State-of-the-art speed machine: Richard Mille on the RM 50-03 McLaren F1
You can't make a more definitive (and shocking) statement than flippantly throwing a piece of haute horlogerie across the room in testament of its god-like capability to withstand external stressors. But that was exactly what watchmaker Richard Mille demonstrated during SIHH as the maison unveiled their 2017 novelties, the headliner of which was the RM 50-03 Tourbillon Split Seconds Chronograph Ultralight McLaren F1. As its protracted name indicates, the watch came about in collaboration with supercar manufacturer McLaren: Equal parts progressive cutting-edge mechanics and a representation of the decade-long partnership between the automotive brand and Richard Mille.
Exceptional in very sense of the word, the RM 50-03 packs a new split-seconds system, a torque gauge, a function indicator, a free sprung balance, and a fast rotating barrel that spins at an improved six hours per revolution — the entirety of which tips the scale at only a mere 38 grams. And now the belated realisation kicks in, and you're thinking 'how does something so light withstand intense pressure?'
Partially credited to the extreme skeletonisation of its components, this achievement is actually attributed to the liberal use of two highly technical materials that form the unique striated-pattern casing, namely grade 5 titanium and Graph TPT. Lining the baseplate and bridges, these space-age elements possesses a density, stiffness and low thermal conductivity ideal for high-stress conditions; and it goes without saying has also been applied to the McLaren-Honda racing car. In being so tangibly connected by a shared credo that constantly pursues technical innovation, aesthetic perfection and a burning desire for advancement, it's a no brainer that Richard Mille and McLaren would launch the world's lightest split-seconds tourbillon chronograph.
So what guides the hand of creation, so to speak? Richard Mille clues us in with a little behind-the-scenes on the making of the RM 50-03 McLaren F1:
WHAT WAS YOUR PERCEPTION OF MCLAREN BEFORE YOU EMBARKED ON THE PARTNERSHIP?
Simply put, exceptional. I mean, this is one of the biggest names in automotive and F1 history, so how could I not be deeply enthralled by what they represent?
As a car fanatic, I have a lot of admiration for Bruce McLaren, who founded his own racing car brand 50 years ago. My first contact with McLaren was in 1966 when I was a child and attended the Monaco Grand Prix with my father. The atmosphere of the race fascinated me — it's one of my greatest memories. My passion for cars probably dates to that time. In fact, I knew a great deal about the company as well as their street and F1 racing cars long before this project ever started.
I heard about McLaren's desire to launch the new F1 team under McLaren-Honda, and it was very interesting for us to be in on the beginning of this new relationship, which can only make the brand's identity even stronger.
WHAT BRINGS YOU TOGETHER AS PARTNERS IN SUCH A LONG-TERM COLLABORATION?
Having studied the activities of McLaren for many years, I was thrilled at the idea of a long-term relationship with the McLaren-Honda F1 team.
I have always admired the brand: Its leaders have been directly and personally involved in creating a long string of legendary cars, as well as working with some of the world's all time greatest drivers for almost half a century. Personally, as a collector of old racing cars and an avid and active amateur racer, working with McLaren was like a young boy's dream. What could be more fun than developing a project so close to your heart with such an amazing team? McLaren has an encyclopaedic knowledge of racing, a treasure-trove of anecdotes and an eye for detail that were inspirational for me.
YOU'VE WORKED TOGETHER ON A JOINT EFFORT WITH THE RM 50-03 McLAREN F1. HOW DID YOU APPROACH IMPLEMENTING THIS PROJECT?
Visiting McLaren Technology Centre and seeing everything first hand was the essential first step. I was walked through the entire production process and talked with mechanics and engineers. I was also able to look at all the historic models close-up. The cars themselves told me a story; through discussions with their designers, their lines and shapes, their engines, the design requirements of technical parts all supplied me with dozens of ideas. As a result, the project developed in a very relaxed and organic manner.
WHAT SYNERGIES CHARACTERISE YOUR APPROACH IN CREATING THIS MODEL?
McLaren were already pioneers in the application of carbon to F1 cars back in the 1980's, and many aspects of our approach dovetailed nicely. I understood the implications of McLaren's research into new materials very well indeed.
We share the same desire to combine lightness and speed with durability. Via McLaren Applied Technologies, McLaren is deeply involved in research and development beside the automotive industry. This was an opportunity for us to discover the applications of graphene and to apply it for the case of the watch, a world first premiere. The RM 50-03 represents a new approach to the challenges of lightness underlying our watchmaking philosophy.
The RM 50-03 Tourbillon Split Seconds Chronograph Ultralight McLaren F1 is available at Richard Mille boutiques, limited to 75 pieces.
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