one to see in the metal.
The RMS05 mechanical fountain pen costs $105,000 and is available exclusively at Richard Mille boutiques. It’s not a limited edition, but it will be produced in small numbers because of technical constraints.