“Every gramme is a battle.” Mille, who became Ricardo for the occasion, once again declared war on horological obesity. A few practice serves away from Roland Garros, the great chieftain of Les Breuleux shared the court with a Rafael Nadal who was clearly delighted to be wearing the brand’s latest creation, the RM27-02 on his wrist.

Despite what its name might suggest, the 27-02 is the fifth in the generation of “Nadal” watches, after two “27s” (027 and 27-01) and two “35s” (035 and 35-01). Five models in five years, countless breakages, a few flights and here once again is the Mille – Nadal duo on stage to share 21 grammes of common happiness.

Public relations and tennis anguish
For five days, Nadal had been dealing non-stop with mundane appointments with the professionalism and the frank smile of a man who, since his teenage years, mastered the intricacies of public relations with perfection. A discreet gentleman, he let his “friend Ricardo”, full of verve, explain the latest creation from the house of Mille, with is orange “clay court” strap.

Richard Mille recalls the nervous, even agonising, start to the partnership with the Majorcan champion, in order to illustrate better what has been achieved: “Rafa is a perfectionist and eliminates from his game any detail that could distract his attention, like a watch. He didn’t think that I would be able to offer him a watch that could withstand the power of his game and yet be so light that he would forget he was wearing it. To be honest, when I handed over these specifications to my team, they told me I needed a holiday!”
Richard Mille did not hesitate to share his concerns about what could have happened to the first models. “The crystal could shatter, the strap break, or the watch explode and land in the middle of the court, right in front of the cameras from around the world. That is what my worst nightmare could have been.”

Richard Mille RM27-02 Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal’s RM 27-02, which he received on the day. © Olivier Müller / Delos Communications

Tested to 5000 g
The RM27-02 is therefore built on the results of tests on tens of models on the wrist of Nadal. “We tested this one to 5000 g,” Richard Mille points out, with a video to prove it. “Did you really need such a level of resistance,” came the inquisitive question from the audience. “No, I don’t think so,” replied Rafael Nadal with a smile.
So why go to such extremes? “We are constantly improving,” Richard Mille continues. “Our first model could withstand 600 g. We have worked on the movement. Today it is a marvel. That may sound pretentious, but I think that over the past ten years we have become one of the most technologically advanced watch brands, because we are not afraid of facing challenges head-on. For example, the NTPT carbon that we use has allowed us to reach new heights in resistance and lightweight construction.”

The price of hypertechnicality
Yet again, the price of this watch, which will be around 770,000 euros, seems exorbitant. “Nothing could be more reasonable,” replied a seemingly astonished Richard Mille. “We have considerable research and development costs, we have a rejection rate that can be up to 70%, we only produce a few in each collection, all of which are produced by specialists of the highest order who are paid accordingly. When you understand that, you understand the value of a Richard Mille.”
Nadal, who was wearing his own personal one which he had received that very same day, will be putting it to the test on the clay courts of Roland-Garros this week. He justifies wearing the watch out of habit: “When I first started playing, the time wasn’t shown on the court, only the duration of the match. I often had trouble trying to guess the time and, from a strategic point of view therefore, knowing whether I could finish the match in the same day before nightfall or whether I would have to continue the next day. Today, you can see the time but I have kept the habit of wearing a watch,” admits “Rafa”, who will be aiming for a tenth Roland-Garros title over the coming days.

Richard-Mille-Rafael-Nadal

Behind the scenes: when a journalist finds it hard to believe that the champion cannot feel the RM27-02 on his wrist, Nadal stands up to let him try it on. QED! © Olivier Müller / Delos Communications.