You Are There: Visiting McLaren With Richard Mille
by Simon Cudd
When it comes to collaborations between watch brands and brands in other industries, you could easily say that McLaren and Richard Mille form the epitome thanks to their respective cutting-edge products. For more on the origins of this collaboration see McLaren Formula 1 Team Announces New Sponsoring Partner Richard Mille Following TAG Heuer Departure.
The original ten-year contract has furthermore been strengthened by the partners now having signed a further year, taking Richard Mille’s McLaren Group partnership to 11 years.
Mille the man is a massive automotive fan in every respect from racing and Formula 1 to road cars and vintage racers and he maintains a private collection of his own including one of Bruce McLaren’s legendary first Formula 1 cars, the M2B from 1966. See some of his collection’s cars in Richard Mille And Arts & Elégance Chantilly: Now This Is Stylish.
Mille has also raced at the Le Mans Classic, where the Richard Mille brand has been the timing partner since the race’s conception in 2002.
If Mille had not landed in the watch industry, he certainly would have entered the automotive field in some capacity.
Sharing materials: graphene
Not only are both brands designing, creating, and producing new and daring materials and products, they are now sharing these.
Graphene, a revolutionary, strong nano material that is still quite hard to use industrially, is the first such collaborative element resulting from the partnership. Graphene is six times lighter than steel but 200 times stronger, which makes it a perfect material for both Formula 1 and watchmaking.
And graphene is a material used in the case of the stupendous new RM 50-03, which made its debut at SIHH 2017.
The University of Manchester helped with production of the compound, collaborating with Richard Mille, McLaren Applied Technologies, and North Thin Ply Technology to engineer the Graph TPT material, making a product that is lighter and more robust than most other compounds.
Graphene is two-dimensional allotrope of carbon − diamond and graphite are other carbon allotropes − in the form of hexagonal lattice. When added to another element or material it can improve the strength without making it heavier. Graphene is much lighter than most other materials, though it boasts amazing strength.
McLaren and Richard Mille have tested the composite to withstand forces over 5,000 Gs in a movement weighing just seven grams (the complete watch – including strap – weighs 40 grams).
The RM 50-03 is the lightest split-seconds chronograph in the world despite the hand-wound movement containing about 600 parts, including a tourbillon escapement.
Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren’s newest race driver, has been wearing one of only two prototype watches in existence while driving, providing valuable feedback to the team concerning the performance of the watch. We know that Richard Mille’s tourbillon watches are tested vigorously with its sporting ambassadors such as Rafael Nadal (tennis), Yohan Blake (track), Sebastien Loeb (rally), and Bubba Watson (golf). For detailed information on Nadal and his RM 27-02, see Richard Mille RM 27-02 For Rafael Nadal: The Quintessential Sports Tourbillon.
Do note that since McLaren changed its livery on the 2017 car from red to orange, the new production watch will feature orange accents, including crown and strap, to reflect this. The prototype shown at SIHH 2017 and here at our McLaren tour still has the original red accents.
During my visit with McLaren, I discovered that engineers are using graphene in the Formula 1 race cars, although they wouldn’t say exactly how and where. This is obviously top secret even though at the headquarters in Woking, England, I witnessed a stripped-down chassis of the latest 2017 season car, the MCL32.
The team designs and assembles the race cars in Woking from parts that are manufactured and sent to them.
On walking through the various areas of the department following the “boulevard walk,” where the history of McLaren is showcased for all to see, it becomes clear that this is no ordinary company.
McLaren prides itself on everything it sets out to do: be it racing, road cars, or the many other represented entities including technology (McLaren provides the central processing unit for every Formula 1 racing team, for example).
McLaren is one of several teams on the current 2017 Formula 1 grid boasting a long history in the sport, which becomes exceptionally obvious toward the end of the boulevard walk, where trophies are on display.
Since the visitor photography ban in this area was recently lifted, I got some amazing images of the cars on show, from very early race cars through to championship-winning automobiles and the first road car, as well as a collaboration resulting in a Mark Cavendish Specialized S-Works race bicycle.
Whether you can afford the very high price of the RM 50-03 watch or not, you can certainly appreciate the engineering and technical specialties involved in making it after visiting McLaren.
Quick Facts Richard Mille RM 50-03 McLaren F1
Case: 44.5 x 49.65 x 16.1 mm, graphene (Graph TPT), titanium, carbon TPT
Movement: manually winding RM50-03 Caliber with one-minute tourbillon, free-sprung balance with variable inertia, fast-rotating spring barrel, 43 jewels
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; split-seconds chronograph, power reserve, torque, and function indicators
Strap: rubber injected with graphene
Limitation: 75 pieces, available only at Richard Mille boutiques
Price: 1,000,000 Swiss francs
Remark: comes with a 1:5 scale model of the 2017 McLaren-Honda race car