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Richard Mille Watch Doesn’t Slow Rafael Nadal Down

Richard Mille Watch Doesn't Slow Rafael Nadal Down Featured Articles

A bunch of you e-mailed me yesterday asking me to talk about the Richard Mille watch that tennis player Rafael Nadal is now wearing. That’s never happened before – but since the mainstream media is all over the “weird” story, I figured I should mention that I did cover the topic on (where I also write daily) – sorry, you need to cover two websites now. You can see my (and only my) daily articles right here. I initially discussed the Richard Mille RM027 Nadal watch here.

The media is all over the Nadal story for two reasons. First, it is unusual for a tennis player to wear a watch during matches. It is well known that wearing a watch when peak agility and performance is required is usually a bad idea. Hell, I even take my watch off to type. Second, the watch costs $525,000. To most people, that concept blows their friggin’ minds. It would blow my mind as well if I wasn’t so detached from prices. I actually found myself yesterday saying to a friend about a certain watch: “$300,000? Naw, only like $100,000 – $200,000. It isn’t too bad.” At this point the prices are just numbers to me. If you can afford them, you can afford them. Anyway, over $500,000 for a watch is pretty crazy – crazy but fun. It isn’t about being worth it or not, it is just a matter that an object (that isn’t a bag o’ diamonds) which fits in your wrist costs as much as a decent house.

Richard Mille Watch Doesn't Slow Rafael Nadal Down Featured Articles

Richard Mille Watch Doesn't Slow Rafael Nadal Down Featured Articles

So while Nadal wearing the watch while playing tennis is impressive from a performance standpoint – meaning it doesn’t affect his game, it is also sort of a big “F you” to most of the viewers. Professional athletes are kind of supposed to be role models and heroes to some people. We don’t idolize gladiators who cut off a lot of heads any more, but we do look up to people of peak physical condition who have cool action skills of other sorts. Kids (at least) are supposed to look up to them, and imagine that they can be like them. Lots of pro athletes didn’t come from privileged backgrounds. So what does it say when Mr. Nadal wears a watch that costs more than what most people watching him play, make in 10 years of work? I’m just saying. What is a fun game of “check out where I got my watches placed” among luxury watch brand biggies, might have unforeseen lash-back affects to the entire luxury industry. Then again, it might be an indicator that pro tennis players make “that much.” But of course in this case, Nadal didn’t pay a penny for the watch. In fact, he is likely paid to strut around with an over half million dollar timepiece. Makes me think of revolutionary France, just a little bit… Personally I am just amused by the product placement and actually interested as the technology that makes the Richard Mille RM027 Nadal watch wearable during pro tennis.

Richard Mille Watch Doesn't Slow Rafael Nadal Down Featured Articles

The watch is just under 40mm wide, has a standard Richard Mille tonneau case shape, and weighs under 4 grams! That is with the strap. Inside is a complex mechanical movement with a tourbillon complication. Much of the watch is made from something called LITAL, which is a lithium aluminum alloy. There are all sort of other fancy things going on in the watch as well to help give it that under 20 grams weight (I think the movement weights under 4 grams). In the link above to my Luxist article about the RM 027 watch I discuss the movement and materials a bit more.In addition to the amazing weight of the watch – the tourbillon movement is able to flinchlessly withstand the shock, g-forces, and trauma that tennis playing will have on it. “They hit Richard Mille! Is he ok? Check the tourbillon… is it still spinning?! Medic!…” And a guy in a white watch maker’s gown with loupe around his head comes running on to the court.

What is interesting, is that the Spaniard is said not to be a flashy guy at all. Aged 23, he is shy, but has been in public spotlight since a very young age. Nike for example was sponsoring him since he was 13 years old. Going from “the quiet superstar Tennis player next door” to “the guy whose game isn’t at its best unless he has a wake up call from President Obama to start the day and wears a $500,000 plus watch on the court…” is a major change to his images to say the least.Oh, and sources say that like many Spanish people (they aren’t the only ones known for this) – Nadal is terrible about being places on time. The RM 027 he effortlessly totes around surely won’t be of help there.


Richard Mille is utterly thrilled at the new partnership. The press they are getting is enormous, and they hope to sell a few of these watches. There will be a limited edition run of 50 pieces for those who want to be like Nadal. Still, after $525,000 in the whole, you aren’t gonna be any better at hitting fast moving balls. Still, the fact that the watch is being worn all the time, and can survive give Richard Mille as a brand serious street cred. Golden paved street cred that is. I didn’t know Nadal was a lefty either. He is wearing the watch on his opposite wrist while he holds the racket with his left hand. This is at least in game. Very hard to tell in tennis. No watch on his main playing arm. A lefty just like me – perhaps. I better take up the game. Where is Richard Mille’s number?

