Wrist Watching: King Juan Carlos Of Spain, Early High Horology Adopter, And His Richard Mille
by Nick Gould
Tennis fans may know that Nadal is quite fastidious with his rituals on court, which include specific lineups of various bottles and a special routine exhibited before every serve.
The partnership between Nadal and Richard Mille first started back in 2008 with the tennis champion agreeing to wear the RM 027 Tourbillon on court, which was specially designed to withstand the shocks of Nadal’s powerful ground strokes and the rigors of professional tennis. The RM 027 created huge buzz in the world of wristwatches due to its extreme lightness, coming in at less than 20 grams in weight.
When he was approached by Richard Mille to wear a timepiece while playing, Nadal was initially hesitant. During a lunch with King Juan Carlos of Spain, Nadal brought the subject up. In response the king, who happened to be wearing his own Richard Mille watch at the time, is said to have shown Nadal the timepiece his wrist. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Which watch did King Juan Carlos show Nadal? He was seen wearing a Richard Mille RM 009 Felipe Massa on his wrist in 2006 (see photo above), and thus I conclude it is more than likely this was the watch he showed Nadal that day.
The RM 009’s case is made of a composite metal alloy called Alusic (aluminum AS7G/silicon carbide). The use of Alusic in this watch case, a first in watchmaking, was a precursor to Nadal’s RM 027.
Richard Mille isn’t all he owns
King Juan Carlos is known to be a fan of timepieces and was one of the first people of note to purchase a watch that was very polarizing upon its release due to its looks and price tag: the original Audemars Piguet Royal Oak.
I had not seen any photos of King Juan Carlos with his Royal Oak and after some searching found some of him wearing the watch; in a photo from 1974 (below) I clearly see a stainless-steel Royal Oak on the wrist of the king.
The picture above shows him at the helm of a boat, the Royal Oak in its element as a sports watch.
The king was seen four years later wearing a black PVD Royal Oak. PVD, short for “physical vapor deposition,” is a coating applied to the case and bracelet of the watch – in this case a black coating.
King Juan Carlos is not the only notable person to wear a PVD-coated Royal Oak: late fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld also owned a black PVD-coated Royal Oak.
The photo below shows the monarch visiting China in 1978. You can just see the black PVD-coated Royal Oak on his wrist as he visits the Great Wall of China.
PVD coating on watches was not common back in the 1970s like it is today. This watch is also interesting because Audemars Piguet never officially offered the Royal Oak with PVD coating. It would be cool to find out who applied it to the Royal Oaks belonging to King Juan Carlos and Karl Lagerfeld.
In 1981 King Juan Carlos made an official visit to Abu Dhabi, where he sported a two-tone Royal Oak. It is highly likely this is a pink gold/tantalum model on his wrist. Though Audemars Piguet could/would neither confirm nor deny, there is a persistent rumor that King Juan Carlos reached out to Audemars Piguet to make him a full tantalum Royal Oak, which also inspired the brand to make a two-tone version using the unusual metal.
King Juan Carlos abdicated in 2014 to make room for his son, Felipe, who is the current king of Spain. Felipe also has a taste for timepieces, which I previously covered in Spot The Watch: Members Of Royal Families.
For more information, please visit www.richardmille.com/en/collections/rm-009.
Quick Facts Richard Mille RM 009 Felipe Massa
Case: 37.8 x 45 x 12.65 mm, Alusic, weight less than 30 grams, chassis mounting rubbers secured by 4 titanium screws
Movement: manual winding with one-minute tourbillon, 19 jewels, 21,600 vph/3 Hz frequency, power reserve 48 hours, aluminum-lithium base plate, titanium bridges, aluminum/copper/magnesium tourbillon cage
Functions: hours, minutes
Limitation: 25 pieces
Year of manufacture: 2006
Retail price in 2006: $349,000