The year was 2005, a fresh-faced Spaniard who barely past his 18th birthday reigned supreme in clay courts worldwide, smashing his opponents into submission and winning 24 consecutive singles matches along the way to breaking Andre Agassi’s Open Era record of consecutive match wins for a male teenager. His name was Rafael Nadal and he would go on to become a household name.
When the decade was crying out for a worthy challenger to the all-conquering Roger Federer, it was Nadal who usurped the topseeded Federer at the semi-final game of the French Open. The score? 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3. But Nadal didn’t stop there. He went on to win the final and was crowned the French Open men’s singles champion. The victory was his first career Grand Slam title. A more remarkable feat was that the entry into the French Open was the first time Nadal had participated in the tournament.
Subsequently, Nadal earned the moniker “King of Clay” after coming out on top on numerous times in tournaments such as the French Open and the Monte Carlo Masters. He dominated and outlasted his competitors on the dusty surfaces. However, the plaudit was seen as somewhat of a backhanded compliment. Early in his career, he would defeat his fiercest rivals on clay courts only to come second best to the same contestants on other surfaces. But Nadal was determined to evolve to become a well-rounded player, drawing upon his fortitude and inner strength.
He is a gifted athlete. As a young boy, he was equally adept at football and the racquet sport. At age 12, he was forced by his father to make the painful decision to choose between football and tennis. He chose to pursue the latter. Three years later, he turned professional. By 17, he had his first one-on-one success against Federer. So it was evident that he was never short of talent and that it was not the impediment that was stopping him from taking the next step to conquering grass and hard courts; it was about technique and experience adapting to the demands of playing on them.
In the Wimbledon final of 2008, finally, he was not to be denied as he trumped Federer in five sets, winning his first grass court Grand Slam title. He then became the first man to win Grand Slam titles on clay, grass and hard courts in the same year in 2010 when he clean swept the French Open, the Wimbledon and the US Open singles titles.
Standing firm in the face of adversity is what Nadal has done throughout his career. He has had to defeat greats like Federer to cement his spot in the tennis folklore. This is a noble trait shared by watchmaker Richard Mille. Despite only founded in 1999, what Richard Mille lacks in history, it makes up the ground through unwavering boldness and innovative spirit.
Within its portfolio are innovative materials such as Quartz TPT, Graph TPT, NTPT, among others. They are used not just for the sake of showcasing its savoir-faire but to increase the watches’ durability in all conditions. That has contributed tremendously to its respected standing today. Richard Mille is dubbed the secret billionaire’s handshake because it commands appreciation and recognition among serious watch collectors.
Their collective story started in 2008 when Richard Mille himself was introduced to Nadal through a mutual friend. Although they immediately got on, watch was not Nadal’s passion, much less wearing one during a match.
“But when Mille proposed to make me a watch that was light, robust and comfortable, I was interested in his initiative, although I was reluctant to wear it on the court!” recalls Nadal. “He came to my house in Majorca and we were on the same wavelength. As soon as I tried the watch, I loved it. It was like a second skin for me.”
“But the relationship between Mille and myself is more than just a watchmaking partnership,” Nadal explains before adding, “he is a really positive person and wants to drive the watchmaking industry forward, not just sit back and enjoy his success.”
“He seeks excellence, which I respect. In tennis, I always try to be better and I work hard for that. Richard Mille has also been working alongside me for several years to support the Rafa Nadal Foundation, which helps disadvantaged children and teenagers,” says Nadal.
After nine years of a fruitful relationship comes the birth of RM 27-03 Tourbillon Rafael Nadal, limited to only 50 pieces worldwide. The watch is not just an embodiment of technical mastery but also of aesthetic excellence. The colour scheme of the RM 27-03 Tourbillon Rafael Nadal, with the striking red and yellow hues of its Quartz TPT case, pays homage to Nadal native country, Spain. The intense burst of colour is achieved by impregnating fine layers of silica just 45 microns thick with tinted resin according to a proprietary process developed in Switzerland that stacks the filaments in layers before heating them to 120°C.
When it comes to releasing a new shade of Quartz TPT, achieving colour stability compliant with Reach standards while resolving issues of biocompatibility and durability represents a tremendous display of prowess on the part of the engineers at Richard Mille and North Thin Ply Technology (NTPT). And once the composite is produced, there remain many hours of milling and finishing operations to produce the case and components.
The quartz fibres used in this case, which is water resistant to 50m, offer a very advantageous strength/weight ratio, as well as being anallergic and highly resistant to UV rays. But the main innovation of this extraordinary watch lies in the capacity of its tourbillon calibre to withstand shocks up to 10,000 Gs. This new threshold has been attained thanks to years of research and development and countless hours of testing, particularly ‘pendulum impact testing’ which simulates the linear acceleration that occurs due to sudden movements or shock to the wearer.
This virtual indestructability is vouchsafed by assembly of the ultralight tourbillon calibre on the skeletonised unibody baseplate of Carbon TPT with a precision to the nearest micron, while the reduced number of components in this configuration permits additional weight savings, lightening the whole watch.
The rapid winding barrel provides an unvarying flow of energy for the full 70 hours of running time. The magnificent finishing of the RM 27-03 calibre presents hand-polished tapered anglage and graceful satin surfaces that set off the sparkle of finely microblasted elements. The RM 27-03 Tourbillon Rafael Nadal offers an impressive play of volumes. Highly stylised, the sharp, streamlined curves of the skeletonised bridges encircling the barrel, the great wheel and the mechanical winding tourbillon beating at 3Hz together evoke the forward-facing head of a bull.
A symbol of Spain, this animal is also Nadal’s chosen emblem. As a playful nod, winding and hand setting are conducted using a torque-limiting crown of Quartz TPT in the shape of a tennis ball.