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  • mako

    Personally, I do not care what the story is behind this but it looks absurd strapped to his wrist. Is it a test of the tourbillon movement-like Timex used to do when strapping their watches to outboard motor props? It simply looks totally out of place 500K or 50 bucks. This is all about the hype and publicity and apparently it’s doing exactly what it was intended to do.
    That said, with only 50 of these bad boys being made I’m off to Macy’s to see if I can grab one before they’re all gone!
    Thanks for the fun article Ariel!

  • Howard R. Paul

    I agree with Mako. I think it’s promotional and to that end, it’s working beautifully. Personally I would like them to throw Nadal and the watch into the gorilla cage like they did with the Samsonite luggage years ago to test durability. That would be some a**kickin’ reality TV, the tennis test isn’t nearly enough…

  • If you’re interested in my take on the watch, I covered it on my blog too.

    FYI, I’m an avid tennis player, though sadly sidelined with a wrist injury. Hope to be back on the court next week!

  • WatchMark

    4 grams, guy this watch is not 4 grams, more like 13 grams.

  • It would certainly be interesting to know the cost to manufacture this watch. Although the retail price is $525,000, perhaps the cost is only $500 or $2,000 or maybe even $10,000. That is still WAY less than the money paid to pro athletes who endorse Nike and other brands.

  • Hi Richard,

    The price to manufacture a watch like this is extremely high. Plus, you must factor in the R & D that went into developing a watch with a tourbillon function that can withstand the forces of somebody beating a tennis ball on the court and also be light enough not to be distracting on the wrist during play. Granted, I understand the bafflement and frustration. I think it’s a bit absurd to make a watch that’s practical for tennis players but clearly not practically within reach of 99.9% of the population. Also, how many people who are tennis players would actually test the watch for its functionality after they dropped a half million dollars on it? A novelty and curiosity to be sure. Plus, aside from Rafa Nadal, who is paid to wear it, nobody has tested its efficacy on the court, so who even knows if it works as advertised. I think if you’re going to make great claims about a watch you need to be set to back them up with real world data.

  • Modest

    “Oh, and sources say that like many Spanish people (they aren’t the only ones known for this”
    Ariel, as a “spaniard” myself I think that people have a wrong, sorry, very very wrong view of the Spanish people. I’m punctual as an English person is said to be, and I’m not the only “spaniard” that is. Sure that there are “spaniards” that arrive late at the places, as there also can be german, danish, japanese, north american, etc, people that are late at meetings.
    I work in in the motorsport’s industry, in the top level races, and as you can imagine you can’t never be late at the places!
    Hope this clarifies things to everyone with that opinion.

    Best regards,


    • Modest,
      Sorry for any hard feelings. You know, when I was in college a few years ago I took a class called “intercultural communication.” One thing we talked about was the different relative important of time in various cultures. Americans and Japanese for example place a high emphasis on being precisely on time. While Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and South Americans (as a culture) do not. Again, this was all academic and sociological. Like you said “English people are said to be punctual.” Oh and the Swiss are as well – almost annoyingly so! This isn’t to say at all, that all people in these groups define the norm. But rather that these are averages based on perceived values placed on specific timeliness.
      You clearly represent something different. But would you argue against perception on a wholesale level? Sorry about being upset. Again, no hard feelings.

  • WatchMark


    I would not take it personally, Ariel is not known for using delicate words, he is known for his bluntness. You can do whatever you want when you are the most popular watch blogger in the world.

  • Mark

    meaning it doesn’t effect his game

    meaning it doesn’t affect his game

    It’s a lovely watch. Know of anything sub $10K that has that sort of look?

  • Simon

    By the way, if I’m not mistaken, Nadal is right-handed. Only a lefty when he plays tennis. Oh, does it matter which hand he has the watch on??

    • Really? That is pretty cool.

  • lorraine


  • I think it’s cool that he can get away with promoting such a commodity and get it probably for free. He deserves it with all his skill and athletic ability. I play tennis as well but someone would certainly single me out with such a show piece. He is a great athlete and well deserved- free or not. Athletes like Nadal allow all of us to dream of the impossible and so far he is the leader in this category.

  • jfloydwggmn3

    Absolutely no way that a watch should cost $500 K plus…certainly no way that it cost a fraction of that amount to create & manufacture…

  • Ben

    where can i buy that watch?????

  • Adrian Cano-Aldaz

    I agree with mako. While the watch is a work of art, it looks totally out of place. I just don’t get why someone would wear a $525,000 watch while playing tennis. Formula 1 driver’s have been wearing high end watches for years and they’ve never been able to get this kind of publicity. Just ask Felipe Massa who wear’s a Richard Mille himself. Nonetheless Nadal is a GOD on the court. I don’t think anyone else could have pulled this off.

  • Arbeekay

    The timepiece was recently stolen from his locker. Hopefully it was insured.

  • Ian

    Personally I thought it was (and looked like) one of these “cheap” rubber watches that are in fashion today – the $20 variety …

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