Richard Mille RM 40-01 Speedtail And McLaren Speedtail Hypercar: Tales Of Speed
I was recently given an extraordinary opportunity to spend some time with the McLaren Speedtail hypercar and the Richard Mille RM 40-01 McLaren Speedtail watch, both of which are very rare items. There are currently only six unique versions (of 106 planned examples) of the McLaren Speedtail car, while the sold-out Richard Mille RM 40-01 McLaren Speedtail watch is also being made in a limited edition of 106 pieces – that number obviously matching the planned run of the hypercar.
It is unclear whether all 106 watches have been bought by owners and potential owners of the McLaren Speedtail, but at a price tag of CHF 900,000 that wouldn’t be so surprising.
Needless to say, my experience with the two cult objects was exhilarating.
McLaren and Richard Mille: a technological partnership
Since 2016 these two companies have shared a speed-filled partnership that has allowed the engineers and designers to bounce off each other. And the results have been nothing less than fantastic, finally culminating in 2017’s Richard Mille RM 50-03 Tourbillon Split-Seconds Chronograph Ultralight McLaren F1.
Unusually, Richard Mille was granted access to McLaren’s technology center. The two brands share much in terms of technology and progressive values and have been genuinely working together since the first day of the partnership, so the watch brand’s engineers were introduced to McLaren’s graphene, resulting in the 75-piece limited edition from 2017.
Next came 2018’s first true partnership watch, the RM 11-03 McLaren Automatic Flyback Chronograph, which was jointly designed by Rob Melville of McLaren and Fabrice Namura of Richard Mille. Based on the watch brand’s now-iconic RM011, this 500-piece limited edition took design cues from many of McLaren’s sports cars and road-worthy supercars. To perfect the watch, Namura was given access to McLaren’s design studio, which is usually an incredibly secretive place.
The prototype of the RM 11-03 Automatic Flyback Chronograph McLaren housed in a very light, ultra-strong Carbon TPT case with Quartz TPT in McLaren orange was auctioned for charity at Only Watch 2019, bringing in a whopping CHF 320,000, the sixth-best result at that year’s famous charity auction.
To understand the synergy between the new Richard Mille RM 40-01 Speedtail watch and the McLaren Speedtail car, let’s begin with the McLaren Speedtail.
Conceived as a successor and homage to the McLaren F1 model of the 1990s – McLaren’s first road car – the Speedtail warranted 13 new patents. Its three-seat, central-driving style was directly taken from the F1 and is rooted in the idea of weight balance.
The driver sits at the center and and slightly forward of the other two seats, which provides optimal visibility and weight balance. Having had the opportunity to sit in the Speedtail, I can attest that it wasn’t as easy to get into as one is used to with the driver’s seat to one side, but I imagine you quickly become accustomed to it. Though I did not drive this car, I could see immediately how much better visibility would be from the central driving position.
The Speedtail’s interior comprises Titanium Deposition Carbon Fiber, a micron-thin layer of titanium fused directly onto the weave of the directional leather finish, and Thin-Ply Technology Carbon Fiber (TPT), which we watch nerds are quite acquainted with from Richard Mille’s extensive use in watch cases. In an unusually fortuitous example of two-way collaboration, TPT entered McLaren’s playbook by way of Richard Mille.
The body of the Speedtail is a carbon fiber monocoque build, whose two passenger seats are integrated right into the chassis. A super nice detail is the 24-karat white gold plaque on the hood.
The doors are dihedrally mounted (otherwise known as butterfly style), which sees them rotating out then 90 degrees upward when opened. The idea behind this style is to avoid hitting curbs when opening them (something I really wish Corvette would also adopt) since the sportscar sits so low. This door style is also practical as it minimizes the space needed to open, which makes such cars slightly easier to drive (and park) in Europe, where road and parking space is exceedingly tight.
The design of the Speedtail is further enhanced by the absence of mirrors, instead using HD cameras that pop out when the car is started. Technology is key with the Speedtail, which runs on a four-liter, twin turbocharged V8 motor with a parallel hybrid-system electric motor that recharges while driving.
McLaren calls the Speedtail its most aerodynamically efficient car ever – and the fastest: it has a top speed of 250.4 mph/403 kmh. I wish I could confirm that personally for you, but unfortunately my interaction with the Speedtail was entirely stationary.
The Speedtail I had the good fortune to interact with was one of the six unique Speedtails in existence, whose chassis is made of visual carbon fiber painted over in blue. Its owner also already possesses the McLaren F1 in the same colors. The bespoke element of such cars is very important to McLaren and its clientele.
