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Fast Forward: The Richard Mille RM 40-01 Automatic Tourbillon McLaren Speedtail

Fast Forward: The Richard Mille RM 40-01 Automatic Tourbillon McLaren Speedtail

The world of hypercars is characterised by superlatives disguised as numbers. The McLaren Speedtail is no exception: from 1,050 over 403 and 1,430 to 2.37. In other words, from 1,050 horsepower over 403 km/h top speed and 1,430 kilograms weight to a unit price of 2.37 million euros – plus extras. In this world, as far as performance, expenditure, and forward thrust are concerned, it can never be too much. This is why it can be said that in many ways, Richard Mille’s horological self-image is more than similar to the automotive ideals of hypercars. The brand advertises with the slogan “A Racing Machine on the Wrist” for a reason. The new RM 40-01 Automatic Tourbillon McLaren Speedtail brings together both worlds in the best possible way.

Richard Mille – The Innovator

Currently, Richard Mille’s success seems almost inevitable. After all, it is so exclusive and so expensive that its timepieces mark its wearers as top earners. Aesthetically, they are something that are so different and innovative that they speak to a whole new generation of collectors. Richard Mille watches are not elegant pieces to pair with a tailored suit, but rather inspire those who have a more relaxed, less traditional idea of the high life. It’s high-tech horology for hip-hop artists, start-up billionaires, sport idols and new big money.

In other words, it’s a brand that more than does justice for today’s zeitgeist, representing far more than a bold idea back in 1999. Back then, describing Richard Mille as a pioneer would have been more than an understatement. The Frenchman founded his company with the support of Audemars Piguet as a minority shareholder, presenting his first watch in 2001. That watch, the RM 001 Tourbillon, a limited edition of 17 pieces went for a then-sensational 135,000 US dollars. Rather than relying solely on gold and platinum, Richard Mille has since been combining them with new, technical-looking materials. This includes the likes of titanium, or even the company’s own composite materials such as Carbon TPT or Quartz TPT. Additionally, the trend of sapphire crystal cases is also largely thanks to Richard Mille.

Understanding the brand

Mille collaborates with the likes of Rafael Nadal and Pharrell Williams, to name but two people. Furthermore, he has emphasised the connection between his watches and the world of motorsports ever since the start. His watches see themselves as racing cars for the wrist. The watches have had fans in Formula since the early days, not to mention served as their sponsor. Additionally, when the entire watch industry recorded declining sales following the financial crisis, Mille did not reduce its high prices, but rather increased them.

Today, Richard Mille is considered one of the most valuable brands in the industry. The few thousand watches to come out of production each year sell out so quickly that boutiques can usually only display a few models. Naturally, the prices on the pre-owned market blow up as a result. It was almost inevitable that such a brand would make a collaboration of its Hyper-Watches and McLaren sooner or later.

McLaren: The newcomers

In the world of supercars, which Italian manufacturers dominate, McLaren has won a respected place in just over ten years. Like Richard Mille, the company did not succumb to its intimidating competitors with a greater history. Rather, it relied on the respect for Bruce McLaren’s name in racing and the associated expertise for sports cars.

Today, people regard McLaren’s racers as more than equal to the competition with the horses and bulls in their logos. However, its image arguably has somewhat less charisma overall. This makes the cars appear somewhat more sober and objective, yet also gives them extra dose of performance glamour. Anyone who has ever stood in the futuristic company headquarters in Woking, near London – which any Bond villain would want as HQ while plotting world domination – can hardly escape the British-modern racing charm of the very varying models, from the Senna and P1 to the 720S to the GT.

After Richard Mille’s initial collaboration with McLaren Racing, the subsequent collaboration with McLaren Automotive was almost inevitable. After all, the two brands coming together were linked by much more than just a marketing plan.

The new Hyper-Watch: The RM 40-01 Automatic Tourbillon McLaren Speedtail

Anyone who can spend 2.37 million euros on a car is going to be pretty wealthy indeed. As unimaginable and perhaps even absurd as such a purchase may be for most, it is probably fair to say that most buyers of a McLaren Speedtail, McLaren’s fastest hypercar to date, are likely to have earned this financial freedom through a great deal of hard work and cleverness. One can therefore assume that many such buyers do invest wisely. Such buyers will thus pay another 900,000 Swiss francs (excluding VAT) for the Richard Mille RM 40-01 Automatic Tourbillon McLaren Speedtail.

After all, the past has shown that from a purely economic point of view, the Richard Mille watch for the McLaren car is a sensible thing to buy – not to mention the pleasure it brings. Take the 2018 RM 11-03 McLaren Flyback Chronograph. Initially, it was on offer as a limited edition of 500 pieces to the 500 buyers of the McLaren Senna for 180,000 Swiss francs (plus tax). Today, these watches are on the secondary market for around half a million euros.

106 pieces of the Richard Mille RM 40-01 Automatic Tourbillon McLaren Speedtail are available. If the Speedtail watch sticks to only producing this number, and is initially offered first and foremost to the owners of the three-seater car, a similar value development can be expected. This is partly because this time, there are even fewer watches for the worldwide collector community. What’s more, the community is, of course, particularly eager to obtain any new piece from Richard Mille.

