Although there are countless benefits to making lightweight cars, the process can be seriously expensive. Formula One cars are the lightest, fastest, most advanced pieces of engineering in the motoring world, with prices stretching well into seven figures. So, what happens when the same fastidious focus on lightweight engineering is applied to the world of watches? In the case of the Richard Mille RM 50-03 McLaren F1, the result is billed as the lightest tourbillon split-second chronograph ever developed.
Strap included, the RM 50-03 weighs just 38 grams (1.34 ounces). This incredible figure is thanks advanced materials you could reasonably expect to feature on a Formula 1 car, like carbon fiber and titanium. The case of the new watch also debuts something called Graph TPT, which sees a resin containing graphene injected into 600 layers of carbon fiber, each just 30 microns thick.
The featherweight, manually-wound movement is equally as impressive. It features a split-seconds chronograph and a 70-hour power reserve monitored via colored indicators on the face. Carbon fiber and titanium have been used in the baseplate and bridges and the setup is attached to a transverse carbon fiber cage, which Richard Mille says is inspired by the suspension of a McLaren-Honda F1 car. According to the company, this system has survived shock loadings of 5,000 g during in-house testing, making it properly tough.
Although the watch is incredibly light, it isn't small, measuring up at 44 x 49mm (1.7 x 1.9 in). The hollowed-out pushers on the side are inspired by the air intakes on the McLaren-Honda F1 car, and the shape of that big crown takes cues from racing wheels.
Even the band has come in for some serious attention. Forget a conventional canvas strap, Richard Mille has worked with supplier BIWI S.A. to inject graphene into a rubber strap to increase its elasticity and longevity.
So, what price all this racing-inspired lightness? Well, just 75 examples of the RM 50-03 McLaren F1 will be built, with a pricetag of US$980,000. Before you scoff, remember that eye-watering sticker also includes a 1:5 scale model of this year's McLaren-Honda Formula 1 car – if that helps. It should also sit nicely alongside the carbon fiber RMS05 fountain pen sitting on your desk, which is a nice touch.
Although this is the first collaboration between McLaren and Richard Mille, you can expect to see more in future as the two companies have agreed to a ten year partnership.