STYLE Edit: Richard Mille channels the McLaren Speedtail supercar – behind the wheel of the Swiss watchmaker’s latest luxury timepiece collaboration
Few can deny that the McLaren Speedtail is one of the most exotic and futuristic supercars on the market today. Shaped like a teardrop – supposedly Mother Nature’s most aerodynamically efficient shape – the radical car is achingly beautiful and breathtakingly fast. Able to reach speeds of up to 250mph (402kph), it is the fastest McLaren ever built. So when time came for Richard Mille and McLaren Automotive to embark on their latest collaboration – the fifth since 2016 – using the Speedtail as inspiration was an absolute imperative. Thus, the Richard Mille RM 40-01 Automatic Tourbillon McLaren Speedtail was born.
Creating a watch that would complement this avant garde automotive was no small challenge, but it was one that the Richard Mille team took on with relish. Naturally, given the extraordinary exterior of the car, work had to begin first with the case. Richard Mille technical director Julien Boillat took an unprecedented 2,800 hours, spread over 18 months, to get this just right. “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,” he says.
Mimicking the form of a water droplet, the case of the RM 40-01 has a unique taper that is thicker towards the top of the watch at 12 o’clock and thinner towards the bottom. The platinum and red gold winding rotor is inspired by the shape of the Speedtail’s distinctive bonnet, while the bezel indentations evoke the bonnet openings. The case alone comprises an impressive 69 individual parts made out of either titanium or Carbon TPT®. It was so complicated that it took five prototypes before the brand was happy with the overall shape. Even the crystal glass is uniquely shaped, with a “triple contour” to account for the decreasing taper and thickness of the case. It, too, took 18 months to perfect.
An exceptional case deserves an equally outstanding movement, which was delivered by Salvador Arbona, Richard Mille’s technical director of movements. The CRMT4 was designed to fit seamlessly in the unusually shaped case and took some 8,600 hours of development. It required the design and development of an entirely new movement architecture, as well as the engineering of three different power reserve systems before the best one was chosen. The power reserve display, large date and function selector complications in the watch are all firsts for an in-house Richard Mille tourbillon movement.
In addition to the engineering feats of the watch, Richard Mille also made sure that its finish is impeccable, with decoration applied even to parts hidden from the viewer such as component surfaces, including buff-polished rims and edges – the movement wheels were even machined with the McLaren logo.
According to Boillat, none of the parts that go into making this watch are common to any other Richard Mille watch, making it a truly one-off creation. Fans should also know that only 106 pieces of this watch exist, to reflect the 106 McLaren Speedtails manufactured.
Oh, and just in case you thought this partnership only went one way, think again. For the brushed metal divider between the car’s cockpit and its bodywork, McLaren was inspired by the design of previous Richard Mille watches.
- Technical director Julien Boillat took 18 months to mimic the teardrop shape of the Speedtail – the fastest McLaren ever built with a top speed of over 300km/h
- Only 106 pieces of the Richard Mille RM 40-01 Automatic Tourbillon McLaren Speedtail will be sold – the same number of this supercar that will ever exist