As Richard Mille enters the fifth year of its ongoing partnership with the luxury British supercar maker McLaren Automotive, they unveiled their most ambitious project yet – the RM 40-01 Automatic Tourbillon McLaren Speedtail.
Revealed during a virtual media launch, this remarkable and unique watch honours the fastest, most advanced and most exotic road car McLaren has yet produced: the futuristic Speedtail.
Inspired by the form of a teardrop, the most aerodynamically efficient shape found in nature, the Speedtail is the apotheosis of the streamlined hypercar, a three-seat grand tourer that became the third car in McLaren’s Utimate line-up.
With its 1, 070-horsepower hybrid powertrain, the Speedtail covers 112 metres per second when travelling at its top speed of 250mph/402kph, making it the fastest McLaren road car to date.
The automaker’s unwavering pursuit of aerodynamic efficiency provided the starting point for the design of the RM 40-01 Automatic Tourbillon McLaren Speedtail.
“There are many similarities between the way that Richard Mille and McLaren approach common design an engineering challenges, such as saving weight, reducing vibrational impact and minimising resistance, ” said Rob Melville, McLaren Automotive’s design director.
“When it came to the RM 40-01, we had considerable input in sharing the highlights of the car and the philosophy behind it. With the Speedtail, we set out to produce a car that had an artistic quality to it. That has certainly come through in the watch, which beautifully mirrors the many various details of the Speedtail in its finish, materials and its uncompromising design, ” he added.
It took Richard Mille’s casing department, led by technical director Julien Boillat, a total of 2, 800 hours spread over 18 months to perfect the lines, which mimic the form of a water droplet, while bezel indentations evoke the bonnet openings, and pushers recall the air outlets behind the front wheels.
“As well as taking inspiration from the teardrop shape of the Speedtail, we also faced the challenge of seamlessly combining existing Richard Mille cues with those of McLaren, ” explained Boillat.
“The watch has one of the highest levels of finishing ever executed at Richard Mille. There has been a lot of development with our anglers and polishers. The attention to detail is extreme, with mirror polished, plain and satinised effects in different areas and the combined use of titanium and Carbon TPT®. The case itself is made from 69 individual parts.”
Before the optimum shape was achieved, five prototypes were created and its finished design only finalised after the complexities were ironed out.
The challenge lay in the fact that the case is significantly wider at 12 o’clock than at 6 o’clock, with a further taper between the titanium bezel and case back, which are separated by a caseband made from Carbon TPT® and unequal length titanium pillars.
To protect the RM 40-01’s state-of-the-art movement, a unique upper crystal glass featuring a “triple contour” was developed to account for the decreasing taper and thickness of the bezel. This alone, took 18 months to perfect.
The strap is also a unique design, being asymmetrical and with the rubber version using Vulcolor technology from Biwi SA, a special process that enables coloured rubber to be over-moulded – so allowing the iconic McLaren orange accent coloured stripe seen at 6 o’clock on the movement to extend to the wrist.
A bespoke movement
Despite the extraordinary anatomy of the case, Salvador Arbona, Richard Mille’s movement technical director, created a horological “engine” that seamlessly occupies all the available space.
This introduces a level of mechanical sophistication that makes the RM 40-01 Automatic Tourbillon an appropriately extraordinary companion to the Speedtail.
Grade 5 titanium has been used for key components such as the bridges, the bridge screws, the baseplate and the rotor core. The CRMT4 calibre that drives the RM 40-01 introduces the first in-house development of a power reserve display as well as the oversize date and function selector complications.
The entirely new movement architecture demanded a remarkable 8, 600 hours of development, much of which went into finalising the extreme level of detail.
For example, an often-forgotten detail, the finishing, is applied not only to visible parts but also to parts that are hidden, such as the lower component surfaces.
Some wheels are machined with a McLaren logo that adorns the bonnet of the Speedtail, while the domed parts usher in new surface profiles that were required to translate the car’s curves (which can be seen on the tourbillon bridge).
To preserve the overall balance of the watch and its sleekness of line, the date corrector was positioned at 8 o’clock – a far more technically complex but also more aesthetically pleasing solution than the easier option of locating it at 11 o’clock.
The platinum and red gold winding rotor is inspired by the Speedtail’s bonnet and the barrel-setting by its roof line. The gentle, downward curve that the mechanism follows from 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock recalls the brushed metal divider between the car’s cockpit and its bodywork, a demarcation McLaren was inspired to incorporate because of the design of previous Richard Mille watches.
And, the orange line running from the lower part of the movement and on to the strap mimics the vertical stoplight mounted in the Speedtail’s rear screen.
To reflect the 106 McLaren Speedtails manufactured, 106 RM 40-01 Automatic Tourbillon McLaren Speedtail watches are planned for production.