Here it is, the first Richard Mille watch in quartz. No, not a quartz crystal-based movement, but rather, a quartz case material. This is the Richard Mille RM27-02 (RM 27-02) Tourbillon Rafael Nadal in a case that combines carbon and quartz material as once again produced for the high-end watch maker Richard Mille by North Thin Ply Technology. Why produce an extremely high-luxury watch in a complicated quartz filament laminate material? If you have to ask, clearly you haven’t been paying attention to the types of materials Richard Mille has been featuring in their watches over the last few years. So let’s discuss why a lot of luxury watches look like toys, what QTPT is, and Richard Mille’s ongoing relationship with tennis and Mr. Nadal.
You may have also noticed that the new Richard Mille RM27-02 watch is part of the Rafael Nadal watch collection – part of a relationship with the star Spanish tennis player that began back in 2010. When the first Richard Mille RM 027 watch came out for Rafael Nadal, it was a bit of a media sensation. Watch-celebrity relationships are anything but rare, though when Richard Mille took aboard Rafael Nadal as brand ambassador, what was unique was the fact that Rafael Nadal was wearing a Richard Mille watch while playing professional tennis. In addition to the oddity of a tennis star playing the game with a watch priced at over $500,000, it captivated people’s minds who were concerned that the extra item on Nadal’s wrist would effect his game.
Luckily for Rafael Nadal (and Richard Mille), the ultra-light Richard Mille RM 027 in its lithium alloy case (the lightest of its type at the time) didn’t prevent the talented athlete from sustaining his winning streaks. As the original Richard Mille Rafael Nadal watch was a limited edition, and clearly, this was something to build on, the most famous modern ultra-luxury watch maker in Switzerland decided to make Rafael Nadal watches a permanent part of the brand’s offerings.
A look at some of the more modern Richard Mille RM27 watches reveals a stark departure from the original, which was smaller and much more sober in its coloring, coming in a black case, on a black strap. Suddenly, the Richard Mille RM27-01 Rafael Nadal watch collection came out, and in addition to the more sober black model, Richard Mille began adding a slew of bright colors. Is this an accident? Maybe. Over the last few years, a solid trend in some of the world’s most exclusive sport watches has been to combine ultra-high prices with ultra-casual colors. The mega sports watch became the mega leisure watch, eschewing the display of precious materials and conservative style for a sense of playful fun.
With an oddly colored case and bright orange fabric strap, the Richard Mille RM27-02 Rafael Nadal looks more toy than heirloom. It is supposed to be fun and fresh, not stuffy and pretentious. Richard Mille watches garner a lot of opinion from traditional watch collectors – a lot of that opinion is negative, and from my perspective, a lot of that bad feeling comes from the fact that Richard Mille (and some other brands) “aren’t taking mechanical watches seriously enough.” What does that mean? Well, Richard Mille watches are serious mechanical devices, so it isn’t about their quality or performance. Rather, the issue is with how Richard Mille, unlike some more conservative brands, seems to neglect the concept that their watches are so expensive, yet are not designed like traditional watches, meant to be “revered.” Consider the response to the colorful limited edition Richard Mille RM60-10 Automatic Flyback Chronograph Regatta Les Voiles de St. Barth watch.
This is an interesting phenomenon, and something I understand. It happens a lot with items which are very expensive and meant for a small audience of the world’s wealthy elite. In essence, Richard Mille is asking $500,000 and up (sometimes way up) for something cool that a lot of people can’t get – and that makes people upset. Richard Mille’s strategy as a brand isn’t mainstream adoption, but it doesn’t mind mainstream appeal. Though when you get a lot of people to think your product is cool and then vastly price it out of most people’s hands, you are asking for a little bit of hostility. Richard Mille, however, has a different plan, which is to offer highly exclusive items for a demographic that doesn’t want to take their luxury stuff too seriously and wants to have fun with it. Yes, in a sense, it is about being able to celebrate excess, something which is fun when you can afford it – and upsetting when you can’t.
So the idea behind colorful watches like the Richard Mille RM27-02 Tourbillon Rafael Nadal is to offer leisure wear for those with a lot of disposable income. And Richard Mille does it like a champ. So going back to this quartz TPT (QTPT) material… what is it all about? Do you recall the Richard Mille NTPT Carbon case material which is now starting to show up on more and more Richard Mille watches? I went hands-on with the Richard Mille RM 35-01 Rafael Nadal NTPT Carbon watch here which was another version in the Nadal collection with a case made entirely out of the unique industrial material. The process creates a Damascus steel-style look using micro-layers of carbon filament.
The Richard Mille RM27-02 Rafael Nadal watch uses both Carbon and a new quartz filament material which are both created by Swiss NTPT (North Thin Ply Technology). These materials are modified forms of what NTPT produces for high-performance racing and industrial purposes. Meant to be very light-weight and extremely strong, while also resistant to a range of environmental hazards, these quartz and carbon materials are further designed with surface “visual effects” in mind for Richard Mille.
Quartz TPT uses hundreds of layers of extremely thin filaments, produced using quartz crystal as well as (in this case) mostly white resin. The layers of filament are bonded and then specially cut to create the desired wood grain effect. Quartz TPT is used for the case front and back, and NTPT carbon (produced in a similar way to get a wood grain texture) is used for the middle part of the case. Also new for the brand in the Richard Mille RM27-02 Rafael Nadal Quartz TPT is a production technique that uses the caseback of the watch as the actual backplate of the movement.
On the wrist, the Richard Mille RM27-02 Rafael Nadal is 39.70mm wide and 47.77mm tall. The case is also 12.25mm thick. It is attached to an orange fabric Velcro strap as well (again, one of those things that are fun and trendy, but that don’t convey the traditional sense of luxury one typically thinks about as part of a collection of fine and precious materials). Inside the watch is a Richard Mille tourbillon-based manually wound movement. With a new set of bridge designs, the movement in mostly black, has a lovely three-dimensional design, and offers just the time. The movement further has 70 hours of power reserve and operates at 3Hz. The view of the movement should also be very interesting against the Quartz TPT backplate.
There are small homages to the sport of tennis in the Richard Mille RM27-02 Rafael Nadal watch. The brand has done well with its participation in the sport, even though Richard Mille himself has his heart in the world of automobile racing. Love it or not, you have to give Richard Mille credit for being at the forefront of unique materials and designs in the world of luxury watches that help add a bit of color and fun to the industry at these price levels. This limited edition of 50 pieces Richard Mille RM 27-02 Tourbillon Rafael Nadal Quartz TPT watch is priced at 770,000 Euros or 734,500 Swiss Francs, or $775,000 USD each. richardmille.com