To celebrate Richard Mille’s new partnership with Formula 1 constructor Mclaren-Honda, the brand unveiled the RM 50-03, the lightest mechanical chronograph ever made. And it’s not any chronograph, the RM 50-03 combines a tourbillon escapement with a split-seconds function. However, the big news is the incorporation of a new proprietary composite Graph TPT (or Graphene as it’s more commonly known) a cutting-edge case material developed thanks to a collaboration between The University of Manchester, McLaren Applied Technologies and North Thin Ply Technology (NTPT).
Graphene was first isolated by Professor Andre Geim, of the University of Manchester’s School of Physics and Astronomy, back in 2004. He and his colleague, Professor Konstantin Novoselov, won the Nobel Prize for the discovery in 2010, and established the National Graphene Institute at the University in 2015. Graph TPT is produced when a resin with graphene is introduced to Carbon TPT filaments at 120º Celsius and at 6 BAR of pressure. With graphene added to the resin mixture, the final result is the material that is six times lighter and 200 times stronger than steel.
The watch’s movement, caliber RM 50-03, developed by Renaud & Papi, is a mere 7 gm thanks to the use of grade 5 titanium and carbon TPT for the baseplate and bridges, and the extreme skeletonization of components. The movement features surfaces that are polished, satin-finished and soft-polished by hand. According to Richard Mille, each grade 5 titanium dial requires three hours of anglage and polishing to highlight its edge. Circular graining can be seen on the barrel drum, the minute wheel and the small and large medium wheels. These wheels are hand-beveled and rhodium-plated before the teeth are cut.
Richard Mille has developed for this watch a new split-seconds mechanism that reduces the chronograph’s energy consumption by 50 percent while at the same time reducing arbor friction. The six-column wheel that controls the various rockers for the rattrapante function was designed to guarantee flawlessly simultaneous movement, clean function lock, and very stable settings.
The McLaren link is visible in the transverse cage – made of Carbon TPT and inspired by the wishbone suspension structure of the F1 car – that is fixed to the caseband and is there to support the movement. This cage is used instead of a traditional casing ring and allows for a better fit between the movement and case. The use of Graphene and grade-5 titanium again are a nod to their association with F1 cars. McLaren is currently working on integrating Graphene into their cars while titanium is already being used to lighten and reinforce chassis and in the production of gearboxes nd valve systems. The hollow pushers of the chronograph are a nod to the air-intake ducts of the McLaren-Honda car while the shape of the crown is inspired by the wheels rims used in the car.
Interestingly, Graphene is also used in the rubber strap of this watch to increase its elasticity and resistance to wear. The RM 50-03 McLaren F1 will be produced in a limited edition of 75 pieces; each watch will be accompanied by a 1:5 scale model of the McLaren-Honda racing car driven by Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne.
Richard Mille has been showing strong growth in the Middle East. Read our interview with Peter Harrison, the brand's CEO for Europe and Middle East here.