Richard Mille, the founder and CEO of his eponymously named watch company sure knows how to pick a winner. Sponsoring Rafael Nadal certainly paid off as the tennis super star claimed his 10th French Open win this past weekend, while also wearing the RM 27-03. The use of cutting-edge technical materials is at the heart of the brand but also makes it possible for such a watch to be warn without detrimentally affecting the player’s ability. He also sponsors our very own Olympic gold medalist Wayde van Niekerk who broke the world record in the 400m in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro while wearing an RM 27-02.

Wayde van Niekerk wears the RM 27-02
Image: Supplied Wayde van Niekerk wears the RM 27-02

Much like the world of motoring, watchmakers are forever striving to make their timepieces faster and more efficient. However, the exciting developments are not only in new precision movements but also in innovative, super light-weight materials for cases and the mechanical parts, which allow for more efficient inner workings. 

The RM 50-03 Tourbillon Split Seconds Chronograph Ultralight McLaren F1 weighs less than 40 grams (including its strap) making it the lightest mechanical chronograph ever made. This was made possible by the introduction of an entirely new material in the world of watchmaking called Graph TPT (thin ply technology), which is composed of Carbon TPT and the newly discovered graphene, developed in collaboration with the University of Manchester’s National Graphene Institute.

This nano-material is six times lighter than steel yet 200 times stronger. Because of McLaren’s support of the institute and longstanding partnership with the watch brand, Richard Mille was able to find a new application for this ground-breaking material. According to Sir Kostya Novoselov, 2010 Physics Nobel Laureate and Professor of Physics at the university: “This is the strongest material on earth. It also conducts electricity better than copper, it’s stronger than diamond, and more impermeable to gasses than any other material.”

The RM 50-03 McLaren F1 is limited to 75 numbered pieces with a price tag of CHF980000 (approx R1,3m), and each is accompanied by a 1:5 scale model of the 2017 McLaren-Honda car driven by double-world champion Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne. 

Richard Mille RM 50-03 Tourbillon Split Seconds Chronograph Ultralight McLaren F1
Image: Supplied Richard Mille RM 50-03 Tourbillon Split Seconds Chronograph Ultralight McLaren F1

McLaren founder Bruce McLaren understood what it meant to really fine tune a machine. This applied not only to the engines but to the drivers, the chassis and other parts. This was most evident in 2008 when the company introduced the first carbon-based racing cars and thereby ushered in the materials craze to the sport, which is so integral to racing today. Although McLaren Honda have not been on the podium since the beginning of the 2015 season, lighter materials and a rumored engine change could hopefully see them shift rankings.

Mille has a very personal connection to McLaren. He was with his father in Monaco when the McLaren team made their debut in 1966 and he has introduced much of the character and technology of F1 into his watches since he founded the company in 1999 in collaboration with Audemars Piguet. This passionate collector has seven McLarens in his fleet of over 100 cars. Of these is the very first car that McLaren drove as a 22-year-old in the first Grand Prix on the Sebring Ring, Florida in 1959.

The complex Calibre RM 50-03 movement comprises of over 600 parts but weighs in at an astonishing 7g and can withstand shocks up to 5000G. The tourbillon has their typical V-shape with cutouts to make it much lighter, but also allows it to move around a bit when subject to external forces. The transmission gears of a car have inspired the design of the teeth of the going train since 2001. The split second mechanism has been redesigned — the split second dates back to the launch of the brand and their famous Calibre RM-008 — with the number of arms of the column wheel having been reduced from eight to six so that interactions are cleaner and more efficient.

This is the ultimate statement piece and the amazing visual effect of a machined composite block of Graph TPT’s ultra-thin plies is revealed in its gorgeous, bold case. The watch features a torque-limiting crown — an added security system that prevents overwinding. The shape of the crown takes its cue from the wheel rims designed by McLaren. The hollow pushers of the chronograph are made from Graph TPT and recall the air vents of a F1 car. The McLaren livery will be changing yearly and so too will each updated edition of the watch. or RLG Africa +27(0)113172600

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