Cover Kimi Räikkönen, the Finnish speedster, was present at the global launch of the RM 50-04 Tourbillon Split-Seconds Chronograph Kimi Räikkönen held at Capella Singapore in conjunction with the Singapore Grand Prix

The luxury watchmaker leverages on its close-knit ties with the Formula One community to unveil the RM 50-04 Tourbillon Split-Seconds Chronograph Kimi Räikkönen

Horology and motorsport have always had a tight relationship, harking back to the 1950s when watchmakers were also instrument-makers, who produced stopwatches and chronographs to time the early automobile racing events. While this rudimentary form of timekeeping has given way to more precise measures of time as technology improved, so too has the relationship between watchmakers and racing brands evolved.

These days, however, the partnerships fulfil a more marketing-centred role. The undeniable pull of a prestigious event such as the Formula One Grand Prix has is impossible for watch marques to ignore. Each car is a vehicle for branding, and so is the wrist of every driver. Most, if not all, constructors are tied in association to a watch brand reflecting its values and missions.

Independent watchmaker Richard Mille occupies a unique standing, however, when it comes to F1. The brand, best known for its extremely shockproof, avant-garde watches made from cutting-edge materials, has partnered with not just one constructor in the championship, but three—McLaren Racing, Haas F1 and Alfa Romeo Racing. In addition, Richard Mille has worked with several prominent drivers who serve as ambassadors including Brazilian racer Felipe Massa, who has been working with the brand since 2004, former world champion Fernando Alonso, and Haas F1 driver Romain Grosjean.

The brand’s ties to the world of motor racing is not surprising given founder Richard Mille’s love and passion for all things car-related. Mille counts luminaries in the F1 world, such as Jean Todt, president of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile and former CEO of Ferrari, as friends and has been following races since the 1960s. Mille also collects antique racing cars and has spoken of his collection as the source of inspiration for many a watch.

(Related: Richard Mille Debuts An Automatic Tourbillon For Women

His brand’s constant drive to innovate—whether in developing new high-tech materials for components that push the boundaries of haute horlogerie or creating new complications that assist its wearers—makes it a name from the watch world that can relate to the high-pressure, ever-evolving technological contest that is the arena of motor racing.

Richard Mille’s most recent announcement in relation to the F1 came amid the adrenaline rush of the Singapore Grand Prix in September when it unveiled its latest timepiece, produced in collaboration with former world champion Kimi Räikkönen, who is now the lead driver for Alfa Romeo Racing. Held at Capella Singapore, the global launch of the RM 50-04 Tourbillon Split-Seconds Chronograph Kimi Räikkönen was more than just about the unveiling of a new watch. It is the first Richard Mille timepiece for the seasoned Finnish pro, who has been involved in F1 racing since 2001. It is also the first official watch with Alfa Romeo’s team colours of red, white and black since its takeover of the Sauber team this year. That the international launch was held in Singapore is also a telling sign of how important the Asian markets are to the watchmaker.

Räikkönen, whose nerves of steel and icy composure on the tracks has earned him the nickname “Iceman”, will be wearing the watch on his wrist as he races, as is natural for any athlete-partner of Richard Mille. Unlike many other watch partnerships, Richard Mille ambassadors don’t just wear their pieces to photo opportunities, but put their watches to the test. Tennis superstar and 19-time Grand Slam winner Rafael Nadal wears his on the court, golfing legend and double Masters winner Bubba Watson on the greens, and like Grosjean, Alonso and Massa before him, Räikkönen will now be wearing a Richard Mille while fighting G-forces behind the steering wheel.

Even if competition among the drivers these days is stiffer than ever, the Iceman still stands out for embodying the devil-may-care attitude that makes Richard Mille popular among the elite. “From now on, I consider Formula One to be a hobby. I no longer feel the same pressure and I can just have fun at the wheel. That’s what I enjoy doing, even if I’m still concentrated on doing my best to achieve the result that the car deserves,” said Räikkönen recently—proof that he was a match made in motorsport heaven for Richard Mille. After all, who would consider racing at speeds upwards of 180km/h a hobby? 

Tatler Asia
Timothée Malachard
Above Timothée Malachard

Watch Talk

Timothée Malachard, head of marketing at Richard Mille, reveals more about the RM 50‑04 Tourbillon Split-Seconds Chronograph Kimi Räikkönen

How did discussions on the RM 50-04 begin?

Timothée Malachard (TM) The moment Alfa Romeo Racing signed Kimi Räikkönen last year, we started discussing a possible watch collaboration with [team principal] Frédéric Vasseur. With Kimi being such a figurehead of F1, it seemed natural to associate ourselves with him. Kimi was also very motivated in participating in a Richard Mille watch development as he has followed the brand for many years and [is aware of] our relationship with F1, the drivers and teams.

Has the watch’s movement been used previously?

TM The movement is the same as that employed in the RM 50‑03 Manual Winding Tourbillon Split‑Seconds Chronograph McLaren F1. We wanted to develop something quickly and using a tried-and-tested chronograph made complete sense.

Is the quartz and NTPT carbon case different from that of other references?

TM We developed the colour combination with quartz and NTPT carbon to reflect the Alfa Romeo Racing team colours, and to add Kimi’s race number on the dial. The crown, on the other hand, is a brand‑new development combining carbon TPT and titanium. The component is a very technical piece [to produce] but is also very beautiful. These details make for a striking watch extremely well‑received by our clients and also by Kimi, who really appreciates its lightness and comfort.