Richard Mille RM 027 Nadal

Plaza Watch International - - Iconic Innovations -

Three years ago, Richard Mille be­gan ex­tend­ing the brand’s cadre of am­bas­sadors by en­gag­ing world num­ber one ten­nis player Rafael Nadal. This wasn’t the big­gest sur­prise, it was the watch the brand cre­ated for him.

Is this a sports watch? Well, that was the main ques­tion. It is a tour­bil­lon watch, which is nor­mally not some­thing a man­u­fac­turer would dare to put into a time­piece des­tined for heavy sports use. But it was built to take any­thing and ev­ery­thing Nadal could dish out—and dish it out he did. He broke about six of them in the course of testing, but in the end the RM 027 – im­proved by Nadal’s beat­ings and the brand’s con­sis­tent R&D – took the prover­bial lick­ing and kept on tick­ing. Even the tour­bil­lon.

How did he test it? On court. “But,” I hear you say­ing, “Ten­nis play­ers don’t wear watches!” True. How­ever, Nadal agreed to wear his Richard Mille watch dur­ing com­pet­i­tive play mainly be­cause com­pared to a “nor­mal” watch, the RM 027 weighs next to noth­ing: 18 grammes with its poly­car­bon­ate strap – and no plas­tic parts. “It’s so er­gonomic and com­fort­able that he doesn’t feel any­thing,” Mille ex­plained at the time. The real-life testing ground for this ground­break­ing haute hor­logerie wrist­watch with the as­tound­ing price tag of more than $500,000 was in­deed the con­di­tions of play­ing the pro­fes­sional tour: re­peated shock, sweat, ex­treme tem­per­a­ture changes, and the var­i­ous al­ti­tudes and hu­midi­ties as­so­ci­ated with be­ing in a dif­fer­ent part of the world each week. Not to men­tion Nadal’s blis­ter­ing strokes and gru­elling train­ing, which in­cludes the sauna and steam room (yes, it went in there too).

Ac­cord­ing to Vic Braden, cer­tainly the world’s most cel­e­brated ten­nis teacher, ten­nis rac­quets also bor­row from aerospace in­dus­tries. We know that many of Richard Mille’s watch com­po­nents do too. “The key fac­tor in achiev­ing ball speed is the stiff­ness of the rac­quet,” Braden told me. “Some NASA dis­cov­er­ies on how to make ma­te­rial very stiff but light pro­vided play­ers with an op­por­tu­nity to swing faster with less ef­fort. This changed the way the game was played im­me­di­ately and why play­ers can now be ag­gres­sive from the base­line, which was nearly im­pos­si­ble in the 1950s and ’60s (with wooden rac­quets).” ED

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