Richard Mille presents the world’s lightest split-seconds tourbillon chronograph: the RM 50-03 McLAREN F1. This innovative technical masterpiece is a result of the luxury watch brand’s collaboration with the world renowned Formula 1 racing car manufacturer McLaren-Honda.
Housing a highly complex tourbillon chronograph movement, the RM 50-03 McLaren F1 weighs less than 40 grams – including the new strap – which makes it the lightest mechanical chronograph ever made. This landmark has been achieved through the use of cutting-edge technical materials. The design not only incorporates Titanium and Carbon TPT™, but also introduces an entirely new material into the world of watchmaking: Graph TPT™, more commonly known as graphene.
These new applications for the material emerged through research at the National Graphene Institute, established in 2015 at The University of Manchester. It’s where graphene was first isolated by Professor Andre Geim of the School of Physics and Astronomy, back in 2004. Six years later, the discovery earned its author the prestigious 2010 Nobel Prize in physics, alongside his colleague, Professor Konstantin Novoselov. Thanks to the collaborative work between The University of Manchester, McLaren Applied Technologies and North Thin Ply Technology (NTPT®), Richard Mille has succeeded in producing a watch case machined in an improved form of Carbon TPT™.
The carbon’s physical properties were significantly enhanced by the introduction of graphene, a revolutionary nano-material which is six times lighter than steel, and 200 times stronger. McLaren Technology Group and McLaren-Honda, which are currently working on integrating graphene into their Grand Prix cars, made it possible for the watchmaker to consider this material as a means to significantly low the density of their carbon composite while increasing its resistance. Convinced of the incredible advantages conferred by graphene, engineers at Richard Mille worked with those at North Thin Ply Technology to envision practical applications of the new material, and studied how to incorporate it into Carbon TPT™.
Noted for the beautiful, undulating striations of its surface, Carbon TPT™ is comprised of parallel filaments – 600 layers, in fact, whose maximum thickness is 30 microns. These are impregnated with a super-charged resin containing graphene, and are then compiled by a CNC machine that shifts the orientation of the fibres by 45° between layers. The composite is then solidified by heating it to 120°C, at 6 Bar of pressure. Numerous control and validation tests conducted by McLaren Applied Technologies have made it possible to develop the solutions that resulted in the production of Graph TPT™, a material employed exclusively by Richard Mille in the domain of watchmaking.
At the Richard Mille manufacturing facility, the team specialising in the machining of movement components and cases turned their attention to manipulating Graph TPT™— spending many long hours creating and programming cutting tools suitable for achieving precision to a micron. The resulting three-part case cedes ground nowhere, being both highly resistant and extremely light, while preserving perfect ergonomics and a unique, striking appearance.
For its part, the 7-gram movement completely deserves the qualifier ‘ultralight’. The secret to its feather weight lies in the use of grade 5 Titanium and Carbon TPT™ for the baseplate and bridges, and in the extreme skeletonisation of components. Likewise, the density, stiffness and low thermal conductivity of Titanium make it a material of choice in McLaren Racing’s Formula 1 engineering build programme, where it’s not only used to lighten and reinforce chassis and aerodynamic elements, but also to produce gearboxes, connecting rods and valve systems.
Watchmaking expertise can be found throughout this movement with drawn, polished, satin-finished and soft-polished surfaces all created by hand. For example, each grade 5 titanium dial requires 3 hours of anglage and polishing to highlight its edge. Other parts, such as the barrel-drum, the minute-wheel and the small and large medium-wheel are circular grained both above and below then hand-beveled and rhodium plated before the teeth are cut A transverse cage, crafted of Carbon TPT™ and inspired by the wishbone suspension structure of a McLaren-Honda Formula 1 car, is affixed to the caseband, and supports the entire RM50-03 calibre. By eliminating the casing ring, this unusual architecture enables a perfect fit between the movement and case. Taken together, these technical solutions provide the complex calibre with tremendous resistance properties.
The RM 50-03 McLaren F1 chronographic combines a tourbillon escapement with a split-seconds function. In order to perform without fail, the combination of these two complications within a single mechanism demands perfect transfers of energy. The ensuing need to reduce friction led to research on how to improve the profiling of the teeth on the barrel and gear train. The result is superbly balanced torque and optimised yield.
The movement’s performance and the quality of the energy delivered can be easily read via coloured indicators denoting the 70-hour energy reserve and torque sensor. The hollow pushers of the chronograph are representative of the air intake ducts on the McLaren-Honda car, while the shape of the crown takes its cue from the racing competition wheel rims used by the British team.
Design of a new split-seconds mechanism and extensive research on the work of the split-seconds clamps have permitted a 50% reduction in the chronograph’s energy consumption, while at the same time reducing arbor friction. The 6-column wheel that controls the various rockers for the split-seconds function was designed to guarantee flawlessly simultaneous movement, clean function lock, and highly stable settings.
The extraordinary properties of graphene encouraged the manufacture to pursue additional developments. Richard Mille’s strap supplier, BIWI S.A., incorporated this nano-material into the rubber strap of the RM 50-03 to increase its elasticity and resistance to wear.
