Richard Mille RM 027 Nadal
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