By Radhina Almeida Coutinho
We are in Åre, Sweden, to watch French super skier Alexis Pinturault and Czech “Snow Queen” Ester Ledecka compete in the FIS Alpine World Ski Championship 2019. The two champions are part of Richard Mille’s pantheon of sports personalities who play an active role in the development of what are arguably the most high-performance haute horlogerie pieces in existence, coveted by those who admire the extreme production techniques and uncompromising, almost autistic attention to detail that go into their creation.
Describing his obsession with the highest functional performance, Mille has in the past referred to himself as a victim of his own inability to compromise.
“Every time I get to a point where I need to decide [whether] to save cost or to push performance to the very extreme, I always choose the latter course,” says Mille. Which of course might explain the brand’s famously astronomical costs. But that hasn’t stopped anyone from giving his watches a good workout. Mille wouldn’t want it any other way.
Championship skiers can experience G-forces equivalent to jet pilots, sometimes up to 12 Gs on tough turns. The physical demands are equivalent to racing 1,000mts at full pelt requiring an incredible amount of lung capacity and muscle power. A sharp turn executed at a 60-degree angle would require a skier to balance almost two times his weight on the blade edge of his downhill ski. The leading speed skiers can reach top speeds of 130 – 140 kilometres per hour.
“When you watch a skier descend the slope on TV, it looks incredibly calm, like they are moving in slow motion,” says Ledecka. “It’s nothing like that when you compete. I can hear sounds all around me – the slice of the ski on the snow and the whoosh of the air.”
The physical toll the sport takes on the human body is more than evident on the flushed, wind-whipped, panting faces we see at the bottom of the slope as each skier completes their run. Now imagine what that delicate movement housed in an unbelievably light case has just survived.
At a mere 32 grams, the RM 67-02 is Richard Mille’s lightest automatic watch. But don’t be fooled by its apparent weightlessness. The CRMA7 calibre automatic skeletonized winding movement with a 50-hour power reserve – the seventh to be created in-house – is made from grade 5 titanium and protected by a case back made of Quartz TPT.
The composite material, exclusive to Richard Mille, is formed out of multiple layers of silica filaments and ensures immense shock resistance despite the superbly slim profile of the watch, which at just 7.80 mm thick, is impressive.
The case band of the watch is fashioned from Carbon TPT – a composite material that uses the same manufacturing process as Quartz TPT but is made instead from carbon fibres. The water-resistant toughness of the case is further reinforced with 12 spline screws in grade 5 titanium and abrasion-resistant washers in 316L stainless steel. As can be expected, the materials seem to have more in common with those employed to create a supersonic racing machine rather than a luxury watch. But then Richard Mille has never been about fancy platinum and diamonds.
Aside from developing and utilizing high performance materials in the construction of every RM sports model, it is working with equally uncompromising partners at the pinnacle of their game that has been responsible for the brand pushing the boundaries of extreme wearability. And there is no doubt Pinturault and Ledecka are at the top of their game.
Read the full version of this story in the March edition of Revolution Middle East, out March 15.