Richard Mille Sponsors Two Formula 1 Teams In 2016: McLaren And The New American Team Haas Ferrari
One of the many interesting things I learned as I visited the McLaren Technology Center on February 19, 2016 is that the general public cannot go and see this beautiful contemporary building in Woking, England; public tours are just not offered. Only those invited can enter the state-of-the-art structure situated on a manmade pond surrounded by acres of serene British countryside.
Just one short month away from the start of the 2016 Formula 1 season, which begins with the season’s first grand prix race on March 20 in Australia, the inner workings of the McLaren Technology Center was closed off from view. A building normally characterized by its airy, light nature was now filled with reminders of “no photography” and cloudy frosted glass blocking any view of the unusually quiet workshops (well, “unusual” for me as I had envisioned it to be quite a bit noisier there).
Just two days shy of the unveiling of the McLaren team’s 2016 Formula 1 car that drivers Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso will be driving, CEO Ron Dennis and his team were shielding any possible view of the automobile from the curious eyes of the small group of watch journalists invited for the introduction of new corporate sponsor Richard Mille.
We were led into the well-appointed presentation room, where we waited with anticipation for the main actors to take the stage: McLaren CEO Ron Dennis, Richard Mille CEO Richard Mille, and Formula 1 driver Jenson Button.
What we didn’t expect was the high-tech start to the show that provided me with my first goosebumps of the day. A promotional video shot the day before showing Button wearing a carbon fiber RM 011 and saying, “It’s time.”
And suddenly the screen slid away and the jovial driver was there, right next to his 2015 car, which had been pepped up for the presentation with the addition of the Richard Mille logo.
A partnership as natural as they come
The premise of Richard Mille’s entire brand is built upon the fact that this marque’s watches are “racing machines on the wrist.” The tagline reflects Monsieur Mille’s predilection for racing and his love of collecting vintage race cars. Seldom have two fields worked together quite so well as Richard Mille watches and fast cars of any type.
And seldom have two brands had so much in common with each other as Richard Mille and McLaren, including forward-thinking, cutting-edge progression in an insanely limited segment of luxury, coupled with extreme technology and extreme materials.
Hundreds of tiny, seemingly meaningless (but very meaningful) details make up both a world-class complicated wristwatch and a world-class Formula 1 car. Both are all about pushing the limits.
McLaren, in fact, pushes its limits so much that on average a change was made to the 2015 Formula 1 car every 17 minutes.
“Some people might say that I love cars more than watches. But in my watches you feel my love for cars anyway,” laughed Richard Mille when I asked about his extensive car collection, which includes a number of historical McLaren racecars, and the new partnership. “For me there is no comparison to McLaren anywhere.”
Naturally, there will be limited edition Richard Mille watches to consummate the ten-year partnership that Mille jokingly called “a marriage, a first milestone of a fantastic cooperation.”
Rather than a marriage, Dennis described it as “a phenomenal commitment . . . and an inevitability that what we will do together is create something even more technological and extreme in terms of product. We’re at the beginning of something really big.”
“Everybody calls this watch the Formula 1 of the watch business,” Mille continued. “I always say I don’t count the money I put into research and development. Only the result counts. Pushing the limit, as Ron was just saying, is really in our DNA. Whatever we touch, we must be the best and in advance of our competitors. But in the end, we release only a few limited editions, which is part of what makes it so expensive, but it’s very challenging when you start from scratch to find the target.”
Even the agreement that the two entities made seems to fit like hand in glove. “This morning when I met with Ron, after greeting each other, we immediately went into the subject of what we will do together because this is what we love,” Mille enthusiastically explained. “He and I are both passionate about technology. Things are going very naturally.”
Jenson Button, watch connoisseur
McLaren’s two star drivers Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso are also part of the Formula 1 “package” for Richard Mille.
And nowhere is this more obvious than on Button’s wrist. “I was a fan of Richard Mille – and a customer – long before this,” the English driver excitedly told our group.
Button, it turns out, seems to know his stuff when it comes to luxurious timepieces. The carbon fiber RM 011 he was wearing during the presentation alone spoke volumes regarding his level of knowledge.
When asked what kind of complication he would like to see put into a Richard Mille-McLaren watch, he wasted no time in replying in dry English manner, “A gyroscopic tourbillon.” The unexpected response elicited appreciative laughter from the knowledgeable audience.
He then went on to compare his Formula 1 racing automobile to a grand complication with an aerodynamic shape.
Surprise: partners with Haas Formula 1 as well
Just three days after the announcement that Richard Mille would be a main sponsor of the McLaren Formula 1 team, the surprising announcement came through that Richard Mille would likewise sponsor the first American Formula 1 team in 30 years: the Haas Ferrari team, formed by NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team owner Gene Haas, is the first U.S. team in F1 since 1986.
Likely one of the factors prompting this new relationship was the fact that Richard Mille ambassador Romain Grosjean, who has been with the company since 2014, had left the Lotus team (which was taken over by Renault at the end of the 2015 season) to join the new Haas team.
“I am very proud to continue wearing Richard Mille as a partner and as a driver for Haas F1 Team,” Grosjean, who generally also wears an RM 011, explained. “There is no better watch brand to align with the DNA of Formula 1. The way Richard always gets a close link between watches and his partnerships is truly unique.”
“The Haas team is entering the world of F1, building on its years of experience at the top level of NASCAR,” Mille continued. “We enjoy working with passionate people like Haas who are prepared for new adventures and break the mold of the expected, much in the same way our brand is always extending into new and exciting adventures in watchmaking. It’s also very important for us to continue our support for our partner, Romain Grosjean.”
Another factor is that the United States of America is such a key market for Richard Mille.
For me, Formula 1 has just gotten quite a bit hotter.