The RM 50-03 McLaren F1 will be produced in a numbered limited edition of 75 pieces and will be available only at Richard Mille boutiques. Each watch will be accompanied by a 1:5 scale model of the McLaren-Honda racing car driven in 2017 by Double-World Champion Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne.
NEW SPLIT-SECONDS SYSTEM: The RM50-03 calibre introduces a latest-generation split-seconds mechanism developed by the Richard Mille engineers. The new column wheel operates the different levers of the split-seconds function and optimises the chronograph’s operation. While previous Richard Mille chronographs have traditionally featured a wheel with 8 columns, the one equipping the RM 50-03 now only has 6 columns to ensure optimised simultaneous movement, maximal function locking, and greater adjustment durability. In-depth studies carried out on the function of clamps also led to a new clamp design. The helical spring has also been replaced by a blade on the split seconds wheel of the RM 50-03, a technical decision that reduces the variation in torque when the split-seconds function is activated. All of these developments have considerably improved the timekeeping performance of this tourbillon calibre and have halved the chronograph’s energy consumption while reducing friction on the arbors.
Use: the pusher at 8 o’clock starts or stops the seconds hand of the chronograph. The pusher at 4 o’clock stops the split seconds hand and allows an intermediary time to be read off while the chronograph is engaged. When this pusher is pressed again, the split-seconds hand catches up with the chronograph hand and simultaneously continues its course. The pusher at 10 o’clock resets the hands.
TORQUE INDICATOR: This function indicates the tension of the mainspring and makes it possible to optimise the winding of the watch. Under 53 dNmm, the spring is too slack. However, over 65 dNmm, the excessive tension could affect the operation of the mechanism, or even damage it. (These indications appear on the numeric scale to the right of the barrel).
FUNCTION INDICATOR: When the crown is pulled out, the hand indicates winding, hand setting or the neutral position, similar to the gearbox on a car. A hand at 4 o’clock displays the selected mode: W (Winding) – N (Neutral) – H (Hand Setting).
FREE SPRUNG BALANCE WITH VARIABLE INERTIA: This type of balance ensures greater reliability in the event of impact and during the assembly and disassembly of the movement. The watch’s long-term precision is therefore improved. The regulator index has been removed and more precise and repeatable inertia adjustment can now be made using four adjustable weights.
FAST ROTATING BARREL: (6 hours per revolution instead of 7.5 hours)
This type of barrel has the following advantages:
– The phenomenon of periodic internal mainspring adhesion is significantly diminished, thereby improving performance.
– Excellent delta of the mainspring curve with a power reserve that ideally balances performance and regularity.
BARREL PAWL WITH PROGRESSIVE RECOIL: This device permits an appreciable winding gain (circa 20%), especially at the start of winding. It also helps to distribute the internal tension of the mainspring correctly.
TEETH OF BARREL AND THIRD WHEEL PINION WITH CENTRAL INVOLUTE PROFILE: The central involute profile of these teeth exerts pressure at an optimal angle of 20°, which enhances the efficiency of the gear train and compensates for any potential variations in penetration. This results in excellent torque transmission and a noticeably improved performance.
MODULAR HAND SETTING MECHANISM ON CASEBACK: This presents the following benefits in terms of longevity and maintenance:
– As this module is assembled outside of the movement, it can be replaced without touching the baseplate during a procedure or maintenance operation.
– The assembly and disassembly of this module from the back does not require the removal of the hands nor the dial.
SPLINE SCREWS IN GRADE 5 TITANIUM FOR THE BRIDGES: The design of these screws permits better control of the torque applied during assembly. These screws are therefore unaffected by physical manipulation during assembly or disassembly and age well.
– Dimensions of the movement: 31.10 mm x 32.15 mm
– Thickness: 9.92 mm
– Diameter of the tourbillon: 12.40 mm
– Diameter of the balance: 10 mm
– Number of jewels: 43
– Balance wheel: Glucydur, 2 arms and 4 setting screws
– Inertia moment: 10 mg.cm2, lift angle 53°
– Frequency: 21,600 vph (3 Hz)
– Balance spring: elinvar by Nivarox®
– Shock protection: KIF Elastor KE 160 B28
– Barrel shaft in nickel-free Chronifer (DIN x 46 Cr 13 + S) with the following properties: stainless – antimagnetic – suitable for tempering
Bezel and Case Back
Bezel side: sapphire crystal (1,800 Vickers) with anti-reflective treatment (on both sides)
Thickness: 1.10 mm
Case back side: sapphire crystal with anti-reflective treatment (on both sides)
Thickness: 1.00 mm
RUBBER STRAP INJECTED WITH GRAPHENE: Thanks to Richard Mille’s partnership with BIWI SA, a Swiss company specialised in very-high-precision moulding of vulcanised elastomers, graphene was injected into the rubber strap of the RM 50-03 in order to improve its rubber-like behaviour and thus its resistance to wear.
– Hand-polished bevelling
– Hand-polished locking-sections
– Sapphire-microblasted milled sections
– Lapped and polished contact points
– Burnished pivots
– Wire-drawn and microblasted surfaces
– Hand-polished bevelling
– Concave chamfering with a diamond tool
– Circular-decorated front surfaces
– Rhodium-plating (before cutting the teeth)
– Minimal corrections made to the wheels to preserve their geometry and overall performance