Spain's hottest tennis star, Rafael Nadal, has been confident enough to wear a fully functional mechanical timepiece weighing less than 20grams including the strap. That equals three quarters and a dime, but the watch, utilising special materials, retails for over half a million dollars. It's a Richard Mille, of course. Now Jamaican sprinter Yohan Blake gets to put on a super-light, ultra-high-tech timepiece, one that will make no difference to his 9.69-second record sprint, in spite of featuring a tourbillon.
Mille never stops delivering the wow to the watch world with what he calls his "race cars for the wrist." his timepieces are usually built of exotic high-tech materials borrowed from automobile racing or even space travel. Mille is not en engineer by profession, but rather a marketing expert who earned his first paychecks in the watch division of the French defense, autombile, and aerospace concern Matra in the early 1980s. This was a time of fundamental changes in technology, and the European watch industry was being confronted with gigantic challenges.
"I have no historical relationship with watchmaking whatsoever," says Mille, "and so I have no obligations either. The mechanics of my watches are geared towards technical feasibility." in the 1990s, Mille had to go to the expert workshop of Audemars Piguet Renaud & Papi (APRP) in Le Locle to find a group of watchmakers and engineers who would take on the Mille challenge. Audemars Piguet even succumbed to the temptation of testing those scandalous innovations - materials, technologies, functions - in a Richard mille watch before daring to use them in its own collections (Tradition d'Excellence). Since 2007, Audemars Piguet has also become a shareholder in Richard mille, and so the three firms are now closely bound. The assembly of the watches is done in the Franches-Montagnes region in the Jura, where Richard mille opened the firm Horométrie.