Rafael Nadal, The World‘s No.1 Tennis Player; The Richard Mille RM 27-01, The World’s Most Expensive Sports Watch; And The Ion Tiriac Trophy, The World’s Most Complicated Tennis Trophy (Archive)
The Mutua Madrid Open is a young tournament; it crowned just its thirteenth winner on May 11, 2014. This winner happens to be world number one Rafael Nadal.
Nadal’s fourth win at the Madrid Open was remarkable not just for the not just for the dramatic turnaround following Kei Nishikori’s back injury, but also for the “accessories” on display during the finals. As usual, Nadal was sporting his RM 27-01, the world’s most expensive sports watch.
Or, perhaps more aptly described, the world’s most shockproof tourbillon.
Foregoing his previous black RM 027 good luck charm for the newer gray version hasn’t hampered his winning streak. In fact, I’d say it continues on even better than before.
This new model, an evolution of the ground-breakingly ultra-light RM 027, suspends the movement by its base plate using four braided steel cables a mere 0.35 mm in diameter. This provides more strength and flexibility to the movement, which weighs a mere 3.5 grams.
In lightness as in its $690,000 price tag, this watch breaks all kinds of records.
Most complicated tennis trophy . . . ever
The trophy Nadal hefted at the champion’s ceremony following the match also has the honor of setting a record: it is the world’s most expensive as well as the world’s most complicated tennis trophy. Presented to him in Madrid by Spain’s Queen Sofia on May 10, 2014, the trophy is fittingly regal. And its creation also has an interesting story.
This trophy was commissioned by one of tennis’ greatest personalities, Ion Tiriac, and it was finished in 2011, just time for the tenth edition of the Madrid Open. Tiriac, former player, coach and agent – a man who Forbes.com has featured in its billionaire listing – is also the promoter of the Madrid Open.
For the tenth anniversary of the ever more successful tournament, Tiriac wanted a trophy quite different from every other in the world. Through a mutual business contact he was introduced to the man who had invented the world’s most complicated mechanical belt buckle as well as other interesting mechanical luxury accessories.
Naturally, this was Roland Iten.
And Tiriac gave him precise instructions. “”Create a trophy like no other,” he said. “One that honors every tennis player who ever made history in the game.”
A trophy like no other
The creation of the trophy led Iten to rent a villa in the hills of Catalonia for inspiration. During this time, he discovered a small winery that made a magnificent wine called Scala Dei (Latin for “stairway to heaven”). This gave him the idea for the look of the trophy, and to this day, “stairway to heaven” remains the trophy’s unofficial name.
“I needed to find a design solution that honored all the tennis greats equally,” Iten explained at the time. “Winning a Grand Slam in 1970 involved a different skill set than it does today, not better or worse, just different. And each of the tennis players that have made history in the sport – from John McEnroe to Serena Williams, from Roger Federer to Rafael Nadal, and even to Margaret Smith herself – possesses his or her own individual skill and style.”
With that “brief” in mind, Iten created a small column and wrapped small tennis racquets around it, each inscribed with the name of the individual players who have won the most Grand Slam tournaments of all time.
The 32 racquets comprise the “staircase.” Each step is as important as the other because, as Iten said, “If one step is missing, the staircase is incomplete.”
This unique tennis trophy took more than 12 months of collaborative design and expert goldsmithing. The making of the piece was executed by Wempe’s workshops in Germany, and it was officially introduced on April 7, 2011 at Wempe’s Madrid retail location.
The trophy comprises 96 individual, hand-finished components created in solid rose gold. It stands 430 mm high and weighs 7.5 kilograms – 6.5 of which are pure gold. The trophy is topped off by a gold tennis ball that honors Tiriac; if you look closely, you will see his name in gold relief written across the ball.
The base is formed by a black obsidian globe embellished with plates of solid gold shaped like each of the world’s continents.
The entire trophy is set with 33 diamonds totaling 10.9 carats: one on the tip of each racquet handle and one solitaire marking Madrid on the globe. The globe is carried upon ten gold columns, each one a symbol of one of the ten most important tennis championships.
The winner gets to take home a solid silver replica weighing about three kilograms and measuring 330 mm in height.
Above and beyond that, Nadal’s finals match last weekend against Kei Nishikori was historical for two more reasons. The first is that by becoming the runner-up in the Mutua Madrid Open, Nishikori has become the first Japanese tennis player to crack professional tennis’ top ten in the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) rankings.
The second? “It is the first Masters 1000 tennis series final ever played with two professionals wearing watches throughout the match,” says tennis and timepiece journalist Miguel Seabra. Rafa naturally wore his Richard Mille RM 27-01, while TAG Heuer ambassador Nishikori sported the TAG Heuer Professional Sports Watch (formerly known as the Professional Golf Watch) throughout the tournament.
Game, set, and match for Richard Mille, I’d say. Or, rather, Rafael Nadal.
Quick Facts Richard Mille RM 27-01
Case: crafted from carbon nanotubes, 27.2 x 21.72 mm
Movement: manually wound Caliber 27-0121 with one-minute tourbillon
Functions: hours, minutes
Weight: 19 grams including Velcro strap
Limitation: 50 pieces
* This article was first published May 12, 2014 at Rafael Nadal, The World‘s No.1 Tennis Player; The Richard Mille RM 27-01, The World’s Most Expensive Sports Watch; And The Ion Tiriac Trophy, The World’s Most Complicated Tennis Trophy.
Also published on Medium.