Nearly Million Dollar Watch — Richard Mille RM 50-03 Tourbillon Split Seconds Chronograph

Melvyn Teillol-Foo

World’s Lightest Split-Seconds Tourbillon Chronograph:

RM 50-03 McLaren F1

RM 50-03 McLaren F1 Edition

At SIHH 2017 watch salon in Geneva, Richard Mille revealed the RM 50-03 Tourbillon Split Seconds Chronograph Ultralight McLaren F1. At 40 grams, including strap, this timepiece is the lightest split-seconds chronograph in the world. A limited edition of 75 pieces, the RM 50-03 is available exclusively at Richard Mille boutiques worldwide and priced at $980,000.

What is the Cost of Luxury?

More than $20,000 per gram….er…the price of gold is just under $40 per gram; this watch is 527 times the price of gold, by weight!

It the lightest mechanical chronograph ever made and produced in collaboration with McLaren-Honda — the famed Formula 1 constructor. This world record has been achieved through the use of cutting-edge technical materials. The design incorporates Titanium and Carbon TPT™, as well as introducing an entirely new material to watchmaking: Graph TPT™, more commonly known as graphene.


The Case

Here is where we luxuriate in nerdiness !

Graphene was first isolated by Professors Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov of the School of Physics and Astronomy in 2004; it won them a Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010. New applications emerged through research at the National Graphene Institute, established in 2015 at The University of Manchester. After collaborative work between The University of Manchester, McLaren Applied Technologies and North Thin Ply Technology (NTPT®), Richard Mille succeeded in producing a watch case machined in an improved form of Carbon TPT™.
Physical properties were significantly enhanced by the introduction of graphene nano-material, which is six times lighter than steel and 200 times stronger. McLaren Technology Group and McLaren-Honda are currently working on integrating graphene into their Grand Prix cars. Richard Mille engineers worked with those at North Thin Ply Technology to incorporate it into Carbon TPT™.

As a bonus, 600 layers of filaments in Carbon TPT™ impregnated with a super-charged resin containing graphene produce beautiful, undulating striations on the surface of Graph TPT™, a material employed exclusively by Richard Mille for watchmaking.

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 movement. The casing has withstood shock loadings of 5,000g and survived unscathed.

What is a split-seconds chronograph?

The split-seconds chronograph is used to time different events that begin but do not end together. The START/STOP button starts the chronograph or stop-watch function. This watch has two chronograph seconds hands (yellow tip above red tip) that run together “as one” until the split seconds button is pushed to stop the split-seconds hand when the first event ends. After reading the intermediate time a second push on the button makes it catch up with the first hand and the two continue their movement together again. At the end of the second event, the split-seconds hand is stopped again to read this second intermediate time, and so on. At the end of the last observed event, both hands can be stopped and returned to zero. One push-piece operates the split-seconds hand only while the second push-piece operates both hands.

The Engine

The watch movement or engine weighs only 7 grams and deserves to be called ‘ultralight’. The secret to its light weight lies in the use of grade 5 Titanium and Carbon TPT™ for the structural bits and extreme skeletonisation of components. Titanium is also material of choice in McLaren Racing’s Formula 1 engineering to lighten and reinforce chassis and aerodynamic elements, gearboxes, connecting rods and valve systems.

Watchmaking expertise has been hand applied to the movement with polished, satin-finished, soft-polished surfaces and hand-beveled and rhodium plated angles.

RM 50-03 McLaren F1 Edition

You can check on the movement’s performance and the quality of the energy delivered via colored indicators denoting the 70-hour energy reserve and torque sensor: keeping the needles in the green zones is a good thing. The hollow pushers of the chronograph represent the air intake ducts on the McLaren-Honda car, while the shape of the crown is inspired by the racing wheel rims used.

The Strap

Graphene gets everywhere….
Graphene is incorporated into the rubber strap by strap supplier, BIWI S.A., to increase its elasticity and resistance to wear. These various applications of graphene represent significant technical advances that are of capital importance for both Richard Mille and McLaren-Honda.

What else do you get for nearly a Million dollars?

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.  Yay! 😉


Author’s Biography:  Melvyn Teillol-Foo (MTF)

Dr Melvyn Teillol-Foo is a contributor on AlphaLuxe web-zine.
He was also CEO of horology discussion fora. He blends his scientific medical objectivity from the pharmaceutical industry with purist passion, in his musings about watches, travel, wine, food and other epicurean delights.
His travelog ‘Lazing’ and feasting ‘Grazing’ series of articles have now passed into “mythic legend” on the original ‘’ website. Those were the halcyon days when he was “rich and famous” that he remembers with bittersweet fondness.

Dr Teillol-Foo is a quoted enthusiast on the watch industry, appearing in feature articles and interviews by Wall Street Journal, International Herald Tribune, Sunday Times (London), Chronos (Japan), Citizen Hedonist (France) and other publications.  He has authored articles for magazines like International Watch (iW) – both U.S. & Chinese editions, ICON (Singapore), August Man (Singapore), Comfort (China) and The Watch (Hong Kong).

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