In their quest to take watch-making to new levels (courts?) super high-end watch maker Richard Mille, in conjunction with tennis superstar Rafael Nadal, have created the all new RM 027 Tourbillon. A watch that is so light (just 20 grams with the strap on!) that Mr Nadal will actually be wearing it when he plays on court!
Now if you know anything about tennis you’ll instantly realize what a big deal this is as any slight shift in weight on a player can dramatically change their game. Therefore, if this partnership was ever going to succeed it was imperative that the company produce a piece that satisfied Rafa’s strict requirements.
And so they did.
Proving A Point
It’s important to realize that making a watch lighter, especially one as complicated as the RM 027 Tourbillon, is not just a matter of using lighter weight materials. It still needs to be accurate and reliable, as well as be able to withstand the shocks and impacts of everyday use, which in this case are greatly magnified given that the piece is strapped to one of the strongest, most active wrists in the world.
However, Richard Mille was sure it could be done. After all, they had already achieved similar success with the RM 006 (42 g without strap) and the RM 009 (29 g without strap) so this next step was simply the logical progression in the process. That didn’t mean it would be easy though.
Then again, it wasn’t like the brand was new to this area of watchmaking.
Richard Mille has been experimenting with the concept of weight reduction in haute horology since the very conception of the brand, although this adventurous spirit was not always embraced by the wider watch community. Mr. Mille himself acknowledges this,saying;
“When I first produced tourbillons with titanium and ALUSIC cases and carbon baseplates, I was fighting against perceived value. A titanium watch could not be a luxurious timepiece as it did not weigh enough. However mentalities rapidly changed and gradually with time amateurs soon appreciated the extreme lightness of my watches whilst being associated with the best technology.”
As you can see, this way of thinking has not changed much since he first set out to make lighter, better timepieces.
The RM Tourbillion – Spartan Style
It was this enduring fascination with the combination of technology, performance and practical aspects in a wristwatch, that drove him to prove once more that an extreme reduction in weight could be achieved with total efficiency and accuracy.
The movement baseplate of the RM 027 Tourbillon is made from Titanium and LITAL® alloy, a high lithium content alloy containing aluminum, copper, magnesium and zirconium, possessing a density of 2.55. The addition of Lithium, one of the lightest elements, to the alloy mixture, provides great strength without adding unnecessary weight. It is for this same reason that this particular alloy is also used in the aerospace industry in the construction of the Airbus A380, helicopters, rockets and satellites, as well as in F1 racing cars.
The result is one of the world’s lightest mechanical tourbillon wristwatches with a movement weight of just a mere 3.83 grams.
The RM 027 watchcase, composed of a composite containing large amounts of carbon, provides a tough and resilient enclosure for the tourbillon movement at its center. The back bezel and caseband are monobloc to ensure total lightness. The glass; the bezel and the flange in carbon have remarkable properties of stiffness and torsional rigidity.
However, the biggest endorsement of all is that this piece has been tried and tested by a man renowned for refusing to compromise when it comes to his sport and his performance. The fact that Rafael Nadal has agreed to wear this piece in all of his matches says far more than any technical specifications ever could.
The RM 027 Tourbillon will be produced in a limited edition of 50 pieces with an ultra light strap in polycarbonate and is expected to be priced upwards of $500,000, meaning you will need to be a superstar also if you ever hope to own one.
The Final Word
Whilst this piece may not rank at the top of my list for the super expensive, high-end luxury watches, I can certainly admire and respect the technical achievements that it represents. Sure it probably cost ten times more than Roger Federer’s Rolex (and then some) but at least Rafa can use the hypnotic effect of the rotating tourbillion to calm him down during intense matches with his watch-less archrival.