Watchmakers have been besotted with ceramics since the 1980s, when Rado, already a specialist in scratch-resistant materials, incorporated high-tech ceramics into a timepiece for the first time.

Keep in mind that “high-tech” ceramics are nothing like the traditional ceramics that primitive communities used to fashion objects such as bricks, tiles and clay pots, even though they share some basic qualities: All ceramics are inorganic, nonmetallic solids with strong molecular bonds. As a result, they boast superior hardness and extremely high melting points (to the tune of 2,000°C and above).

Richard Mille RM 11-05

RM 11-05 Automatic Flyback Chronograph GMT Courtesy of Richard Mille.

The avant-garde watchmaker Richard Mille has elevated the industry’s grasp of ceramic once again, with the debut of the RM 11-05 Automatic Flyback Chronograph GMT, whose case and bezel are made of grey cermet, a ceramic-metal composite that is as light as titanium and as hard as diamond. Typically used in the aerospace, automotive and ballistics industries, cermet derives its colour from the combination of a metallic zirconium matrix with high-performance ceramic inserts.

Richard Mille RM 11-05

RM 11-05 Automatic Flyback Chronograph GMT Courtesy of Richard Mille

Perfecting the material required years of research and development in partnership with the IMI Group, which specializes in microtechnology solutions for luxury goods manufacturers. Thanks to a pioneering “flash sintering” process, the grey cermet has a density of 4.1 g/cm3—which means it weighs less than titanium, at 4.5 g/cm3—and a hardness of 2,360 Vickers (compared to diamond’s 2,400 Vickers).

The complexity of this timepiece is not, however, skin deep. The skeletonized automatic winding movement, crafted from titanium, includes a flyback chronograph with minutes and countdown counters at 9 o’clock, an hour counter at 6 o’clock, a UTC function, a variable-geometry rotor and about 55 hours of power reserve.

The RM 11-05 Automatic Flyback Chronograph GMT comes on a Carbon TPT band. Limited to 140 pieces, it retails for approx. $308,000.