RM 40-01: Countless hours of work

This brings us back to the numbers, which are just as impressive for this Hyper-Watch as they are for the Speedtail hypercar. 2,800 hours were spent on the design of the case alone. This case only truly met all requirements of Julien Boillat, Richard Mille’s technical director, after 18 months and five prototypes. As he states, “Not only were we taking inspiration from the teardrop shape of the Speedtail, but we also faced the challenge of seamlessly blending existing Richard Mille characteristics with those of McLaren.”

The notches on the bezel are reminiscent of the openings on the hood. Meanwhile, the pushers are reminiscent of the air outlets behind the front wheels. The orange stripe at six o’clock, which continues onto the rubber strap (there are also alligator leather, alligator Velcro and ballistic Velcro straps available), is typical McLaren. However, the timepiece is unmistakably a Richard Mille.

One special challenge for the manufacture was the unique shape of the case, which consisting of 69 components and measuring 41.80 x 48.25 x 14.15 mm. Because of its teardrop-inspired shape, the case is significantly wider on the 12 o’clock flank than at six o’clock. Titanium meets carbon TPT, and smooth surfaces meet satin-finished surfaces. According to Richard Mille, the production of the upper sapphire crystal (with a hardness of 1,800 Vickers) alone is 15 to 20 times more complex than that of a “normal” sapphire crystal, even the highest quality one. This is due to the unusual shape and the decreasing thickness of the case. All in all, the manufacture regards the new tourbillon timepiece as “the most extreme watch Richard Mille has ever made.”

CRMT4: The movement

The watch’s association with hypercars is, of course, beautiful and meaningful. However, watchmaking remains watchmaking. The developers around Salvador Arbona, the man responsible for the calibre, are proud to present a new first with this watch and the CRMT4 calibre; an in-house developed power reserve display with oversized date and function selector within a manufacture tourbillon calibre. The function selector allows the wearer to switch between the neutral, winding, and adjustment settings – similar to the gearshift in a car.

Also worth a mention is the rotor with a platinum oscillating weight and variable geometry, with the help of which the winding function can adjust to the activity behaviour of its wearer. A weight made of red gold is placed in the correct position and fixed with two screws for this purpose. The balance oscillates freely and with a variable moment of inertia, making it less sensitive to shocks and increasing accuracy.

Overall, it took a total of 8,600 hours to develop this new movement. The calibre features a completely new architecture. Furthermore, it is lavishly finished with the likes of polished wheel rims, as well as hand-polished chamfers and bevels.

Richard Mille RM 40-01 McLaren Speedtail: Expectations

The Richard Mille RM 40-01 Automatic Tourbillon McLaren Speedtail is a watch for all those who already have it all – possibly including a McLaren Speedtail in the garage. Only a few of the 106 watches will most likely be assigned to the rest of Richard Mille’s clientele. Competition for such a watch at this level is almost non-existent; nothing other manufacturers offer at this price level seriously resemble this timepiece.

You may find watches for a similar clientele among the most elaborate Hublots, and probably among the buyers will be owners of tourbillons from Patek Philippe or Audemars Piguet. There will be customers who likewise own an Excalibur Aventador S from Roger Dubuis or order from Urwerk. It’s just like owners of a McLaren also having other sports cars in their garage e.g. a Ferrari from Maranello.

Of all people, it is the Italians who also recently announced a partnership with Richard Mille. This announcement was the cause for huge speculation among collectors and the pre-owned market. After all, Ferrari is the bigger name in the car business. The decision in favour of the Italians was therefore also one against the English, which would again increase the value of the few McLaren-Richard-Mille watches (75 of the RM 50-03, 500 of the RM 11-03 and now 106 models of the RM 40-01). But Richard Mille is relaxed. It simply says that it agreed on a ten-year partnership with McLaren in 2016 and that this time is far from over. They therefore cannot and do not want to speculate on this being its last McLaren watch.

Essentially, Richard Mille does pretty much everything differently to the rest of the industry. It would therefore be pretty typical of it to develop and profit on two tracks here, at least for the time being. Either way, the desire for the RM 40-01 could hardly be any higher. This is precisely because it is not simply a model for a partnership in the automotive sector. Rather, the timepiece also represents something very special on its own. It is a Hyper-watch that is typically Richard Mille: highly exclusive, dynamic, polarising – a timepiece that simply moves everyone. ||


BRAND Richard Mille
MODEL RM 40-01 Automatic Tourbillon McLaren Speedtail
CASE MATERIAL Case band and pushers in Carbon TPT®
Front and back bezels plus pillars in titanium
Upper flange in titanium with black galvanic treatment
Crown in titanium and Carbon TPT®
DIMENSIONS Width: 41.80 mm
Length: 48.25 mm
Height: 14.15 mm
DIAL Baseplate and bridges: microblasted grade 5 titanium
STRAP/BRACELET Rubber: black with orange line
Alligator Velcro: white, black, red or brown and orange
Ballistic Velcro: white, black, red, orange, yellow or green and grey
Alligator: white, black, red or brown & orange
POWER RESERVE Circa 50 hours (±10%).
Indicator located at 9 o’clock powered by a planetary differential.
FREQUENCY 4 Hz (28,800 vph)
FUNCTIONS Tourbillon movement with hours, minutes, variable-geometry rotor, oversize
date, power reserve indicator and function selector
PRICE CHF 900,000 (excl. VAT) – limited to 106 pieces