Partners In Time: An Unlikely Friendship Between Richard Mille and Jean Todt
April 21, 2017 | BY Charmian Leong
Many parallels can be found in the worlds of haute horlogerie and motorsports.
To say that Richard Mille is an admirer of motorsports is like saying the Pope is a fan of God. His clique of ambassadors include Formula One stars such as Romain Grosjean and Felipe Massa, and the watchmaker recently created the RM 50-03 McLaren F1, the world’s lightest tourbillon split-seconds chronograph at less than 40g, in partnership with the McLaren team. Little surprise then, that one of Mille’s dearest friends is also a motor racing giant: Jean Todt.
The current president of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) celebrates his 50th year in the world of motorsports and Mille is honouring that milestone with a trio of watches, each one bearing Todt’s name and favourite colours. “I love the watches designed by Richard. I love their lightness, their technicity and their exclusivity,” says Todt of the new models, which comprise the RM 11-03, RM 050 and RM 056 Jean Todt 50th Anniversary.
The former rally co-driver also has a soft spot for the intricacies of watchmaking, which, when paired with Mille’s automotive obsession, are recipes for a lasting friendship between the two. It was Todt who introduced his partner, actress Michelle Yeoh, to Mille, who eventually suggested she try her hand at designing a watch for his women’s collection. The first result of their partnership was the RM 051 Tourbillon Phoenix-Michelle Yeoh, and subsequently, they launched the RM 51-01 Tourbillon Tiger and Dragon-Michelle Yeoh.
Not to be outdone, Todt has also collaborated on a Richard Mille timepiece once before. Back when Todt was pushing the FIA Action for Road Safety campaign, Mille was inspired to create a timepiece that complemented that message, and thus the RM 036 Tourbillon G-Sensor Jean Todt Limited Edition was unveiled in 2013. As its name suggests, the watch includes a complication that indicates if the G-forces the wearer (presumably a race car driver) is subjected to are at a safe level or not.
The watches for this anniversary are similarly sporty and characteristically focused on cutting-edge technology and improved performance. The RM 11-03 Jean Todt 50th Anniversary isn’t just another flyback chronograph with a large date. Its striking blue and white case is made from Quartz TPT, an extremely light and resistant material Richard Mille introduced in 2015. The composite is made by stacking 600 layers of silica only 45 microns thick, infusing them with a blue resin exclusive to the brand, baking it at 120°C before machining.
This blue Quartz TPT reappears in the RM 050 Jean Todt 50th Anniversary timepiece. The watch features a split‑seconds chronograph and a tourbillon, but the movement’s construction is the real star here. The bridges and mainplate are made from a combination of titanium and carbon nanofibre, with further skeletonisation removing even more weight. The result is an astonishingly light movement weighing just 9.5g.
The calibre can also be found in the RM 056 Jean Todt 50th Anniversary, the most limited of the three releases and understandably so. The case is made of sapphire crystal, which is notoriously difficult to machine and took no less than 1,000 hours to shape perfectly—430 of those hours were dedicated to grinding the case, while 350 went to polishing. Only three pieces of the RM 056 will be made, compared to the 150 and five pieces of the RM 11-03 and RM 050, respectively.
You don’t have to be a petrolhead to appreciate these limited-edition timepieces. Like Richard Mille and Jean Todt, you need only possess a passion for magnificent machines—regardless of size—and a fanatic attention to detail.