A match of two giants

Because Nadal is Nadal and Richard Mille is Richard Mille. But, let’s start from the beginning. Richard Mille watches are similar to F1 cars. They are “watches”, of course, as they can measure time reliably. But they are designed to serve a specific purpose. In Nadal’s case, to survive the stress brought by a professional tennis match, where balls travel at 100 miles per hour, and bodies receive an incredible amount of shocks when the racquets hit that ball.

In the specific case of Nadal’s watch, the movement has been anchored to a mesh of wires, made similarly to what you see in a tennis racquet. The shocks brought to the watch by the hits sustained are absorbed by this innovative shock-absorbing device, much better than in traditional systems.

The RM 27-04 by Richard Mille.

Wow” you say (I can hear you). “But does this gizmo have to cost 800,000 bucks?

This is not the cost of the gizmo in itself. All the engineering behind that, the research on materials, on how to create this mesh and to anchor precisely the elements of the watch has a cost. A big one. And somebody is going to pay for all of this development.

The RM 27-04 by Richard Mille. Photo from Richard Mille website

The final customers of this jewel of innovation, of course

Where’s the beef in all this? Progress is the beef, of course. The research Richard Mille puts in microengineering this particular watch, will be useful for the watchmaking industry at large. And not only. Advanced micromechanic research is fundamental to create smaller and better systems for applications such as medicine, prosthetics, aviation and astronautics. Maybe not this one, but another one will. Because technology is not made in boxes: everything is fluid, and everything could be applied to other fields.

So, let’s have a look at the Richard Mille RM 27-04, the watch made especially for Rafa Nadal.

The RM 27-04 by Richard Mille. Photo from Richard Mille website

To celebrate ten years of partnership with Rafael Nadal, Richard Mille has specially created the 27-04 watch. The RM 27-04 combines incredible lightness – 30 grams, including the strap – with formidable strength. Its tourbillon movement, suspended inside the case, can withstand accelerations of over 12,000 g, a record for the Richard Mille. The movement is entirely supported by a surface area of only 855 square millimeters, consisting of a single 0.27 mm-section micro-blasted steel braided cable, bound by two 5N red gold tensioners with PVD surface treatment.

The RM 27-04 by Richard Mille. Photo from Richard Mille website

This construction scheme is unprecedented in watchmaking and is inspired by the stringing of tennis rackets. The watchmaker begins by fixing the cable to the tensioner at 5 o’clock. He then proceeds to weave the weft of the net by holding all the parallel passages in tension before beginning the cross passages that will pass alternately above and below the first weft.
The cable passes 38 times through the holes in the outer flange in grade 5 titanium before finishing on the tensioner at 10 o’clock. The movement is then fixed diagonally on the mesh through five hooks in polished titanium with 5N red gold Pvd surface treatment, placed on the plate’s back.

The RM 27-04 by Richard Mille. Photo from Richard Mille website

What also makes this model unique is the material chosen for the 38.4×11.4 mm case with the tennis player’s name “Rafa” engraved on the side: the TitaCarb, an exclusive alloy with a tensile strength of 370 MPa (3,700 kg/cm2).

The RM 27-04 by Richard Mille. Photo from Richard Mille website


You can find much more about horology and its fascinating history in The Watch Manual, a thorough e-book that explains all the basics about watchmaking and its protagonists.

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