The long-standing connection between cars and timepieces has produced endless watches with cues from the automobile world. You know the sort of things: wheel-shaped winding rotors, sub-dials that look like brake discs, markings based on speedometers and so on.
But the perfectionists at McLaren wanted a more technical, less clichéd approach when they set out to find a watch partner – which is why the marque announced in 2016 that it had made the decision to go with Richard Mille, known for its ‘racing machines for the wrist’.
The first watch to emerge from the pairing was the RM50-03, the world’s lightest split-seconds tourbillon, followed by the RM11-03 fly-back chronograph to honour the Senna.
Just months after the launch of the Senna, McLaren announced its intention to create the first hyper-GT in the form of the Speedtail – the spiritual successor to the F1. Even before the plan was made public, Richard Mille and McLaren had started on a project to create a suitably extreme watch to complement it.
And here it is: the RM40-01 self-winding tourbillon, a piece of micro-engineering that has been developed around the three-seater Speedtail’s distinctive ‘teardrop’ silhouette.
It’s said to have taken Richard Mille’s casing department 18 months to perfect the design, which both mimics the form of a water droplet and alludes to the car’s aerodynamic features – the bezel indentations evoke the bonnet openings and the push-pieces recall the air outlets behind the front wheels.
Five prototypes were required to perfect the case, mainly because it’s significantly wider at 12 o’clock than at six and has a taper between the titanium bezel and the back, the two being held with unequal length titanium pillars to form a ‘sandwich’ with the Carbon TPT band.
The unique design inevitably demanded a unique movement, and the RM40-01’s CRMT4 ‘engine’ took a claimed 8600 hours to develop. Comprising 603 components, it is made largely from titanium with a platinum and red gold winding rotor inspired by the car’s bonnet and the barrel-setting by its roofline.
The mechanism’s curve is based on the brushed metal divider between the car’s cockpit and its bodywork, and the orange line running from the lower part of the movement and on to the strap recalls the vertical stoplight mounted in the Speedtail’s rear screen.
And, speaking of glass, the sapphire crystal that protects the watch is tapered to 1/200th of a millimetre – yet is water-resistant to 50m.
Limited to 103 examples. And you thought McLaren’s engineering was impressive…
Richard Mille RM40-01 Automatic Tourbillon McLaren Speedtail, £850,000.
UK-based Marlow has produced two limited editions to mark this year’s centenary of the birth of Donald Campbell. The 403-piece Eyre model, above, recalls Donald’s 403mph run on the dry bed of Australia’s Lake Eyre in Bluebird CN7 in 1964 and includes colouring from its fuel pressure gauge and a seconds hand based on instrument needles. The 300-piece Bonneville harks back to his father Sir Malcolm breaking 300mph at the salt flats in 1935. Both use Miyota hand-wound movements.
Marloe Campbell editions, £329 each.
This latest watch to emerge from the 19-year partnership between Breitling and Bentley has a vintage aesthetic based on the maker’s chronographs of the 1940s – inspired by the fact that former company head Willy Breitling was a Bentley driver. The 42mm red-gold case has a transparent back and houses a racing green dial with an aperture for the tourbillon. Limited to 25 examples.
Breitling Premier B21 Chronograph Tourbillon Bentley Edition, £39,900