Richard Mille RM 11-03: The Ultimate Study in Time and Motion?
Richard Mille’s Remarkable Tribute to the McLaren GTR Concept.
Someone whom I have always regarded as being a keen horophile surprised me the other day by saying that he “couldn't understand” the collaboration between Richard Mille brand and the sport and racing car maker McLaren. I was baffled! Because of the many partnerships between watch houses and automobile marques that have come and gone during the past 15 years, the one between Richard Mille and McLaren is surely the most blindingly obvious.
Anyone who has been to the remarkable Sir Norman Foster-designed 'MTC' (McLaren Technology Centre) building and the McLaren Automotive factory that adjoins it will know that the attention to detail paid to every aspect of the marque's businesses - and there are several beyond that of car making - is as meticulous as you'll find in any Swiss watch manufacture.
An obsession with pushing boundaries
But what makes McLaren a perfect fit with Richard Mille is the two firm's joint obsession with pushing the boundaries of their respective fields in terms of engineering and materials in a way that much of the competition likes to pretend to emulate but, in reality, simply doesn't.
Richard Mille, the man, and the brand don't enter into partnerships lightly and, when he/it does so, you can be sure the 'fit' has been well researched in terms of both authenticity and relevance.
The McLaren Connection
In that regard, there is simply no doubting Mille's admiration for McLaren, his passion for which dates back to 1966 when, as a 15-year old, his father took him to the Monaco Grand Prix and he saw Bruce McLaren driving the M2B, the very first McLaren Formula One car. Indeed, the occasion made such an impression on Mille that he hunted down that very car seven years ago to add to his stable of other McLarens, which now numbers seven and includes models designed for both F1 and CanAm racing.
It was partly that enthusiasm that led to the brand signing a 10-year partnership with the car marque last year, the first fruit of which was the high-tech, RM 50-03, the world's lightest split-seconds tourbillon chronograph, of its type and, at around £1m.
Just 75 examples are planned, and it is undeniably impressive - but it was at this year's Geneva motor show in March that the partnership really began to blossom with the simultaneous unveiling of the last limited edition McLaren Ultimate Series and the Richard Mille RM 11-03 McLaren Automatic Flyback Chronograph.
The McLaren Ultimate Series, P15
The latest car in McLaren's 'Ultimate' series (following the legendary F1 of the 1990s and the P1 of 2012), the P15 is a racer-for-the road that's based on the existing 720S, but with more power and less weight. Just 500 will be made, they cost £750 000 apiece - and, of course, they are all already pre-sold. Additionally, 75 examples of an even more extreme, track only version called GTR Concept costing £1m each are also in production.
Focusing on the 'basic', however, you'll find a twin-turbocharged, four-liter V8 engine that produces 789 horsepower. It's bolted into the middle of a carbon fiber monocoque with dihedral-opening doors (like the F1 and P1 before it) and numerous carbon fiber aerodynamic aids that help the sub-1,200 kilo car to handle like the proverbial kart and hit a top speed of 211 mph.
The RM 11-03, meanwhile, emulates the car's 'explosion in a paint factory' livery with an ultra-light case made from Carbon TPT® (Thin Ply Technology) interlaced with orange Quartz TPT®- the color both reflecting Mclaren's signature hue and making the 50 by 44.5mm watch absolutely un-missable at 30 paces.
A tribute to McLaren Automotive
Among many subtle tributes to the McLaren incorporated by Richard Mille design engineer Fabrice Namura are push pieces based on the shape of the car's headlamps, a winding crown in the pattern of a McLaren road wheel and a strap that incorporates both titanium inserts reminiscent of the car's roof-mounted 'snorkel' air intake and a version of the McLaren's minimalist 'speedmark' logo.
As with any Richard Mille watch, the RM 11-03 is not exactly cheap -£157 500- but even if you have the funds, you probably still won’t be able to own one because, they are foremost offered to the buyers of the last McLaren Ultimate Series - who will, of course, be able to have their car's edition number engraved on the case back of their watch.
But regardless of whether or not you're in line to become an owner of the car or the watch, there seems little doubt that you should prepare to be amazed by what emerges from the McLaren/Richard Mille partnership during the remaining nine years of the initial deal.
For a start, Richard Mille has just signed an agreement with North Thin Ply Technology (the firm that produces its specially-layered carbon fibre) to operate a new, 300 square metre production facility in Renens, Switzerland, that will be dedicated to making Richard Mille cases from the material - and 2,000 of these are expected to be produced this year alone.
Then, of course, there's the promise of McLaren's Hyper GT - that's the latest 'Ultimate Series' car which will have a top speed of 243 mph, making it the fastest McLaren ever. Although not due to go into production until the end of this year, all 106 - the same as the number of F1 road cars built - have been pre-sold at £1.6m each.
And we can almost hear Namura's pen sketching out an even more radical, technically innovative Richard Mille watch to go with it. So, watch this space…