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Lightweight triumph

Audrey Simon
Audrey Simon • 7 min read
Lightweight triumph
The tennis prodigy has been sporting a Richard Mille timepiece on his wrist, silently witnessing his numerous victories
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If Rafael Nadal had refused to wear a watch during his matches, his collaboration with Richard Mille might have taken a different turn. Initially hesitant, Nadal eventually partnered with Mille to create the ultra-light RM 027 tourbillon, the first watch bearing his name and renowned for its incredible lightness.

Nadal says: “Richard came to my house and showed me a model saying, ‘This is the watch we made for you’. The watch was platinum, so heavy; I was confused and didn’t realise he was joking. As soon as I tried the real watch on, I loved it. We were on the same wavelength. The watch is now like a second skin for me.”

Looking back on their collaboration, the 38-year-old Spaniard recalled that in 2008, Mille approached him about working together, which Nadal found unusual since he was not used to wearing watches. Their partnership became official in 2010 when Mille presented him with the RM 027, a lightweight and stylish prototype.

Over time, their friendship flourished, introducing several timepieces, beginning with the RM 027 and progressing to the RM 35-03, which unveiled a distinctive butterfly rotor in 2022. Today, the RM 27-05 Flying Tourbillon Rafael Nadal is launched with the tagline “Engineered for greatness, tested by champions,” marking a continued and successful phase in their collaboration.

Since then, the tennis prodigy has been sporting a Richard Mille timepiece on his wrist, silently witnessing his numerous victories. The RM 27-05 Flying Tourbillon Rafael Nadal is a coveted collector’s item, boasting timeless appeal and legendary status among the brand’s offerings.

See also: A timepiece of elegance and style

At 11.5 grams without its strap, the RM 27-05 Flying Tourbillon Rafael Nadal timepiece showcases an impressive ability to withstand up to 14,000 G-forces. This achievement marks a double record for a manually wound tourbillon watch. Distinguished by its flying tourbillon, this watch boasts a single-sided mounting that eliminates the traditional upper bridge. This distinctive design not only offers a clear view of its intricate mechanisms but also reduces the overall weight of the timepiece.

The free-sprung balance of the tourbillon improves reliability against shocks or during assembly and disassembly, ensuring enhanced chronometric precision over extended periods. A more precise and consistent calibration is achieved by eliminating the regulator index and directly integrating four small, adjustable weights on the balance.

This lightweight yet robust design complements Nadal’s aggressive playing style, characterised by his powerful behind-the-baseline approach, heavy topspin groundstrokes, exceptional consistency, swift footwork and unwavering court presence. These attributes cement his reputation as a formidable, aggressive counterpuncher.

See also: Summer shades in Richard Mille's new RM 65-01 Automatic Split-seconds Chronograph

Lightweight masterpiece
Nadal uses a semi-western grip for his forehand shots, often adding a distinctive “lasso-whip” follow-through. In this technique, his left arm propels through the ball, finishing above his left shoulder, unlike the conventional finish that stretches across the body or circles around his opposite shoulder. This forehand style enables Nadal to generate significant topspin, outmatching many of his peers.

In addition to its lightweight characteristics, the timepiece incorporates other impressive materials, including a remarkable movement based on the ultra-thin RMUP-01 calibre. This calibre, measuring 3.75 mm in thickness and just 3.79 grams in weight, showcases meticulous attention to detail to achieve this feat.

Exemplifying the pinnacle of watchmaking excellence, the RM 27-05 showcases Richard Mille’s relentless pursuit of precision and lightweight design. The brand dedicated over 4,000 hours to crafting the calibre and case, merging years of expertise and creativity to introduce this innovative watch. It marks a fitting conclusion to the RM 027 series.

The calibre is positioned on the case back using protrusions directly machined into the case, eliminating the need for screws. This setup allows the bezel and flange to press securely against the case back, promoting mutual support and rigidity between the movement and the case.

The watch has a power reserve of 55 hours, which includes a flying tourbillon operating at 3 Hz. The PVD-treated titanium baseplate is intricately skeletonised and hand-finished, extending even to concealed areas. To enhance weight reduction, the bridges are crafted from grade 5 titanium and Carbon TPT®, further optimising their lightness.

