Fascinating Formula — Magazine — The Galleria Al Maryah Island, Abu Dhabi
Fascinating Formula
Fascinating Formula
Men's style | November 15, 2018

Fascinating Formula

Richard Mille’s adoration of motorsports has inspired some of the most beautiful timepieces in the history of horology.

Richard Mille is not known for the understated. Nor are Formula One cars. At times the two distinct spheres seem to cross over in the timepieces of Richard Mille. You can hear the RM 11-03 McLaren edition screeching round corners and roaring in acceleration. And you can hear the high-tech Formula One cars ticking with the precision of a highly technical Swiss-made timepiece.

But the ultra high-end watchmaker and the apex vehicles of motorsport racing share so much more than just their reputation for the brazen and the extremes of high technicality. The two share an historic bond that has borne some of the most outrageous and daring of timepieces, and one of the most fitting commercial tie-ups in the sport’s heavily commercial annals.

Richard Mille’s love affair and fixation with Formula One racing is no secret. The tag line alone of the brand is, “A racing machine on the wrist.” It’s in the very fibre of Richard Mille to be associated with, and seen mixing in, Formula One circles.

And it all stems from the 1966 Monaco Grand Prix. As a young whippersnapper of just 15 years of age, Richard Mille was in the crowd when the first ever McLaren car was unveiled and competed in an F1 race.

Lifelong Formula One enthusiast Mille combines his love for motorsport with his talent for horology, with the results being some of the most spectacular watches ever made.

Some never realise their dreams because they don’t know what those dreams are. Mille, from that day, knew that whatever he did, it was his dream to work alongside that sublime 1960s racing machine that so captivated his and the world’s imagination.

Now, 52 years later, Richard Mille owns that same M2B McLaren that debuted in Monaco in ‘66. And he has also produced watches in excess of $1 million sporting the McLaren brand name — the RM11-03 limited edition.

Seldom do you find two brands that share so much as McLaren and Richard Mille: a dedication to forward-thinking, cutting-edge technology, a niche sector of über luxury, and a dovetailing of technology and bold aesthetics.

Richard Mille's RM 58-01 Jean Todt

Most recently, the extravagant watchmaker signed up to sponsor the Alfa Romeo Sauber team. But previously, in 2016, Richard Mille fulfilled a lifelong dream and replaced TAG Heuer as the official sponsor of the McLaren-Honda team, making Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso brand ambassadors, toting the very finest watches Mille has to offer. Richard Mille has also previously sponsored the Lotus F1 team and the tragically late French F1 driver Jules Bianchi. Upon signing the 10-year contract with McLaren Honda, Mille, managing to contain yet reflect his childhood excitement, said, “For me, the association with McLaren is so striking, because I still vividly remember, back in 1981, when McLaren was the first constructor to introduce an all-carbon fibre monocoque to Formula One.

“It was a technology that would revolutionise the sport — and still does to this day. Years later, I was able to adopt the same technical solution — a carbon fibre structure — for the baseplates of our watch movements and cases.”

As Mille’s answer demonstrates with all the high-tech nerdiness you might expect from someone who adores the intricacies of watchmaking and automotive engineering with commensurate glee, the chance to incorporate the materials and engineering principles into watches is a challenge that he has relished.

Naturally, the Formula One franchises Mille has sponsored have had timepieces made in their own images; each of which is a stunning example of the complex and staggering mechanical craftsmanship with which Richard Mille infuses his watches.

Firstly, the RM 11-03 Automatic flyback chronograph was the first collaborative timepiece between Mille and McLaren. It’s a machine that could easily have come out of the ultra-secret and gloriously glassy McLaren Tech Centre in Woking, England — where the cars are conceptualised, engineered and tested.

The RM11-03 is a bold orange and grey statement piece that does not fly under the radar. It refutes gimmicks – as per Mille’s mission statement. It rejects the ordinary. It glories in its loud, racy brashness.

Mechanical marvels, such as the RM 11-03 McLaren use highly sophisticated calibres that echo the technologies, processes and materials found in Formula One.

The case is made of Carbon Thin Ply Technology (TPT) and interlaced with orange quartz, resulting in a resistant and lightweight case, while paying tribute to the colour synonymous with McLaren’s cars. The TPT is a Richard Mille hallmark method of layering carbon fibre in their timepieces which was first introduced on its RM011 collection in 2013.

And of course — as with F1 engineering — it’s the small details that make all the difference to performance. The titanium pushers fitted to the Carbon TPT case imitate the design of the McLaren’s 720s headlights, with the titanium inserts similar in shape to the F1’s air-intake snorkel.

Mille has also produced a racy number for his compatriot, Alain Prost. The $900,000-plus RM70-01 Tourbillon Alain Prost, with another brazen colour coding of scarlet red and anthracite grey, is yet another example of the watchmaker’s obsession with creating machines for the wrist.

The Yas Marina circuit is home to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the inspiration for a limited-edition Richard Mille timepiece.

So extensive is Mille’s reach and influence in F1, that the president of the FIA, Jean Todt had a bespoke piece made just for him. The RM58-01 is a 34mm, manually-winding tourbillon that features a four-part case made from titanium and red gold.

Needless to say, the technology housed and used in these ultra high-end horology masterpieces filters its way down into all of Mille’s pieces. It’s what makes the 67-year-old motor racing enthusiast and distinguished watchmaker one of the very best in all of the elite timepiece industry. “Some people might say that I love cars more than watches,” Mille said at the announcement of the McLaren F1 partnership. “But in my watches you feel my love for cars. Pushing the limit is really in our DNA. Whatever we touch, we must be the best and in advance of our competitors.”

Richard Mille boutique, located on Level 1