Having been a life-long fan of Formula 1, I cannot help but get excited about any and all times when I see a watch brand get involved in my favorite car race. Continuing on that personal note, for twenty years, what Formula 1 meant to me was that goose bump-inducing, screaming sound of V10 car engines revving to over 19,000 rpm as I witnessed these vicious cars racing neck-in-neck on some of the greatest tracks on this planet. Thanks to some recently introduced, polar bear-friendly regulations, that epic sound of F1 has become a thing of the past, and so I have come to enjoy discussing the business side of things more – especially as watch brands and watches themselves are getting more and more visibly involved in what still is one of the best motor races in the world. As the latest development on that end, Richard Mille today has announced a new partnership between it and the McLaren-Honda Formula 1 team, a collaboration that they say will last at least ten full seasons.
Much as Richard Mille is to watch enthusiasts, the name of Ron Dennis and how he functions as a team co-owner and chairman of McLaren will surely need no introduction to any true F1 fan. Dennis, a brilliant businessman and strategist, has played a major role in turning McLaren into what it is today: that is a 20-time world champion F1 team with 182 grand prix wins under its belt (statistics say that McLaren has won one in every four races it entered during its 50-year involvement in Formula 1), and a successful, profitable car manufacturer that today produces a selection of super fast and indeed quite expensive road cars, from the 650S all the way to the mind-alteringly quick P1.
On the other hand, Richard Mille – who himself is a true petrolhead – has built an extremely powerful watch brand under his own name in under 15 years, by playing a major role in pushing the limits of what is possible with wristwatches – both in terms of complexity of watches, the materials used in their construction, as well as brand exposure and, well, the subsequent bold pricing strategy. I can imagine the two will get along really well.
McLaren is a proudly high-tech company through and through, where cars are manufactured in a hermetically sealed, state-of-the-art facility in Woking, located in the west of Surrey, England. Suffice it to say that its HQ building, when viewed from above, looks like a yin and yang symbol for reasons beyond common human beings’ understanding, while on the inside, the entire manufacture is so shockingly sleek and obsessively clean, that many watch manufactures could learn a thing or two from them.
Not Richard Mille, though: having visited their ProArt case manufacture and headquarters where final assembly takes place, the similarities seem uncanny, really. There is more to it than mere branding efforts: while any watch brand with deep enough pockets can have a race car plastered with its logo, I feel safe in saying that we can expect some very cool results from this fresh collaboration between these two ultra-modern brands.
Due to those aforementioned new regulations, Formula 1 is at a tipping point where engineers are forced to find new ways to make their cars faster than the rest. As engines are by rule made smaller and smaller, the teams have to find new materials to make their cars more fuel-efficient, less heavy, more aerodynamic, and so on. In an unusual parallel with that, a luxury watch in steel was a revolution 40 years ago, while today, for Richard Mille and a handful others, at least, it is all about the latest, craziest, most unusual materials – just think about this red quartz cased RM 011 or this Richard Mille RM 35-01 in NTPT carbon.
So, with all that in mind, the fact that Richard Mille has scored a 10-year deal with McLaren sounds promising for those who enjoy high-tech engineering in timepieces, as I am sure the two will make good use of this time and will come up with some bold new concepts. Notably, this news comes after McLaren has ended a 30-year partnership with TAG Heuer at the end of last year.
McLaren-Honda may have been struggling for the last few years in Formula 1, but if there ever was someone in the F1 paddock who could pull off a miraculous return, then that is Ron Dennis – and now we know that the team’s drivers will be wearing Richard Mille timepieces on their wrists if and when that happens. richardmille.com