Richard Mille RM 11-03 Flyback Chronograph McLaren
A young engineer's perspective on the collaboration with McLaren and the most fascinating RM 11-03 so far.
It takes an in-depth analysis to understand Richard Mille fully. The mechanical aspects involved in the engineering of the watches are many and primarily regard three macro-areas: traditional high-end watchmaking, unconventional materials and composites, and how form follows function.
During the 2018 Geneva Auto Show, Richard Mille launched the Richard Mille RM 11-03 Flyback Chronograph McLaren, the last iteration of this signature Richard Mille chronograph, and the second timepiece made in collaboration with the British carmaker after the Richard Mille RM 50-03 McLaren F1 Tourbillon Split Seconds Chronograph Ultralight. The launch of a new timepiece at an Auto Show might look strange, but makes sense given the close relationship between the brand and McLaren Automotive, and the car maker's top-of-the-line hypercar, the stunning McLaren Senna.
Richard Mille and McLaren: a perfect partnership.
The touch points of this partnership are many:
- A Richard Mille watch abides by the rules of motorsport engineering more than any other high-end luxury watch brand. In this specific sector, extreme performance is the primary purpose. The result is a timepiece whose design philosophy is in line with the approach used by a supercar maker.
- They both focus their efforts on new materials engineering, micro-processing, weight reduction, form-follows-function design.
- Richard is insanely passionate about Formula 1. Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa, Romain Grosjean, Charles Leclerc, to name a few, are some of his brand ambassadors. It's not just a matter of marketing; he's willing to create products that any professional driver can use during a full race weekend, the race included.
- A Richard Mille's ordinary customer is a billionaire and the Formula 1 circus is perfect for approaching wealthy customers who look for something as technically refined as aesthetically unique, and nonetheless super exclusive.
With that said, one can easily guess why was the collaboration between Richard Mille and McLaren more than expected. From a technical standpoint, the intricate and somehow hidden-to-the-naked-eye details of a Richard Mille are perfectly represented by an RM 50-03 or an RM 11-03.
The Richard Mille RM 11-03 Flyback Chronograph McLaren.
It is a flyback chronograph; it means you can reset and start the chronograph hand at the push of a button. It has an integrated annual calendar and a skeletonized dial also. Compared to the RM 11-02, the Richard Mille RM 11-03 Flyback Chronograph McLaren has no push-piece at nine o'clock and a different Chrono layout.
At three o'clock is placed the standard running seconds counter, at nine o'clock the "reversed" minute counter (from 60 to 0), and finally at six o'clock is a two-hand counter to track minutes (red hand) and hours (yellow hand). The digital date display is placed close to twelve, and the quickset month indication is inserted at 4:30. In line with the latest releases, the Richard Mille RM 11-03 Flyback Chronograph McLaren's case was developed in conjunction with North Thin Ply Technology (NTPT). You may find more information in our post regarding our visit to the Richard Mille manufacture.
The middle section is in Carbon TPT, whereas bezel and caseback are in Orange Quartz TPT. It is the result of a process consisting of overlapping 45µm thick sheets of composite material, inclined at 45° each other to achieve superior mechanical properties (stiffness and toughness, especially). The outcome is a case whose appearance is an original combination of orange stripes, that add to the appeal of the watch as much as to its resistance to shocks, for example. The Chrono buttons and the winding crown, instead, are inspired by a Mclaren 720S's headlights and rims, respectively, and are crafted in grade 5 titanium (as are baseplate, bridges and the McLaren logo applied to the case).
Details and technological solutions.
Like any other Richard Mille watch, there are many details you can hardly notice at first sight, unless you take a closer and deeper look. Alongside the Quartz TPT bezel is a chapter ring showcasing the tachymetric scale up to 700 km/h. All the screws that secure case to bezel and case-back are designed and developed in-house as are the screwdrivers watchmakers use to service the watch.
The winding rotor is fully skeletonized, and its inertia is adjustable thanks to a variable geometry. The rubber strap is integrated into the case and is conceived to be extremely comfortable and light.
Is this a new product or the result of a smart marketing strategy?
The Richard Mille RM 11-03 Flyback Chronograph McLaren is not the first RM 11-03 to date, nor is this the first time it has been associated to a specific brand or an ambassador; I might cite the RM 11-03 named after Jean Todt or the Le Mans Classic, for example, yet this particular version has created much hype. The venue the brand chose for the official presentation, and the link with the automotive sector helped increase its awareness further.
Intense and vivid colors, the McLaren logo on full display and the adoption of materials like "carbon" and "titanium" complete the package. In summary, the launch of the Richard Mille RM 11-03 Flyback Chronograph McLaren was a clever marketing operation, given the innovations introduced are mainly aesthetic, do not concern the mechanical movement, and do not affect therefore the current production process. The retail price of this watch is higher than any other RM 11-03 ever produced, with the exclusion of the Jean Todt Limited Edition, produced in much fewer quantities (150 vs. 500 units).
The Richard Mille RM 11-03 Flyback Chronograph McLaren perfectly embodies Richard Mille's vision. It is an avant-garde watch, geared towards a super-exclusive club of owners, and represents the pinnacle of technology in watchmaking, with nothing existing in the benchmark, although it is not the only "Haute Horlogerie" brand to consistently invest in innovation.
Even a brand like F.P. Journe, for example, that looks quintessentially classic and traditional at first sight, hides innovative solutions, but to notice them, you have to dig into the watch's finest and tiniest details.
(Photo credit: courtesy of Richard Mille)
Andrea Frigerio @Horbiter®