In Depth

Richard Mille and McLaren: Keeping track of time

The super-light, super-strong RM 50-03 is the result of an all-powerful collaboration between two giants of mechanical engineering

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The worlds of horology and motor racing are closely intertwined. But while it's common to see the names of watch brands emblazoned on the sides of cars, it's more rare to see the two coming together to make a single product. Yet few can doubt the authenticity of the partnership between daring watchmaker Richard Mille and Formula 1 specialist McLaren, who have shared their considerable expertise to make a groundbreaking timepiece.

The deceptively chunky RM 50-03 weighs less than 40 grams – including the strap – making it the lightest mechanical chronograph ever made. This extraordinary feat is down to the incorporation of graphene into the case. The revolutionary nano-material, discovered by the University of Manchester, has never before been used in a watch design. It features properties that makes it six times lighter than steel while simultaneously being 200 times stronger – useful not only as a hard-wearing material for the wrist, but one that will play a key role in motor racing as McLaren works to integrate it into its Grand Prix cars.

"This gives us the relationships with academic institutions, such as the National Graphene Institute and other universities," says Jonathan Neale, McLaren Racing CEO, of the company's work in helping blend the material into the case structure. "We have an interest in material science, but also stand on the shoulders of those who are doing it. So we became early adopters."

Just as with timekeeping, in F1 precision is everything, and the watch has been designed to fit the exacting demands of some of the sport's top competitors. "When the drivers are wearing their watch in the car, it needs to be something that is non-intrusive, but also something that will cope with the high G-forces," explains Neale. "It's got to be functional, and what the drivers won't do is put up with a car – or anything else – that is not fit for purpose. When you talk about world champions, one of the things that's always striking for me is the degree of sensitivity that they have about incredibly small changes to anything. For example, if we change the ride height of the back of the car by 0.5mm the driver will feel that."

Limited to 75 pieces, the watch is available to view in person at Harrods until 25 July, as part of the brand's takeover of the renowned department store's Brompton Road windows. 

richardmille.com

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