It must have come as quite a blow when TAG Heuer left McLaren a little over a year ago to team up with Red Bull Racing. The watchmaker had been with McLaren since the 1980s, after all. But what the British racing team/supercar manufacturer has lined up to take TAG’s place is even cooler.
The new RM 50-03 Tourbillon Split Seconds Chronograph Ultralight McLaren F1 is the first product of a recently inked partnership between McLaren and high-end watchmaker Richard Mille.
It was just unveiled this week at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie, the watchmaking equivalent of the Geneva Motor Show, and the same place where Breitling revealed its new connected watch for Bentley. Only where the Breitling has gone digital, the RM 50-03 is all about the craftsmanship and construction.
For starters, it’s a tourbillon – the crown jewel of timekeeping complications that rotates the entire mechanism in its case at one revolution per minute, thereby negating the effect of gravity on a watch’s accuracy, and obviating the need for a second hand in the process.
It also features a split-second flyback chronograph function for tracking lap times, a 70-hour power reserve, and a torque sensor to protect the movement from over-winding. Yet the mechanism weighs only 7 grams and the entire watch just 40 – less than the weight of an egg or a tennis ball.
To make it that light, Richard Mille used not only titanium and carbon fiber, but also graphene. Six times lighter (yet 200 times stronger) than steel, the nano-material was discovered in 2004 at the University of Manchester, earning two professors there the Nobel Prize in physics. McLaren’s Applied Technologies division has been working with the university’s National Graphene Institute on applications for the substance, out of which Richard Mille constructed the three-part case, with the titanium and carbon-fiber movement at its center.
Impressed? You should be, because far from slapping McLaren’s name on a mass-market wristwatch, Richard Mille has developed a groundbreaking timepiece – one worthy of the performance machines they make in Woking.
Try not to like it too much, though, because the watchmaker will only make 75 of them, each to be accompanied by a 1:5-scale model of the yet-to-be-revealed McLaren-Honda MP4-32 that Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne will drive in the 2017 Formula One World Championship.
Richard Mille’s timepieces typically sell for $100k or more, and its tourbillons for half a million or so. The RM 50-03? It reportedly costs almost as much as McLaren’s P1 hybrid hypercar at a cool $1 million excluding tax.