The term “Swiss watch” is pretty much synonymous with money, luxury and status, as is “Swiss bank account” and “Swiss chocolate.” The Swiss know where it’s at, to say the least, especially when it comes to timepieces. Richard Mille produces such watches worth of the label. The company is named after its founder, a French watchmaker born in 1951 and who got his start in the watchmaking industry in 1974, according to a profile in Watch World Guide. Forbes says that by the mid-1980s, Mille had risen to some prominence in the watchmaking industry, managing such brands as Yema. He founded his eponymous company in 1999, and its premiere watch line went up for sale two years later, according to Forum à montres.
Mille’s latest model—the RM 36-01 Tourbillon Competition G-Sensor Sébastien Loeb—was detailed in a recent article in the Financial Times, and in terms of intricacy, features and price—a whopping $650,000—it’s in a class of its own. Let’s break it down a little.
Born in 1974, Sébastien Loeb is one of the most highly-regarded rally car drivers in the world and the most successful among the competitors in the World Rally Championship—from 2004 to 2012 he won the world championship nine consecutive times. The 40-year-old Frenchman has been participating professionally since 1999 , and apart from competing in the WRC has also tried his hand at the 24 Hours of Le Mans (which Richard Mille sponsors) and Formula One (though he didn’t meet the criteria for the required FIA Super License, according to AutoSport.com) and even the X-Games. Apart from his Richard Mille connection, he has also been sponsored by energy drink brand Red Bull.
It Measures G-Forces
The RM 36-01 contains its own little g-sensor, measuring 17 millimetres in diameter according to the Financial Times, and can measure up to 6 gs—roughly equivalent to the forces acting on an F1 driver racing at full speed. Its output can be seen in the top image, specifically the semicircle coloured in red, yellow and green; the red area, which takes up half of the semicircle, represents critical g-forces.
Owners of this watch will likely have few opportunities to realistically use its g-sensor, but if you’re willing to spend over half a million dollars on a watch you’re probably someone who can afford a rocket car or even a trip into space, where such a measuring device might be useful.
It’s Built to Endure
The Financial Times piece on the RM 36-01 details the watch’s construction, and even without the g-sensor it sounds like something out of a work of science fiction. The case band—that is, the rim of the watch body—contains carbon nanotubes, allotropes (i.e. structurally different forms) of carbon that are some of the strongest and hardest materials in existence.
Much of the rest of the watch’s body is constructed from titanium and even sapphire crystal. And it’s unlikely the wearer will ever have to worry about their Rm 36-01 running out of juice: it has over 70 hours of reserve power.
It’s Not Richard Mille’s First Celebrity Connection
Natalie Portman, Michelle Yeoh and Swiss-born Formula One driver Romain Grosjean have all endorsed Richard Mille products, with Portman and Yeoh having specific model watches of their own. Portman’s watch, the RM 19-01, is described by timepiece-centric publication Haute Time as being diamond-studded as well as having a spider theme, with the integral spider design made of 18k white gold. According to Haute Time, only 20 of these watches were made, with proceeds from the sales going toward the Free the Children charity. She has also previously worn an RM 007, which features sapphire glass and retails for $71,000, according to WatchTime. Michelle Yeoh’s model, known as the RM 051 Phoenix-Michelle Yeoh, is similarly diamond studded, so says Luxury Launches, and is stylized after the mythical bird of its name.
In short, the Richard Mille 36-01 is not only an acme of watch design but somewhat of a scientific and mechanical accomplishment in its own right. But with its steep price and a g-force sensor that very few people will have the opportunity to use, the watch is primarily a status symbol. Coupled with its very limited supply, you’re probably better off sticking with your Rolex for the time being.