Richard Mille Watches and the Formula 1 Drivers That Wear Them
Richard Mille watches are heavily-associated with Formula 1 racing, likely because they share so many qualities in common with Formula 1 cars. Richard Mille watches, and Formula 1 cars are highly-engineered handcrafted machines at the peak of technical innovation. Richard Mille watches can be considered “racing machines on the wrist,” thereby pushing both cars and watches to the very limits of technology. Ever the master of marketing, Richard Mille seeks the highest-performing sportspeople as those whose wrists these highly-valued timepieces will adorn. Together, they reflect the highest limits to which both people and craftsmanship and be pushed. The company’s founder, Richard Mille himself, is a car racing enthusiast who collects vintage racing cars. He has struck lasting friendships with some of the best drivers in the business and they, in turn, wear the Richard Mille brand. Who could represent Richard Mille watches better than Formula 1 drivers?
Though introduced in 2001, Richard Mille watches have quickly gained a reputation that aligns them with the top-tier Swiss luxury watches such as Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet. We will dive more into what makes Richard Mille watches so valuable as we look into several Formula 1 drivers and the watches they wear.
Ferrari (2006-2013), World Championship Runner-Up 2008
Felipe Massa was an integral part of Ferrari’s Constructors’ winning seasons of 2007 and 2008 while almost winning the World Driver’s championship in 2007 when Lewis Hamilton edged him out by one championship point. After having Grand Prix victories, he finished his career and made the podium on 41 separate occasions driving for Sauber, Ferrari, and Williams. Felipe Massa is a personal friend of the founder, who named each RM-011 after Felipe Massa to honor the driver’s achievements on the racetrack.
The RM 011 is a technical masterpiece containing all the hallmarks that make each Richard Mille watch distinguishable from the rest. Its curved construction follows the natural contour of the wrist that it “fits like a glove.” The three-layer case is made of a durable and extremely light carbon composite material made by NTPT (North Thin Ply Technologies), similar to that used to make the masts for competitive racing yachts, giving it a distinctive appearance that can be appreciated especially if seen up close. The internal details of the movement and components were placed on a precisely-machined curved surface, making it challenging even for the most reputed Swiss watchmakers. Each piece is handcrafted and milled to perfection and doesn’t appear stamped. Powering the RM 011 is the highly-precise RMAC1 caliber which uses titanium bridges, with each vital component beveled and anglaged by hand. The movement allows for a complication in a 60-minute countdown timer. The materials selected and the sturdy construction of the movement and the body that encases it has been tested and certified to withstand the conditions Formula 1 drivers are subjected to. The fact that Felipe Masse himself is seen to wear incarnations of this watch in races is a testament to this watch’s toughness.
Ferrari (2019-present), current 2022 season championship points leader after five races (as of May 5, 2022)
As Ferrari's lead driver, Charles Leclerc is leading this year's charge for Scuderia Ferrari to regain its illustrious place as world champions after yielding the constructors crown in 2009. Richard Mille struck a partnership with Charles Leclerc very early in the driver's racing career. From Charles Leclerc's early days in karting, Richard Mille and his brand has supported the young racer's career. Charles Leclerc owns several Richard Mille watches, such as the "ultimate" incarnation of RM 61-01. This year, the latest incarnation of the RM-067-01, a specially made RM-067-02, was released for Charles Leclerc. Custom editions for other F1 drivers will be released as well. For this article, we will be looking at the RM-035 seen on Charles’ wrist in one of its incarnations, the RM-035-02 Rafael Nadal NTPT.
The largish 49.94mm x 44.5mm case is still one of the lightest watches of its size. The trademark three-layer case is made of black NTPT Carbon distinguishable by its flowing patterns of layered composites machined smoothly against the grain, thereby producing its striking patterns that can be seen up close. Its skeleton construction is showcased under a precisely machined case and case back. One can't help but admire how a curved construction at 13.35mm thickness can be put together at such a high level of precision that the watch is water-resistant up to 50meters and resists high G forces while on the wrist of the top tennis player in the world, or the world championship leader in the F1 standing for that matter. The double-barrelled caliber has a power reserve of 55 hours and has a variable winding efficiency depending on the wearer's physical activity. Powering it is the self-winding Calibre RMAL1 made by Vaucher, whose titanium bridges and baseplate are clearly visible when seen from the case back.
Lando Norris is one of the most promising young drivers in Formula 1, and is currently running 6th in the world driver’s championship while being the lead driver for McLaren. Despite the problems plaguing the Mercedes-powered teams this year, Lando Norris managed a podium finish in this year’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix behind the victorious Red Bull drivers, the sixth finish at the top three in a Grand Prix in his career.
The RM 011 has been a dependable mainstay among Richard Mille watches since 2007. Taking its place in 2021 is the RM-011-03 Automatic Flyback Chronograph with all the stylistic features such as the tonneau case design, heft, and skeletonized design showing its intricate complications, but with the new automatic Calibre RMAC3 whose components are made of grade 5 titanium with a PVD coating, one of the most challenging processes in watchmaking to date. The pushers are reminiscent of accelerator pedals surrounded by NTPT-made carbon fiber. The variable inertia automatic rotor, visible from the case back, was processed by excising all excess material until the skeletal structure of the oscillating mechanism and the two white-gold adjustable wings remained. The choice of materials and the manufacturing processes put into this timepiece are so precise that, despite the intricateness of the design, it can withstand being submerged under 50m of water and subjected to high G-forces. RM-011-03 can be considered Richard Mille’s flagship watch for this season. Among its releases is the Jean Todt 50th Anniversary limited edition of 150 pieces made with an especially engineered case of blue and white Quartz TPT.
From the most illustrious names among the greats of Formula 1 racing, Mick Schumacher has succeeded in taking over a seat in the highest level of motor racing. Having Schumacher as your surname brings mountains of expectations, but by winning the 2020 Formula 2 championship, Mick Schumacher earned his seat in Formula 1 by merit.
Among the sportier “hardcore” tonneau-shaped watches Richard Mille timepieces are known for, the RM-033 also has many of the usual ingredients that make it a dress watch. However, being a Richard Mille watch has all the hallmarks of being an uncompromising watch fit to be worn by athletes and personalities expected to perform at the highest level of competition. The RM-033 is very slim at 6.30mm, but it has an uncommon width of 45.7mm. The power behind the RM-033 is the automatic Calibre RMXP1 based on the Vaucher architecture in a very slim 2.60mm movement. The choice of materials is nothing short of uncompromising, with PVD-treated, wet-sandblasted bridges made of grade 5 titanium visible under sapphire glass.
Richard Mille makes, perhaps, the most expensive sports chronographs to date. These watches are sought-after because of their beauty and precision, but these timepieces are made to withstand the most demanding conditions the sportsmen and women who wear them are subjected to, especially in Formula 1. The materials, engineering, and precision of these timepieces match the innovation and top-level performance of the machines and the people who compete in the most prestigious motorsports competitions in the world. The progeny of Richard Mille watches are deeply-rooted in motor racing. It is unsurprising that the sport's top practitioners, namely the drivers, have Richard Mille grace their wrists, not only off the track but on it.
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