Richard Mille has a philosophy. He believes luxury watches should be tested in real-world conditions. That’s why his partners include some of the most successful performers in the most demanding sports in the world. Top of the list, with no fewer than 6 Richard Mille models bearing his name, is Felipe Massa.
The Brazilian F1 star was the first racing driver to wear a Richard Mille on his wrist. His first namesake model, the Richard Mille 006, launched in 2004 and became the flagship timepiece in a now-legendary series inspired by, and built for, the supercharged environment of motor racing. They command some of the highest prices, and the most avid fanbases, of high performance sports watches in the world.
So what makes a classic sports timepiece? We take a look at the evolution of the Richard Mille Felipe Massa, beginning with his signature RM006 timepiece, to find out.
The first Felipe Massa watch utilises a movement base plate made from carbon nanofiber. The material recalls the use of carbon nanomaterials in F1 car design. Its extreme strength and lightness makes the watch resistant to the massive vibrations present in the cockpit of Massa’s car - and the real-world testing element gained by putting the watch in actual racing situations allows Richard Mille to perfect future designs.
Weight: 43 grams. Status: classic.
Richard Mille adds a complex tourbillon carriage to his already successful design, creating an instant classic and one of the most desired luxury watches in the world. RM008 retains its predecessor’s extreme light weight, with the 85-part tourbillon carriage weighing only 0.34 grams. Its regulation is one of the finest in chronographic history, adding an extra element of technology to fine sports watch design.
Positioning: one of the most advanced sports watches ever built. Status: legendary.
Felipe Massa’s continuous testing allows Richard Mille’s development laboratories to suggest a new material for the movement baseplate: Aluminium-Lithium. The shock-resistance and reliability of the new tourbillon mechanism, combined with the extreme lightness of the material, result in a timepiece weighing even less than the flagship RM006. The barrel and the pinion of the third wheel in the movement are redesigned with a profile allowing for smooth engagement through multiple angles - keeping the watch accurate even in Massa’s quickest turns.
Weight: less than 30 grams. Status: classic.
RM011 sees Richard Mille’s luxury sports watches finding a wider application than the racetrack. Still incredibly complex, but now with an automatic winding mechanism that responds to changes in the motion of the user’s arm, the chronograph takes the technologies of RM008 and evolves them. Significant technical advancements include the flyback, which allows the user to reset the chronograph without halting the entire mechanism, and the case - which took one year of research on its own, and which requires an incredible 18 days of machine adjustments before tools can even be brought to bear on the materials.
Positioning: first automatic Felipe Massa model. Status: classic.
For his 50th watch, Richard Mille brings together everything he’s learned creating his previous 49 pieces. The movement for RM050, the RMCC1, updates the tourbillon split second chronograph powering RM008, whose status is now cemented as one of the most important innovations in contemporary horology. A limited edition 10-piece run, RM050 calls heavily on the test experience of Richard’s sporting partners. Its extraordinary performance is distinguished by an ability to precisely repeat its functions under an array of demanding conditions.
Positioning: ultimate performance. Status: classic.
The pinnacle Felipe Massa model, and quite possibly the single greatest achievement in sports watch creation, RM056 is Richard Mille’s masterpiece. Its sapphire crystal case, which takes three months to make, is a triumph of art and engineering inspired by Richard’s love of the exploded diagrams of engines he used to pore over as a child. This, combined with RM056’s ability to eliminate initial jumps in the operation of the split second mechanism, makes Massa the obvious choice for its namesake.
Positioning: ultra-limited edition masterwork (only 5 are made). Status: legendary.
Richard Mille has redefined the art of luxury sports watch making, with a brand that is 94 years younger than Rolex. His army of high profile sporting ambassadors has swollen to include Romain Grosjean, Sebastien Loeb, Rafael Nadal, Bubba Watson, Diana Luna, Yohan Blake and Alexis Pinturault. From explosive force to extreme environments, Richard Mille watches are true embodiments of the spirit of technological advancement.