Richard Mille Le Mans Classic

Precision, Winter 2021

It’s 3am on a Sunday and I’m standing near the Mulsanne turn, happily breathing in the smell of burnt rubber, hot oil and exhaust fumes as a Chevron B8 and a Ford GT40 nip at the heels of a Porsche 908 which, once it’s back in a straight line, spits the two rivals out to the tune of a spinetingling howl from its flat-eight engine as its tail lights fade rapidly into the distance. You’ve guessed this is the Le Mans 24 Hours, but what year – 1968, ’69 maybe?

Of course not. This was 2018 and those old stagers, beautifully prepared and probably running better than when they were new, were being raced hard and fast at the Le Mans Classic, the (usually) biennial event that celebrates the glory days of motor racing before the advent of billion-dollar team budgets and electronic gadgetry. As most readers will know, the 2021 Classic slated for July was cancelled but will return next year, with a special edition happening in 2023 to honour the centenary of the first Le Mans race.

Richard Mille Le Mans Classic

The most famous Le Mans watch is undoubtedly (and perhaps oddly) the Heuer Monaco, as worn by Steve McQueen in the film about the legendary event that featured him starring as fictitious race hero Michael Delaney. But Richard Mille is the brand you can’t escape from at the Le Mans Classic, which Mille (the man) co-founded and agreed to sponsor back in 2002 – despite not having actually delivered his first commercial timepiece..

Almost two decades later and the brand is almost as much of a legend in horology circles as the GT40 and Porsche 917 are in the world of race cars, thanks to the ultra-tough, beautifully made watches that use high-tech materials such as carbon nanofibre in their construction. Richard Mille has remained the main sponsor of the Le Mans Classic throughout and, despite the lack of racing this year, the brand has launched a special edition watch to celebrate next year’s 20th anniversary in the form of the RM 029, pictured here, the eighth in a series of Le Mans Classic specials.

Richard Mille Le Mans Classic rear

The case is green and white Quartz TPT – which is hundreds of sheets of layered silica fibre

Typically brimming with high-tech features, it has a baseplate and bridges made from titanium, a patented variable geometry rotor that automatically winds the watch at a rate conducive to the wearer’s activity level, and a winding crown that can be moved to different positions along the lines of a car gear stick depending on whether the date or time is being set or the movement re-wound. But it’s the 40x48mm case of the watch that really stands out. Made from green and white Quartz TPT (that’s ‘Thin Ply Technology’) it consists of many gossamer sheets of silica fibres that are built up using a machine that automatically alters the weft of the material between layers to form an ultra-strong component.

The bezel sports the characteristic double Le Mans stripes made from separate pieces of white Quartz TPT that are inlaid into the green, with the three-part case being sandwiched together using a dozen titanium spline screws. The dial, meanwhile, provides a regular time display as well as a ‘big date’ function and a 24-hour readout on the separate subdial – with the traditional 4pm Le Mans start time highlighted in orange.

Richard Mille RM 029 Le Mans Classic, limited edition (150 examples)

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