It is a perfectly balanced partnership. Just as British luxury sports and supercar manufacturer McLaren was the first Formula One team to use carbon to lighten its car’s chassis – technology that revolutionised the sport – Richard Mille pioneered the use of carbon nanofibre for baseplates before designing a mono-body baseplate in Carbon TPT.
The innovation fuses the baseplate and caseband, which recalls the monocage chassis employed in supercars, and achieves the common objective of drastically reducing weight without sacrificing stability. Richard Mille and McLaren Automotive also share the same kinds of clients in pursuit of passion, emotion, authenticity, and exclusivity, and embrace similar strategies regarding restricted production and distribution, selling approximately the same number of units annually.
Now the two companies have joined hands to launch their debut co-branded timepiece – the 500-piece limited-edition RM 11-03 McLaren Automatic Flyback Chronograph (CHF180,000 before tax) – at the 88th Geneva Motor Show held last March. As with the Rolls-Royce Adamas, limited editions will always hold sway. Customers of the new McLaren Senna Ultimate Series – also restricted to 500 pieces – get first choice to coordinate their car edition number with their watch edition number, imagined as an ideal pairing.
Equipped with the RMAC3 skeletonised automatic movement with a flyback chronograph, countdown timer, double-barrel winding system and 55-hour power reserve, the RM 11-03 McLaren features a massive, rugged and lightweight case made from interlaced sheets of Carbon TPT and Orange Quartz TPT (a quartz fibre composite containing an orange pigment in tribute to McLaren’s trademark colour) created with longstanding collaborator North Thin Ply Technology.
“Reputation comes down to authenticity,” Richard Mille states. “While the standard approach of watchmakers in their relationship with car designers or motorsport is very first-degree, our goal for the RM 11-03 was much more ambitious. Rather than merely have a strap that resembles a tyre, we sought to incorporate many of the style codes emblematic of McLaren. The orange McLaren livery, for instance, was terribly difficult to produce because we wanted it to be integral to the Carbon TPT. This alone took a lot of time. But once you have established the meaning of your intention, you can achieve a fantastically beautiful result and a very powerful object.”
Therefore, the McLaren 720S’ distinctively-shaped headlights inspired the titanium pushers on the case, the curves on the sides of the McLaren 570S are echoed on the chronograph, pushers and pusher protectors, the form of the legendary McLaren F1’s air-intake snorkel are reproduced on the titanium inserts on the bezel, the McLaren Senna’s nine-spoke wheel pattern is reflected in the complicated grade 5 titanium crown, and McLaren’s Speedmark logo is carved into the unique rubber strap.
We announced a new car now under 1,200 kg, almost unbelievable. Richard makes the lightest watches in the world with the most advanced materials.
Ultimately, the two brands harness science and the latest technological innovations not to say that they were the first, but to improve function and performance: lighter weight, greater strength, more durability. McLaren Automotive CEO, Mike Flewitt, says, “There are lots of ways you can have transport, but you choose McLaren because of the emotional connection: It’s fun, you enjoy it. In our two different industries, we share a passion for weight. We make, by far, the lightest cars in our class. We announced a new car now under 1,200 kg, almost unbelievable. Richard makes the lightest watches in the world with the most advanced materials. Where we go with the materials is beyond anything people have done before. It’s innovative, it’s creative.”
Mille concludes, “Our clients are looking for genuineness, for values that really matter to them, and we owe it to ourselves to do a proper job. It’s important to be vigilant in terms of how you handle your image, in terms of your products, and to ensure a true correspondence between what you say and what you do. We make watches you can wear for any occasion, just as McLaren creates cars that can be driven on a daily basis. We don’t produce watches to put in a safe waiting for the next generation. I love the fact that ultimately, we make art. These are works of art, living pieces of art.”