What’s a Richard Mille cycling watch co-designed with former F1 world champ Alain Prost like?
Pedal to the metal takes on a whole other meaning with Alain Prost at the wheel — or in this case, at the handlebars. A veteran of Formula 1 fame, Prost is widely known for the four world champion titles under his belt but to a lesser degree, he's also recognised as an athlete in the bike racing circles, having chalked up 25 years in the sport. And in the case of most good things, the transition from racecar driver to professional cyclist came about by happenstance... as did the RM70-01 Tourbillon, jointly created by Richard Mille and Prost.
With shared personal values to constantly strive for precision and technique, it was over a common love for the simple joy of cycling that both men first came together to talk haute horlogerie. Laying the groundwork for the RM70-01 Tourbillon, the design codes incorporate cycling-inspired elements such as composite materials for a lighter frame, and improved performance in gear assemblies and transmissions. More than just mechanical parts though, ergonomics lie at the heart of the watch, shaping the piece into a completely asymmetric shape that aligns with the exacting demands of a cyclist. The traditional Richard Mille tonneau case now becomes wider between two and five 'o clock while remaining tapered elsewhere to prevent the dynamometric crown from rubbing the wrists when they're bent, and this curved silhouette also allows for maximum comfort and an optimal read-off when the cyclist grips the handlebars.
In this perfect mesh of form and function, Prost elaborates on his collaborative effort with Richard Mille, and what it means to him to have the efficiency and performance of an ace cycling watch play into the competitive spirit of bike racing:
Does your passion for cycling have its roots in your childhood?
Not at all. Even when I was competing in Formula 1 it wasn't part of my training regime, and it didn't particularly interest me. I was more into running, cross-country skiing, weights, golf and tennis. Strangely, I didn't feel comfortable on two wheels. I ultimately turned to cycling through circumstances that took place during my sabbatical from F1 driving in 1992. My physical therapist at the time, Pierre Baleydier, was crazy about cycling. A former racer himself, he convinced me that the sport could be an especially worthwhile alternative to my training method because I was having problems with my knees and back. Since I didn't quite know how to improve myself physically for my return in 1993, I began with mountain biking and decided to take on the challenge.
You were known to be a very technical driver. Are you the same way with bikes?
Like I said, I adore the bikes themselves. I own around ten bikes, including two electric bikes and some mountain bikes. I like experimenting and testing out adjustments. Even a new pair of shoes can produce a different feel.
Were you involved in the design process of the RM70-01 Tourbillon?
We had some epic discussions with Richard. He asked me a lot of questions on technical aspects and aesthetics, and our exchanges sometimes veered off into frenzy. He listened to my ideas and opinions, but he's ultimately the one who made the decisions. I have complete confidence in his choices — he's never been wrong.
Among the principles behind all of Richard's watch designs for athletes, one is essential: Each watch must be able to be worn by the athlete while doing his or her sport. Though at first it wasn't easy to convince Rafael Nadal to wear a watch while playing, once he tried it, he never stopped. We collaborated and worked on this watch for more than a year and a half.
Is there a specific approach to time for cycling?
With cycling, it's not about hitting a certain time for each ride, but rather knowing where you stand in terms of heart rate, energy expenditure (in calories), average, and variation of climbs and descents. Integrating all this data — some of which is 'cata- logued' by the watch Richard and I created — was quite a challenge in terms of watch mechanics. But cyclists want to be aware of all of these parameters. They make it possible to set personal objectives and to have a better understanding of how you stack up to the competition, or even just go out and ride with a club. The cycle compters is an example of an element that is integrated in the watch.
Does your cycling watch integrate this concept of performance?
First, I have to point out that Richard is the one who had the idea for this watch. He initiated all of this. He suggested to me the possibility of making a watch together, since he's also passionate about cycling. He's also close to Mark Cavendish, who wears a limited edition even when he's on his bike. For our watch, Richard wanted to blend automobiles and bicycles.
The Richard Mille RM70-01 Alain Prost is limited to 30 pieces.