Richard Mille: In pursuit of excellence

For Richard Mille and its sporting partners, it’s all about passion, commitment and rising to the challenge

Bubba Watson

Every Richard Mille timepiece is designed and crafted to be the very best. It’s only natural, then, that the people who partner with the Swiss brand are the very best at what they do. People like Spanish tennis sensation Rafael Nadal and American golf champion Bubba Watson, among many other decorated athletes.

Nadal and Watson, who have both been with Richard Mille for more than 10 years,  exemplify the partnerships its founder has cultivated since he established the brand in 2001. Mille chooses ambassadors based on the values they represent – the same ones he wants the brand to be associated with – and they become more than partners and, in many cases, friends for a lifetime.

“Rafa and I have a lifelong commitment. We are there come rain or shine. It’s more than just watchmaking – it’s life!” says Mille of the undisputed king of the clay court. When the two first met, Nadal had never worn a watch on court. But after some convincing, he and Mille developed the lightest tourbillon in the world at the time.

Rafael Nadal

“Richard came to my house and showed me a model saying, ‘This is the watch that we made for you’. The watch was in platinum, so [it was] very heavy. I was very confused and didn’t realise that he was joking,” Nadal recalls. “As soon as I tried the real watch on, I loved it. We were on the same wavelength. The watch is now like a second skin for me.”

Since he joined the Richard Mille family in 2010, Nadal has inspired several more cutting-edge timepieces. The latest, and the fourth in the RM 035 “baby Nadal” collection, features the addition of an all-new, patented butterfly rotor. The RM 35-03 Automatic Rafael Nadal required three years of development to perfect the new complication, which allows the wearer to control the winding of the movement according to their lifestyle and sporting activities.

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Watson, who joined the Richard Mille family in 2011, was also not one to wear a watch in competition before meeting Mille. But over the course of their partnership, Mille has developed several models especially for Watson and the rigors of professional golf.

“I’ve spent my life trying to ‘go above and beyond,’” Watson says. “Richard is the same. It’s not about being aggressive or even showing off. It’s about trying to create stuff, trying to go to the moon, venturing into your own private deep space! That’s what I love so much about the company. That’s the beauty of the whole brand.”

Alexis Pinturault

The latest watch to come out of the collaboration, the RM 38-02 Tourbillon Bubba Watson, is also the first to feature Watson’s signature lucky colour, pink. The “watchmaking equivalent of a hole in one” is limited to 50 pieces and engineered specifically to withstand the shocks of Watson’s powerful golf swing.

Richard Mille’s collaboration with world-class athletes doesn’t stop there. The brand’s other sporting partners also reflect its DNA and values, and continually test the limits by wearing a Richard Mille timepiece in training and competition. The RM 67-02 Automatic Extra Flat, for example, is worn by the likes of track and field champion Wayde van Niekerk, “crown prince of the high jump” Mutaz Essa Barshim, F1 racing driver Charles Leclerc, world champion rally driver Sébastien Ogier, ski racing superstar Alexis Pinturault and gold-medallist biathlete Johannes Thingnes Bø.

“What I do is very ‘pure’, it’s just me up against the challenge,” Barshim says. “I want my watch to be similar: very pure, very accurate, very perfect, yet as light as possible, and totally reliable, without question.”

Also see: Richard Mille: Cracking the gender code

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