The partnership between Richard Mille and McLaren enters its fifth year and brings with it its third watch: the RM 40-01 Automatic Tourbillon McLaren Speedtail. Its release is limited to 106 examples, to match the 106 McLaren Speedtail cars that will be built by the British automaker.
The Speedtail is one of McLaren’s latest entries in its hypercar-tier Ultimate range. A 1,036bhp three-seater hybrid that goes from 0-100km/h in 3.0 seconds, it is the fastest McLaren road car ever, hitting a top speed of 403km/h – but it is luxurious too, a grand tourer at heart with an interior of bespoke leathers and precious metal accents. This is the reason Richard Mille opted to create a high complication watch, rather than a sporty chronograph as it did for the track-focused McLaren Senna and Formula 1 editions.
The Speedtail’s most distinctive feature is its elongated, aerodynamically engineered exterior profile, and so too is the case for the RM 40-01. The watch evokes the teardrop profile of the Speedtail, while bezel indentations and pushers are a nod to bonnet openings and air outlets, respectively. The bezel and titanium and caseback are made from titanium, while the caseband is from the proprietary Carbon TPT composite. This is a signature material for Richard Mille, just like how the carbon fibre monocoque chassis is a signature of McLaren.
Its organic shape does not seem especially ambitious, but in fact it took five prototypes and 2,800 hours over 18 months to perfect its lines and get the 12-to-6 o’clock taper just right. The sapphire crystal, contoured to three different radii needed its own 18 months of development. By itself, the already consists of 69 components, and the manufacture touts the finishing work as some of its best ever, combining surfaces in various levels of polished and satin finishing.
The movement breaks new ground for Richard Mille, applying a power reserve indicator, oversize date and function selector to an in-house tourbillon for the very first time. It is an entirely new architecture that needed a staggering 8,600 hours to develop, going through no fewer than three prototype power systems in the process. The pusher at 4 o’clock switches the crown’s function between neutral, winding and setting, visible through the 3 o’clock aperture in gear-selector fashion. The power reserve indicator sits at 9 o’clock, while the date corrector was deliberately moved to 8 o’clock to preserve the watch’s symmetry. Other Richard Mille technical signatures include the free-sprung balance for better reliability and variable geometry rotor that allows the winding action to be tailored to the user’s specific lifestyle. Said rotor is implemented in a combination of platinum and red gold, in a shape inspired by the Speedtail’s bonnet.