The latest collaboration between McLaren Automotive and Richard Mille, the RM 40-01 Automatic Tourbillon McLaren Speedtail.
QUALITY OF LIFE IN SWITZERLAND IS JUST TOO HIGH. SO, TO PRODUCE A TEARDROP, RICHARD MILLE SPENT 11,400 HOURS DEVELOPING THE RM 40-01 AUTOMATIC TOURBILLON MCL AREN SPEEDTAIL, A DROPLET-SHAPED TIMEPIECE MODELED ON A 250 MPH BRITISH HYPERCAR.
The entirely new movement architecture took 8,600 hours of development
In the material-obsessed world of high-end timepieces, is humor the rarest element of all? Without impugning the comic sensibilities of the average Swiss watchmaker—no one wants a goofy surgeon, either—Richard Mille (richardmille.com) is the only ultraluxury brand whose clients sometimes receive a chuckle when proffering a left wrist. If you’re aiming to tickle, better a Richard Mille than a Casio Calculator, no? Elicit the first laugh, have the last.
What makes a Richard Mille—beyond the engineering, design and materials, which are second to none—is charm. A sense of humor. A yukyuk. A gag. Most contain multitudes, set against one another to yield a delightful frisson. Finely bevelled subversion is no small feat when peddling to billionaires, a portion of whom believe comedy died with Bob Hope.
The RM 40-01 features a caliber with an automatic winding tourbillon movement with hours, minutes, variable-geometry rotor, oversize date, power reserve indicator and function selector.
First, there is the quality of some Richard Milles: They float. Yes, that shiny, little ingot, presumed to sink, bobs. It’s confounding and fun. The Bonbon line, loved by creative types like Frank Ocean, features miniature ruby candies and red gold cupcakes: Munchkinland looks and Star Trek technology, plus internals to shame a Formula One car. If John Cleese in a dress is a good joke, so is aerospace titanium bathed in pastel buttercream.
“Racing Machines on the Wrist” is exemplified perfectly by Richard Mille’s long-term collaborative relationship with McLaren Automotive.
Most cheekily, Richard Mille makes the RM 69, a silver watch that works blue. Using an Oracle complication, it spins three rollers, each displaying an erotic phrase at random. Together, the three form a declaration of bedroom intent. Imagine the world’s best-engineered, jewel-encrusted Magic 8 ball that confesses, “I lust to devour your nipples.”
In contrast, the new Richard Mille 40-01 Automatic Tourbillon McLaren Speedtail is more bemused than LOL. For one, it’s inspired by a very serious machine: the teardrop-silhouette McLaren Speedtail, a 1,000-plus-horsepower, 250 mph hypercar whose 106-example run sold out instantly. (At $2 million per, it was a great day for McLaren’s P & L.) Building an adequate homage to such a machine is like redesigning a race car to fit the wrist.
Like the McLaren, the Richard Mille Speedtail boasts an aerodynamic teardrop shape. From above, 11 and 1 splay farther than 5 and 7; in elevation, the case tapers from a barrel chest at 12 to a swimmer’s abs at 6. That feat took Technical Casing Director Julien Boillat and his team five prototypes and 2,800 hours of work. Besides an athletic, sinuous look, the shape tilts the watch face perceptibly up, improving visibility.
The RM 40-01, richardmille.com.
Inside the case is a custom horological motor: a titanium sweetie that offers Richard Mille’s first in-house power reserve display, plus an oversized date—at 250 mph, it’s quick glances only—and function selector complications. The odd case shape meant the movement of the 40-01 took 8,600 hours to develop, an arduous process that Technical Movement Director Salvatore Arbona says pushed his team to create some of its best work. Like the McLaren, the watch shoehorns a titanic engine into a slippery shape—hot-rodding à la Suisse.
The visuals are breathtakingly complex and chillingly simple: a Soderbergh plotline in which the only villain vanquished is bad design. From the McLaren, the RM 40-01 gets bezel indentations like hood vents and buttons that conjure the cutouts behind the car’s front wheels. Te movement peeks through like a V-8 under glass. Every surface, seen and unseen, is bevelled, buff ed and polished to a degree that makes a Westminster winner look like a victim of neglect.
Able to reach 300 km/h from a standing start in 12.8 seconds, McLaren’s first-ever Hyper GT is a minimalist design intended to be the world’s most aerodynamically efficient road car ever.
So, where’s the wink? A great Richard Mille delivers its superlatives topped with an astringent, citrus twist.
The irony lies in the shape: thousands of hours, the world’s best, most refined materials, the heights of math, geometry, engineering, all to produce a watch whose shape is an emulation of the quotidian perfection of a water droplet. Trillions of perfect examples in nature, and Richard Mille had to build one more that tells time.
Well, 106 more, to match the McLaren’s limited run. If you miss out, cry, and there it is—your very own teardrop. And that’s a laugh.