At this year’s SIHH, Richard Mille presented just one watch, the Richard Mille RM 50-03, which is the lightest split-seconds tourbillon chronograph ever made.
“I was always against the generic thinking in marketing that a watch must be heavy to have value, as if you would say a car must be heavy to have value. That is stupid,” says Richard Mille. The RM 50-03 McLAREN F1 is the horological expression of this sentiment, and it was Mille’s only watch to be presented at SIHH 2017.
So, what’s so special about it?
Well, aside from being the world’s lightest split seconds tourbillon chronograph at a featherweight of just 40 grams, the watch features an entirely new case material – graph TPT – that has never been used in watchmaking before. This very special material is derived from graphene, which was first developed by scientists at the University of Manchester in 2005. Graphene is a kind of pure carbon that is just one atom thick, with the atoms arranged in a hexagonal formation. Its properties make it record-breaking in terms of strength, electricity and heat conduction, and it resulted in a Nobel Prize for Physics for Professor Andre Geim who discovered it.
The watch is limited to 75 pieces and features a manual winding tourbillon movement with hours, minutes, split-seconds chronograph, 30-minute totaliser, and power-reserve, torque and function indicators.
Fast forward to 2017 and a collaboration between the originators of graphene, McLaren Applied Technologies and North Thin Ply Technology (NTPT®) and Richard Mille has created a watch case made of a proprietary version of the original graphene, making it six times lighter than steel and 200 times stronger. In a neat tie-up, McLaren-Honda are also working on integrating graphene into their Grand Prix Cars, and so this timepiece is named and created in honour of the F1 team that Richard Mille has been supporting since 2016, as part of a ten-year partnership. Formula 1 has been a longstanding affinity for the watchmaker, allowing the watches to be worn in extreme conditions and prove their high-performance mettle beyond any reasonable doubt.
The calibre itself weighs just 7 grams, which was achieved by skeletonising as much as possible of the components using high-tech materials. The baseplate and bridges are in grade 5 titanium, with some of the bridges of the split-seconds chronograph made from Carbon TPT. All these innovations conspire to give the watch its final, extraordinarily low final weight, which is notable in itself, but was not done for its own sake, says Mille.
“We were the first to have very light watches, but a watch must firstly be comfortable,” says Mille. And, if feedback such as that from Formula One ambassador Sebastien Ogier is anything to go by (he describes wearing a Mille as “like a second skin”) then the impeccable performance one expects from this technically-minded watch marque goes hand in hand with a Richard Mille being one of the most comfortable wristwatches you could ever hope to wear.
RM50-03 calibre, with 70 hour power reserve.
Graph TPT and Carbon TPT.
Rubber strap injected with graphene in order to improve its resistance to wear.