Richard Mille and McLaren wave the flag on their first collaborative timepiece — the RM 11-03 Automatic Flyback Chronograph.
McLaren and Richard Mille have much in common that makes their partnership both intriguing and ideal. Audacity is one particularly fertile common ground that they both share. Neither the British sportscar manufacturer nor the Swiss watchmaker lacks the nerve to do the audacious and the outrageous.
Much like their scorchingly fast racing cars, the first McLaren-inspired Richard Mille timepiece is not going to fly under the radar: it has been designed to make a loud statement. The RM 11-03 Automatic Flyback Chronograph (the first joint timepiece released since their ten-year partnership last year) unapologetically bolsters that reputation for audacity: The orange and grey statement piece, with its oversized date and yellow accents on the dial, stands out a blazing beacon of the daring intent both brands embody.
The chronograph itself is a highly technical and finely tuned piece of engineering, which speaks of Richard Mille’s “hatred of gimmicks”, as the watchmaker’s CEO declared at the 2018 Geneva Motor Show. What Mille and McLaren sought in this limited edition piece is “the best possible efficiency”.
Taking its design cues from many of McLaren’s iconic sportscars and supercars, the watch is peppered with details that will excite petrol heads and horology fans in equal measure. Some details are more obvious than others.
But, bold and subtle, the racy spirit of the McLaren sportscars is patent.
The case is made of Carbon Thin Ply Technology (TPT) interlaced with Orange Quartz TPT, resulting in a resistant and lightweight case while paying tribute to a colour that is synonymous with McLaren’s cars. The TPT is a Richard Mille hallmark — a method of layering carbon fibre that was first introduced in 2013 on its RM011 range, and which was later developed for the Rafael Nadal Tourbillon. The Carbon TPT “enhances the mechanical performance of the RM 11-03 and offers resistance to harsh environments”, according to the designers.
“We make watches you can wear for any occasion, just as McLaren creates cars that can be driven on a daily basis.”
One of the neatest features of the RM11-03 is the uniquely designed baseplate. Richard Mille created a bespoke plate (and bridges) out of PVD-treated Grade 5 titanium for this joint venture to improve the functionality of the going train.
But it’s the little details that lend the piece its distinction. For instance, the titanium pushers fitted to the Carbon TPT case imitate the design of the McLaren 720S headlights. And the titanium inserts are similar in shape and size to McLaren F1’s air-intake snorkel, both of which adorn the bright orange bezel. Further still, the complex Grade 5 titanium crown is shaped like a McLaren lightweight wheel, while the McLaren Speedmark logo is incorporated on the rubber strap specifically developed for this edition.
As with all Richard Mille movements, the watch’s calibre neatly chamfered. Under the bonnet of the RM 11-03 beats the automatic RMAC3 calibre, first launched in 2016, with a flyback chronograph. The instant return of the counter to zero makes it possible to quickly restart the stopwatch function. Powered by two barrels mounted in parallel and a balance wheel with variable inertia, the movement has a 55-hour power reserve.
The satin-finish Grade 5 titanium upper bridge accentuates the depth of the calibre, creating a visual trajectory around the annual calendar and oversized date as well as the 12-hour chronograph and countdown counters.
Launched at the 88th Geneva International Motor Show, the vibrant, racy number is the result of the creative meeting of minds between McLaren’s design director Rob Melville and leading Mille engineer Fabrice Namura. “The idea was to take on a real technical challenge, and come up with something other than a mere dial with an inscription, for example,” says Namura.
“I find the 720S designed by Rob Melville mesmerising[ly] beautiful, and we wanted to give the RM 11-03 McLaren curves that were similarly both aesthetic and functional.”
As part of its initial test drive, only 500 of the 11-03 models have been produced. And at just over $190,000 the brazen orange and grey flash on the wrist is certainly a symbol of exclusivity.
And it’s rendered all the more exclusive considering you can’t just saunter up to a retail counter, make $190,000 rain from your palm and pick one up. Oh no. You’ve also got to be a McLaren Ultimate Series Client, which essentially means you’ve got to buy the car before you can have the privilege of owning the matching watch.
So you best get ready to live life in the fast line if you want to get one these finely tuned timekeeping machines on your wrist.
A look at the current crop of sailing chronographs.