Richard Mille RM027 Rafael Nadal Limited Edition

Richard Mille RM027 Tourbillon Rafael Nadal

4 sheets of A4 paper - heavier 

4 grapes - heavier 

4 credit cards - heavier

53 pence - on the money 

What on earth am I doing? 

Figuring out exactly how to explain in “real world” numbers just how light the Richard Mille RM027 Toubillon Rafael Nadal really is.

53 pence nails it at a weight of 18.68 grams, and for our American friends, this watch is over 1 gram lighter than 4 nickels… including strap.

A limited edition of 50 produced in 2010, 51 if you include the surviving personal prototype, this is the first production piece that Richard Mille made in partnership with tennis legend and long time collaborator Rafael Nadal. 

It was the lightest wristwatch ever made and will float when placed in water. 

The RM027 has been built to withstand a force of up to 800G’s.
As 1g equates to 22mph, it can withstand a huge amount of acceleration as it was designed to laugh in the face of the rigours and extreme shocks of top level tennis matches. 

The research and development that went into the construction of the RM027 was enormous.
It took thousands of hours to design, test, tweak and perfect with Nadal and his rocket-like swings being quite literally the breaking ground for the piece as his skeleton, arms and power were regularly measured by attaching sensors to his body so that RM could get a handle on the forces created and watch durability needed to survive long term on Rafa’s wrist.

He managed to annihilate at least 6 prototypes during the testing phase which succumbed to issues such as hands falling off, crown failure and crystal condensation as Nadal wasn’t just testing while playing, he was wearing it constantly, which included showers, saunas and every other rigour of daily life.
No point having a watch that will withstand the power of the tennis courts but not survive a bathroom. 

One thing that never failed during the multiple testing phases was the movement itself which was developed by Audemars Piguet Renaud And Papi, the top tier maestros of movement manufacture who regularly collaborated with Richard Mille and is known to supply the brands tourbillon movements.

Mounted on a titanium baseplate with shock-absorbing bridges crafted from Lital, an alloy borrowed from the aerospace industry which gives additional strength with minimal weight.
The manually wound tourbillon calibre RM027 weighs in at 3,83 grams and is exceptionally robust.
A tourbillon is an ideal complication for such a movement as its timekeeping remains constant regardless of positional variations, of which there are many on the courts. 

One of the keys to the movements ability to withstand extreme shock is the use of Lital which is borrowed from the aerospace industry and an alloy of lithium, aluminium, copper, zirconium and magnesium.
Lithium is the key element of the alloy as it reduces density but at the same time increasing strength. Mix lithium with aluminium and you create a material that is exceptionally durable and resistant to fatigue and cracking, exactly what you need for withstanding g-force.
You can see why it was borrowed from aerospace industries.
If you can survive a shuttle launch, odds are you can survive Nadal’s swing. 

The case is a carbon composite monoblock (one piece) rather than the usual 3 part sandwich construction normally used by RM, again an exercise in weight saving.
Carbon is already a feather-light composite but one which provides incredible strength and rigidity, so a clear choice for this piece.

For a watch that falls well within the luxury range, it is sparse in decoration.
The fit and finish is absolutely impeccable, but there is no additional detail or unnecessary “extras” on the watch to the point that the crown stem is clearly visible leading into the movement.
It is an exercise in minimalism and function, simply because it has to be in order to fulfil its “raison d’être”

It’s also a very VERY easy wear at 39.7mm diameter and 48mm in length with an ultra-light strap made from polycarbonate which extends from within the tonneau case to hug the wrist with no break in curve. 

Water resistance is satisfactory at 50m which means it will withstand a shower or a clean, but is not recommended for high impact water sports or diving. 

Nadal has described the wearing experience to having “a second skin” and he’s correct - It feels like you aren’t wearing a watch, which is about the highest comfort accolade you can give when reviewing. 

A little titbit of horological drama to close this review which, btw, is unwaveringly positive. 

Nadal won the Roland Garros, Wimbledon, Monte Carlo championship and others wearing his pre-production RM027 He wore it for every match until his French Open win was overshadowed by the fact that someone, namely the hotel bartender, snuck into his room in Paris while he was sleeping and stole the watch.
Fortunately it was recovered when police tracked the room entry to the barman’s access card, and when arrested he took them to where he had hidden the watch - close to some railway tracks in his home town. 

Once the watch had been reunited with Nadal, it was later returned to Richard Mille who, in turn, donated the watch for auction at “Only Watch” in 2011.