Going to Extremes
The Richard Mille watch developed for tennis champ, Rafael Nadal, is a test bed of high-tech engineering, built to withstand the most extreme conditions, look like a million bucks and weigh as much as a feather. In essence, it’s a tourbillon timepiece unlike any other.
The Intercontinental Le Grand Hotel is situated just across from the Place de l’opéra. We’re here to honour Rafael Nadal, who, in a departure from his usual hot, bare-shouldered, sports look, appears as dapper as can be in a prim, pressed and box-fresh tux. If we could step back in time, Victor Hugo might have been among us, for I’m told he used to regularly hold court, so to speak, at the banquet halls of this hotel. Marcel Proust and Oscar Wilde were also regulars apparently, but at the ground floor’s Café de La Paix. Steeped in history it might be but tonight, celebrities of a different kind have come together – there’s Tommy Hilfiger, the Spanish Ambassador to France, the Presidents of the ATP and French Tennis Federation, former tennis pro and seven-time winner at Roland Garros, Chris Evert, Nadal’s coach (his uncle), as well as the gorgeous Inés Sastre and of course, our host, Monsieur Richard Mille. As we enter the ballroom, where all the tables are perfectly set, with crystal and silverware glistening under the violet overhead lights, the sound of polite conversation in French and Spanish tapers off as soon as Nadal is ushered to the podium and begins to speak about his foundation, whose mission, since it was established in 2007, has been to use sports to aid and provide hope of a better life to socially disadvantaged children (and whose roster of official partners include Richard Mille). If you don’t already know, you might by now be wondering what makes Richard Mille and Rafael Nadal a good match. The concise answer is: the opportunity to push the boundaries of what’s possible. Or at least, that’s the formula the Swiss luxury watchmaker has been putting to the test on Nadal and other athletes, like golfer Bubba Watson and Formula One driver Felipe Massa. “The requirements for each of our ambassadors’ watches are never the same,” explains Richard Mille when asked about the watches his company produces for these sportsmen. “Rafa’s requirements are very different from those that golfer Bubba Watson might need, whose watch experiences shock every 10 or 20 minutes. Or polo player Pablo Macdonough, who might receive a mallet to the watch. Or Felipe Massa, whose watch suffers massive vibrations and G-forces in the cockpit of his