From hypercar to Richard Mille RM 40-01 Speedtail hyper watch
The car’s “teardrop shape” was the basis of the brand-new sculptural case for the RM 40-01 Speedtail; the designers practically replicated the aerodynamic shape of the automobile in the watch. Bezel indentations evoke the hood openings, while the pushers recall the air outlets behind the front wheels.
According to Julien Boillat, Richard Mille’s technical director of casing, the 69-part titanium case is a bespoke development and features a Carbon TPT case band and pushers as well as an integrated strap.
“The watch has one of the highest levels of finishing ever executed at Richard Mille,” said Boillat. “There has been a lot of development with our anglers and polishers. The attention to detail is extreme, with mirror-polished, plain, and satinized effects in different areas and the combined use of titanium and Carbon TPT.”
The intense stylistic synergy between these two high-tech objects cannot be overseen; this watch is pure Richard Mille identity infused with McLaren spirit.
“Never have we done a watch that so much encapsulates the spirit of the car,” said Tim Malachard, CFO of Richard Mille, on the occasion of its introduction.
Naturally, geometry as complicated as this necessitated a multitude of designs and research and development: 2,800 hours (1.5 years) and five prototypes were needed alone for the development of the case!
The engineers also designed a sapphire crystal that is practically as complex as the case, using experience gained from making sapphire crystal cases for the RM 56-01 and that which came after. This triple-contour crystal accounts for the taper and changing thickness of the bezel as it travels downward. It alone needed 18 months of R&D.
Richard Mille RM 40-01 Speedtail Caliber CRMT4
Automatic Caliber CRMT4 is likewise a bespoke movement and was produced in-house at Richard Mille. Movements always perfectly fit their cases at Richard Mille in the best haute horology tradition. The movement measures 30.48 x 35.35 x 6.81 mm and follows the taper of the case.
As Richard Mille follows a “holistic” approach to the conception of its movements, cases, and dials, everything fits perfectly. For example, a movement holder ring is not necessary here, with the movement mounted on chassis mounting rubbers and secured by titanium screws.
Thanks to a team led by Salvador Arbona, technical director of movements at Richard Mille, Caliber CRMT4, which necessitated 8,600 hours of development, carries a slew of Richard Mille’s typical characteristics like the use of grade 5 titanium for the bridges, bridge screws, base plate, and rotor core.
New elements include a dynamic-looking large date, a function selector (W-N-H) at 3 o’clock inspired by the Speedtail’s gearbox, and the first in-house Richard Mille power reserve indicator at 9 o’clock, which is easily recognizable as being automotive inspired in its design.
The large date is set using a pusher at the unusual position of 8 o’clock, and I can attest that this pusher is as smooth as butter, perfectly landing on the next numeral every time. It was a joy to flip through the date numerals.
On the front, the gentle, downward, tapered curve of the movement from 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock recalls design details in the brushed metal console inside the car that contains the gear shifter and other controls. The orange line running from the lower part of the movement at 6 o’clock and continuing to the strap mimics the vertical taillight in McLaren’s typical “papaya orange” at the Speedtail’s rear.
The unusual design of the platinum and red gold rotor is inspired by the Speedtail’s hood.
“There are many similarities between the way that Richard Mille and McLaren approach common design and engineering challenges, such as saving weight, reducing vibrational impact and minimizing resistance,” said McLaren Automotive’s design director Melville.
“When it came to the RM 40-01, we had considerable input in sharing the highlights of the car and the philosophy behind it. With the Speedtail, we set out to produce a car that had an artistic quality to it. That has certainly come through in the watch, which beautifully mirrors the many details of the Speedtail in its finish, materials, and uncompromising design.”
For more information, please visit www.richardmille.com/collections/rm-40-01-automatic-tourbillon-mclaren-speedtail and www.cars.mclaren.com/en/ultimate-series/mclaren-speedtail.
Quick Facts Richard Mille RM 40-01 Speedtail
Case: 41.8 x 48.25 x 14.15 mm, titanium with Carbon TPT case band and pushers
Movement: automatic Caliber CRMT4 with one-minute tourbillon, free-sprung balance with variable inertia, variable-geometry platinum rotor and red gold weight, ceramic ball bearings, 50-hour power reserve, base plate and bridges in titanium with electroplasma treatment, fast-rotating spring barrel, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes; date, power reserve indicator, function indicator
Limitation: 106 pieces
Price: CHF 900,000
Disclosure: the author was a guest of McLaren on this adventure.