An attitude of complete and utter non-compromise. This consistent state of mind for watchmaking is what has seen Richard Mille skyrocket to the cult-like following it has garnered for itself in just 16 brief years. How is this even possible? It is possible because this extreme approach for the technicalities is what gives Richard Mille watches their extreme aesthetics, which in turn draw out extreme primal emotions from those who have ever held a Richard Mille watch.

Mille explains that he has always created his watches with the same approach that an F1 team adopts towards building a race car. And therein lies the key: Mille set out to create watches with the same precision and cutting-edge technology that the best race teams in the world use to shave microseconds.

So when his contemporaries from the racing world look upon a Richard Mille watch, they are immediately able to point out the parallels in a heartbeat. It also because of this reason that Richard Mille today stands in arms with one of the greatest names in racing, McLaren. It started off with announcement of the 10-year partnership first, in 2016, with McLaren’s Formula 1 division and then as of last year, McLaren Automotive with the intention of uniting the two companies’ mutual interest in unique design, the use of new materials and modern craftsmanship.

Richard Mille with CEO of McLaren Automotive, Mike Flewitt (Image: ©Didier Gourdon)
Richard Mille with CEO of McLaren Automotive, Mike Flewitt (Image: ©Didier Gourdon)

In recognition of these shared values, CEO of McLaren Automotive, Mike Flewitt has said, “Both of us have a passion for historic cars, especially from the 1960s, and for racing cars such as Formula 1 cars. We admire the engineering, the authenticity and the purity of these automobiles, and we translate that into our own creations. Looking closer, we are both equally fascinated by design and materials.

“In our respective industries, we have a similar focus on reducing weight. We make by far the lightest cars in our class. We just announced a new car, the McLaren P15, that weighs less than 1,200 kilograms, almost unbelievable. As incredible as the lightest watches in the world brought to us by Richard Mille.”

The McLaren P15 Senna boasts 789 horsepower and a dry weight less than 1,200 kilograms (Image: mclaren.com)
The McLaren P15 Senna boasts 789 horsepower and a dry weight less than 1,200 kilograms (Image: mclaren.com)

McLaren Automotive has been successful in engineering such a feat because they are far ahead of the curve in terms of research and development within their playing field. In the same way, Richard Mille is of course the watchmaker, who has engineered a 39 gram tourbillon chronograph — strap included — the RM 50-03. This, too, was only possible because Mille pushes boundaries with his own research and development, often incorporating technologies from distant industries into his watchmaking.

The RM 50-03 is a split-seconds chronograph watch that weighs no more than 39 grams (Image: richardmille.com)
The RM 50-03 is a split-seconds chronograph watch that weighs no more than 39 grams (Image: richardmille.com)

Both companies have always had this spirit of innovation. Take, for instance, the use of carbon fibre. In 1981 — in a time when the rest of Formula 1 considered it too ambitious to use carbon fibre — McLaren was the first to use the material to forge the monocoque cabin of their MP4/1. In 1992, McLaren was again the first to use the material to form the McLaren F1’s monocoque chassis.

The McLaren MP4/1 of 1981, designed by John Barnard was the first to use a carbon fibre monocoque
The McLaren MP4/1 of 1981, designed by John Barnard was the first to use a carbon fibre monocoque
The McLaren F1 (Source: Ted Gushue)
The McLaren F1 (Source: Ted Gushue)

For McLaren, the use of the material meant better performance, but with a heightened level of safety, thanks to the strength to weight ratio that carbon fibre possess. It’s an odd thing to say, but particularly for the McLaren F1, it meant the world now had a supercar that was safe for regular use.

Likewise, Richard Mille was the first to use carbon fibre for a critical component in watchmaking, namely the baseplate of the experimental RM 006. The resulting benefits to the watch in terms of lightness, shock-resistance and even chronometry were so great that Mille revisited his watches, all the way back to the RM 002 and reissued them in a version two with carbon fibre baseplates.

The RM 006, revealed in 2005, was the first wristwatch ever to have its baseplate made of carbon nanofiber (Image: antiquorum.com)
The RM 006, revealed in 2005, was the first wristwatch ever to have its baseplate made of carbon nanofiber (Image: antiquorum.com)
RM 006
The baseplate of the seminal RM 006

Ask anyone from either brands, why such leaps were taken, and the answer is most likely to be that they were, of course, looking to new age materials for better performance but, also, for greater reliability. So that, whether it be the McLaren F1 or the RM 006, both would inspire confidence for everyday use. Such decisions would’ve never been taken just for the sake of hype; as a gimmick.

With such deep rooted parallels between McLaren and Richard Mille, the partnership was a case of inevitability. The next natural step, therefore, would be to bring knowhow from either brand to the same table to realise a common object, create out of an outpouring of mutual appreciation.

Says Robert Melville, McLaren Automotive’s Head Designer, “Our partnership has grown over time and felt natural, simply because we share the same goal — the pursuit of perfection achieved through attention to technical detail.” And he would know best, being one half of the effort that came together to create that common object, the RM 11-03 McLaren Automatic Flyback Chronograph. The other half of the effort in the realization of the watch was Richard Mille Engineer, Fabrice Namura.

Robert Melville, McLaren Automotive’s Head Designer (Image: ©Rouffignac)
Robert Melville, McLaren Automotive’s Head Designer (Image: ©Rouffignac)
Richard Mille RM 11-03 McLaren Automatic Flyback Chronograph (Image: richardmille.com)
Richard Mille RM 11-03 McLaren Automatic Flyback Chronograph (Image: richardmille.com)

The collaborative timepiece took all of the one year that it’s been since McLaren Automotive and Richard Mille became partners. And while it’s a Richard Mille flyback chronograph through and through, many clever implementations have been made to incorporate iconic features from McLaren Automotive’s machines into it.

Take for example the decision to use Carbon TPT® interlaced with Orange Quartz TPT®, which instantly helps define the watch in McLaren livery. There are, also, the chronograph pushers, shaped after the McLaren 720S’ distinctive headlights and the titanium in the pushers themselves that recall the shape of the mythical McLaren F1 road car’s air-intake snorkel.

Pushers and crown on the Richard Mille RM 11-03 McLaren Automatic Flyback Chronograph (Image: richardmille.com)
Pushers and crown on the Richard Mille RM 11-03 McLaren Automatic Flyback Chronograph (Image: richardmille.com)
The McLaren 720S Super Series (image: mclaren.com)
The McLaren 720S Super Series (image: mclaren.com)

Knowing that this is what is possible when the two brands bring their expertise to the same table — and what, just within the one year that it’s been — you are left to, only, expect greater things in the remaining 10 years of this partnership.