US Open: Rafael Nadal and Richard Mille
by James Resnick
Rafael Nadal at the 2011 French Open
|The Richard Mille RM 027|
From the first modern Olympic games in Greece in 1896, human physical achievement has often been tied to a factor of distance, height and, most of all, time. So it makes perfect sense for modern sports figures to value time so highly that their watches are impeccably accurate and high-style. Plus, if they can stand the rigors of being strapped to an athlete’s wrist during competition, there is proof of performance everyone can see.
Richard Mille is a relative newcomer to the high-tech science and business of horology. After working with several storied watchmakers, he started developing his own high-performance brand in 1999, with the first sales beginning in 2001, taking inspiration from the precision of aviation, motorcycles and motor sports.
Tourbillon watches (“whirlwind” in French) are mechanical timepieces that have the escapement and balance wheel in a rotating cage to negate the effect of gravity. They often have a see-through dial and watch caseback, so you can view the inner workings—perhaps on the theory that you wouldn’t buy an exotic sports car without looking in the engine bay. Along similar lines, though these high-end timepieces cannot speed along a racetrack themselves, in extreme cases they can cost as much as a Lamborghini.
A Match Made In Heaven
Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal is not only ranked number two on the men’s singles side, he’s smitten with the concept of a tourbillon. Early on, Nadal saw what Mille accomplished, and the two worked together to develop a signature watch. Given the dynamic nature of tennis and what players put their arms and wrists through, Richard Mille’s priorities were light weight, the ability to withstand high shock loads and comfort.
Nadal has worn his RM 027 watch in every one of his tennis matches since May 2010, a unique occurrence in the game’s history. Using titanium, lithium, aluminum, copper, magnesium and other exotic metals, Mille has created the lightest tourbillon watch in the world. The movement weighs just 3.83 grams (0.1351 ounces). Including the strap and watchcase, the RM 027 weighs less than 20 grams (0.7 ounces), making it one of the lightest watches ever produced.
“It is an honor that Richard has chosen me as one of his ambassadors,” says Nadal. “Since the moment we met there was a unique feeling. I know that he has worked very hard to create this very special watch. I am sure it will be a successful partnership.”
“I love Rafael’s personality, his humility, his love and respect for people,” notes Mille. “In terms of developing the watch, Rafael demanded the best, and it encouraged us to go beyond normal technical limits,” Mille says. In tennis terms, it’s an unreturnable serve—an ace. Cellini Jewelers, 509 Madison Ave., 212-888-0505
PHOTOGRAPH BY BPI/ELLA LING (NADAL)