Brazilian racing driver, Felipe Massa, is one of Richard Mille’s longest lasting sports partners, teaming up with the brand over 15 years ago. It was a dream collaboration for the luxury watchmaker, enabling them to initiate and accomplish astonishing feats in watchmaking development.
The Swiss brand is renowned for testing their watches in the sporting arenas their partners perform in. Founder and owner, Richard Mille, is famously passionate about motor sports and technology so Felipe Massa offered the perfect opportunity to develop and refine his new timepieces. The racing track proved the perfect environment in which to test the cutting-edge technology the brand uses to manufacture its watches.
Indeed, Richard Mille insists the Swiss brand’s sports partners wear his timepieces when they’re competing - it’s his one condition. This provides invaluable real-time feedback and data which allows the brand to continually innovate, especially in the development of new materials.
This type of information means the brand can confidently design and produce luxury watches which are practical, durable and highly sophisticated. It’s indicative of the brand’s remarkable success in such a short space of time. Their products are renowned for featuring the latest technology, a distinct aesthetic and architectural design while being robust and easy to use.
Function rules over form with a Richard Mille watch - every single component used performs a specific task. It’s very much haute horlogerie meeting the future, tradition merging with innovation. And for added assurance and quality, each piece is finished and assembled by hand.
It’s little wonder so many sports stars wear the brand when competing, trusting the watch’s precision and reliability.
The partnership with Massa apparently started when the then Formula 1 driver was searching for a watch capable of resisting the high g-forces in racetrack conditions, whilst being extremely light and easy to wear. The first timepiece to bear his name was the RM 006 Felipe Massa, weighing only 43 grams.
It featured a brand new movement baseplate made of carbon nanofibre, a radical innovation at the time. This led to the extended use of carbon nanofibre in the RM tourbillon range. Designed to withstand the violent accelerations and vibrations of an F1 Grand Prix, this timepiece became the template of a number of fine watches dedicated to the pursuit of lightness.
In 2005, Richard Mille launched the RM 009 Tourbillon Felipe Massa, the lightest tourbillon watch ever produced at that time at 29 grams, without the strap. It was created using two world premieres - an ALUSIC® case and a skeleton movement made of aluminium-lithium. The ultra-light ALUSIC®, is normally reserved for the construction of satellites. Using the material in this way represents years of research and development.
It was symbolic in a way of what Richard Mille set out to achieve when starting his company, to produce incredible pieces of art, with high-tech, prestigious mechanics. To design timepieces for those with a ‘true appreciation of fine watchmaking’.
Come 2007, the brand released a new watch in collaboration with the Brazilian driver, the RM 011 Automatic Chronograph Felipe Massa. It’s strongly based on the precision and high-tech engineering found in Formula 1 cars.
Featuring the RMAC1 calibre, it’s skeletonised automatic winding movement has a variable-geometry rotor offering hours, minutes, seconds, flyback chronograph, 60-minute countdown timer, 12-hour totaliser, oversize date and annual calendar. The watch can be reset without stopping and offers a countdown function.
It’s obviously light, using a titanium movement affixed to a case with silent-blocks. The watch also has aerodynamic pushers machined with non-slip ribbing. And in the style of racing cars, the crown resembles a smooth tyre encircling a spoked wheel rim. The RM 011 is available in titanium, gold and all of Richard Mille’s proprietary materials: ceramic, carbon TPT®, silicon nitride and Red Quartz TPT®.
This has naturally led to a long line of limited edition timepieces created in this collection, including for the person who inspired it in the first place, Felipe Massa.
The Brazilian retired from Formula 1 in 2017, joining the electric series, Formula E. He had a hugely successful racing career, winning 11 Grand Prix races in his 15 seasons, racing for the Ferrari and Williams teams. He once claimed:
“Richard (Mille) showed me that the spirit of watchmaking and racing are the same. When making watches at this level, there are constant challenges to be overcome on a technical level. Likewise, high-end watchmaking also requires tremendous physical mastery and total concentration without a fraction of a second's distraction.”
Felipe Massa’s legend on the racing track will live for a long time. His contribution to watchmaking might even prove to be a longer lasting legacy.
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