Carbon TPT® B.4 stands as an enhanced anisotropic material. Compared to standard Carbon TPT®, this novel composite boasts a 4% higher density, 15% stiffer fibres and a 30% more durable resin. These attributes enable the fabrication of thinner components for the case, reducing the overall weight without compromising rigidity, exemplified in elements such as the monobloc case back.

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High performance
The manufacturing process for Carbon TPT® B4 mirrors that of Carbon TPT®. Numerous layers of parallel carbon fibres, each measuring no more than 50 microns in thickness, are infused with a new high-performance resin. These layers are then meticulously stacked using NTPT’s proprietary machinery, which adjusts the fibre orientation by 70° between layers. This specific weaving technique optimises the material’s strength-to-weight ratio post-machining. Subsequently, the composite undergoes heating at 120°C under a pressure of 6 bars to prepare for machining at Richard Mille.

The RM 27-05 showcases Richard Mille’s commitment to pushing the boundaries of watchmaking. Introducing the innovative Carbon TPT® B.4, denser and more durable than previous Carbon TPT® variants, this new addition to the collection enhances technical performance and elevates the overall aesthetics, ensuring unmatched functionality within and beyond the realm of sports.

Richard Mille prioritises research and development, consistently redefining the landscape of high watchmaking with cutting-edge materials and sophisticated engineering. This steadfast dedication to technical excellence is evident in the RM27-05, seamlessly fusing artistic craftsmanship with precise timekeeping.

The RM 27-05 embodies a captivating fusion of cutting-edge materials and meticulous craftsmanship. Research and development play a vital role in shaping this timepiece, as the brand ventures boldly into unexplored territory by exploring innovative materials and engineering solutions while maintaining the intricate movements’ performance. This unwavering commitment to “hypertechnology,” a fundamental tenet of Richard Mille’s watchmaking ethos, establishes a new benchmark in the industry.

Richard Mille’s brand essence revolves around excellence, perfection and innovation — characteristics that resonate deeply with athletes. The brand strongly associates with sports, including tennis, motor racing and golf, which drives its ethos. This commitment to performance goes beyond mere manufacturing, as Richard Mille forges partnerships with elite athletes across diverse fields. These sports icons, renowned for their relentless pursuit of perfection, serve as living proof of the durability and functionality of Richard Mille’s creations in the most challenging conditions on the field, track, course or court.

From Nadal’s dominance on the court to American professional golfer Bubba Watson’s triumphs on the green, the brand’s timepieces stand as symbols of peak performance, seamlessly merging sports and haute horlogerie. With the ability to withstand incredible forces of up to 14,000 G-forces, the RM 27-05 demonstrates that significant weight reduction is possible without compromising precision, accuracy or timekeeping efficiency.

A Richard Mille watch feels like a second skin for athletes, offering comfort and showcasing the brand’s commitment to performance and cutting-edge engineering in sports horology. Limited to a global release of just 80 pieces, the RM 27-05 Flying Tourbillon Rafael Nadal is a blend of craftsmanship with technological innovation.  

Technical highlights of the RM 27-05 Flying Tourbillon Rafael Nadal

Manual winding flying tourbillon movement with hours and minutes
Dimensions: 37.25 x 47.25 x 7.20 mm

Movement dimensions:
32.75 x 28.95 mm
Thickness: 2.12 mm
Tourbillon diameter: 10.30 mm
Balance diameter: 9.00 mm
Jewels: 22
Balance: Glucydur®, with 2 arms and 4 setting weights, moment of inertia 11.50 mg•cm2, angle of lift 53°
Frequency: 3 Hz (21,600 vph)
Balance spring: Elinvar by Nivarox®
Shock absorbers: KIF Elastor KE 160 B28
Barrel shaft: nickel-free Chronifer® (DIN x 46 Cr 13 + S) with the following characteristics: Stainless, antimagnetic
and suitable for tempering

Hand-polished bevelling
Microblasted milled sections
Hand-drawn or polished outer faces
5N gold coatings

Microblasted surfaces
Satin-finished surfaces
Hand-polished bevelling
Hand-drawn surfaces

Lapped and polished ends
Burnished pivots

Circular finished faces
Hand-polished bevelling
Sunray finishing
Rhodium-plating (before cutting the teeth)
Minimal corrections were applied to the  wheels to preserve geometry and  performance

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