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Art and sport meet at Richard Mille
Trend Forecaster

Art and sport meet at Richard Mille

Wednesday, 14 October 2020
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Christophe Roulet
Editor-in-chief, HH Journal

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5 min read

Innovations come thick and fast at Richard Mille. After the RM 72-01, the brand’s first in-house chronograph with a patented mechanism, featured in a film by choreographer Benjamin Millepied and composer Thomas Roussel, all eyes are on the RM 27-04. This tourbillon with a world-first construction celebrates the 10th anniversary of the brand’s partnership with tennis legend Rafael Nadal.

It was a busy weekend for Richard Mille and its “friends”. The Richard Mille Racing Team secured a respectable eleventh-place finish in the 4 Hours of Monza. With just one race to go before the end of the season – the 4 Hours of Portimao –, this all-women team, which takes the brand into the ELMS European endurance championship, currently ranks ninth overall. As for Rafael Nadal, he breezed through the French Open. The Spaniard’s resounding win over Novak Djokovic in three sets in the men’s singles final on Sunday earned him his thirteenth title on the red clay in Paris and his twentieth Grand Slam title, equalling Roger Federer’s record. On his wrist: the RM 27-04 which celebrates the player’s ten-year partnership with Richard Mille in yet another powerhouse of watchmaking technology.

Rafael Nadal © Renaud Corlouer
Rafael Nadal © Renaud Corlouer

“Richard and I have one very clear aim,” says Nadal of a collaboration that began in 2010. “We make sure every piece is extremely light and fits my wrist perfectly. These two features are essential, and the teams have been able to provide them while also creating watches that are amazingly resistant, because tennis can involve very violent arm and wrist movements. Other players have asked me where they can get one. Ever since our partnership started, I’ve always had the feeling I’m still playing tennis without a watch on my wrist. It’s pretty unique! Today, wearing them has become part of my sporting routine and I couldn’t do without them.” The RM 27-04, the ninth in the series the brand dedicates to Nadal, adheres to this same philosophy.

RM 27-04 Tourbillon Rafael Nadal © Richard Mille
RM 27-04 Tourbillon Rafael Nadal © Richard Mille

Materials are a critical element of a Richard Mille watch, already evidenced a couple of months back when the brand debuted the RM 11-05 Automatic Flyback Chronograph GMT, which features a bezel in grey Cermet. This exclusive material combines a metallic zirconium matrix with ceramic inserts and is typically used in ballistics. Lighter than titanium, it is almost as hard as diamond. The RM 27-04 Rafael Nadal introduces another exclusive material, TitaCarb®, which is used for the case. This high-performance polyamide is reinforced with an injection of 38.5% carbon fibre. Exceptional tensile strength of 3,700 kg/cm² makes it one of the toughest composites ever, with a fracture resistance close to that of steel.

The RM 27-04 is built like a tennis racket.

The new “Rafa” builds on the RM 27-01 with its cable-suspended movement. This time, however, the tourbillon calibre is supported by a microblasted mesh formed from a single woven steel cable, held in place by two turnbuckles. Any similarity with how tennis rackets are strung is by no means coincidental. The diagonally positioned, manual-winding movement is secured to the mesh by five hooks which originate at the back of the baseplate. Three vibration dampeners in red TPT Quartz® are added to the tourbillon chatons, the barrel and the hands to centre the movement during its positioning. They also absorb vibrations along the mesh. Despite weighing a mere 30 grams, strap included, the RM 27-04 is built to withstand just about anything, including accelerations in excess of 12,000 g: that’s more than the piston acceleration in a Formula 1 car!

RM 72-01 red gold © Richard MiIle
RM 72-01 red gold © Richard MiIle

Performance wasn’t the goal of the RM 72-01 which the brand unveiled last month, and even then teams developed a patented mechanism for what is Richard Mille’s first in-house chronograph. Usually, in a horizonal clutch mechanism, the fourth wheel of the movement drives the chronograph seconds wheel which, via a gear train, drives the chronograph minutes hand – the “problem” being that the fourth wheel has the least available energy. Richard Mille’s solution is to split the torque across the chronograph’s counters by means of two oscillating pinions, mounted on rockers. “The three independent time scales are coordinated by a six-column wheel,” explains Salvador Arbona, technical director for movements at Richard Mille. Torque transfer is constant as operating the chronograph has no impact on the base movement.

Such an extraordinary watch demanded more than an ordinary press launch. Instead, Richard Mille asked dancer and choreographer Benjamin Millepied to stage the RM 72-01 to music by Thomas Roussel, who joined the Richard Mille family in June this year. “Within” is a short film, directed by Millepied and shot in the Joshua Tree desert in California, in which two dancers perform to Roussel’s soundtrack. The French composer built the score around a sample of the sound produced by the RM 72-01’s pushers. Another way to give time measurement an artistic dimension, in typical Richard Mille style.

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