Earlier this year, I was invited by Richard Mille to join the brand in the 18th edition of the women’s-only vintage car rally, Rallye des Princesses, which took place in late May and saw rally drivers run from Place Vendôme in Paris to St. Tropez. Alas, a minor emergency stole my chance at driving through some of the most picturesque landscapes of France in a vintage automobile. It did not, however, cool my enthusiasm for the brand’s support of the all-female entourage – an event Richard Mille has sponsored for three consecutive years, now. Essentially, the event is a gorgeous ride with stops at fantastic inns, resorts and restaurants along the way. But make no mistake: it is not an indulgence. In fact, driving the 1,600 kilometers of hills, valleys, peaks and winding roads, and having to navigate by map throughout the five-day rally, is a challenging feat. But that adventure is one that almost 100 crews (180 participants) from 12 different countries embarked upon this year.
All about trust
Throughout the event – which traversed landscapes from Saint-Aignan, the Loiret countryside, Cheravent, Vichy, Alpe d’Huez, Hauts Plateaux du Vercors, Gorges d’Engins, five Alpine passes, Côte d’Azur, Mandelieu, Grasse, and St Tropez – teams also had to partake in a series of four specialty regularity tests. This, in addition to driving more than 350 kilometers daily, demonstrates the dedication and devotion these women have to this convivial sporting event that is not measured by speed, but rather the ability to read the road book, to follow your teammate’s instructions and to trust in one another. The race is a series of free and timed stages through mountain roads and villages.
Some teams were plagued by navigation errors, while others suffered mishaps (being stuck behind a slow-moving tractor, etc.) that impacted them. In the end, in the Historic category, a Porsche 911 (#81 crewed by Véronique Castelain and Stéphanie Wante) beat out a Ferrari 328 GTS (#89) thanks to navigational mistakes on the part of the latter.
Many of the women partaking in the glamorous Rallye des Princesses donned watches from title sponsor Richard Mille. In fact, this independent watchmaker has catered to women for years – building incredible cutting-edge watches that offer both beauty and high-tech appeal. From tourbillons to high-end jeweled watches that are made from the most avant-garde materials, Richard Mille’s women’s watches are as daring and performance-oriented as the women driving in the Princesses Rally.
By focusing on materials such as titanium or ceramic for the brand’s first women’s cases, and later evolving into cases made of colored ceramics or exclusive alloys, Richard Mille has built revolutionary watches that continue to steal hearts with their complications, their looks, their craftsmanship and their precision.
Among the watches that made the five-day trek in the Princesses Rally were stunning versions of the RM 07-01 ladies’ watches. A synthesis of Haute Horlogerie mechanics, novel materials and sophisticated looks, these tonneau-shaped ergonomic watches house specially made skeletonized automatic movements: caliber CRMA2. The movement features a baseplate and bridges made from Grade 5 titanium, and is equipped with a variable-inertia balance and a rotor with variable geometry to adapt to the rotational speed of the owner’s activities. This feature has been specially developed by Richard Mille. Additionally, this watch with high-tech ceramic case is equipped with a patented RM crown that is not directly connected to the interior of the movement, thereby guarding against dislodging or breaking – perfect for the rough roads of the rally.
Also on some wrists during the rally were the RM 037 skeletonized automatic watch with inset dials of precious stones such as diamond, onyx, pearl or jasper; and the RM 67-01 Automatic Extra Flat watch powered by the CRMA6 caliber that is just 3.6mm thin. The watch features a multi-layered dial and a modern case architecture that underscores the pioneering spirit of the highly developed movement. In fact, the case of this watch takes longer to build than other similar cases in the Richard Mille line-up by at least six hours of machining time and weeks of prep work. Each case is the expression of more than 215 separate machining operations totaling hundreds of hours of work. It is a fitting watch to be worn on a journey spanning dozens of driving hours.
The entire event culminated at an awards dinner where winners sat firmly in the driver’s seat, and all participants claimed titles of princess forever more. Next year, if Richard Mille invites me again, rest assured there will be no family emergencies for this aspiring princess.