As the French Open swings into high gear in Roland Garros, we take a look at the latest luxury sports watch designed specifically for one of tennis’s greats, nine-time French Open champ, Rafael Nadal. The Richard Mille RM 35-02 Rafael Nadal continues the partnership of the Swiss haute horlogerie brand and the Spanish tennis star, which began in 2008 and which has produced a popular sub-brand of Nadal-branded watches, starting with the groundbreaking RM 027. The new watch is the very first in the Nadal collection to feature an automatic movement.
The RM 35-02 is available in two high-tech case materials, either NTPT Carbon (used for the most recent watch in the series, last year’s RM 27-02) or a bright-red Quartz TPT with white highlights (pictured). The latter material is made up of silicon layers, each no thicker than 45 microns, treated with a red resin (created specifically for Richard Mille) and layered in an automated process that changes the direction of each layer by 45 degrees. The material is subsequently heated under pressure at 120 degrees Celsius, in an autoclave similar to those used for aeronautic components, before being machined into a completed case. The resulting natural white quartz fibers, left undyed and providing a stark contrast to the red resin, impart to the case a very high resistance-weight ratio, non-allergenic properties and remarkable UV resistance. The case measures 49.94 mm x 44.50 mm in diameter and 13.15 mm thick and is water-resistant to 50 meters.
The skeletonized movement in the RM 35-02 Rafael Nadal is the all-new Caliber RMAL1, with baseplate and bridges made of wet-sandblasted grade 5 titanium that has also been treated with PVD/Titalyt and stretch to ensure maximum rigidity and smooth surfaces. It is equipped with a variable inertia balance wheel — a component found in other Richard Mille movements — which oscillates at a frequency of 28,800 vph, and its double-barrel system, designed to provided greater long-term torque stability, stores a power reserve of at least 55 hours.
The movement’s automatic winding system — an answer, Richard Mille says, to requests from its customers for a self-winding Nadal watch — is based on the brand’s patented variable geometry rotor, an innovation that allows the rewinding of the mainspring to be adapted most effectively to the user’s level of activity: the rotor’s inertia can be modified to be sped up during times of leisure with minimal arm movement, or slowed down during intense sporting activity, i.e. a grueling five-set tennis match. The watch offers one other first for the Rafael Nadal collection: a sapphire crystal in the caseback, with nonreflective treatment, which offers a look at the movement.
The Richard Mille RM 35-02 Rafael Nadal carries a retail price of $135,000. It is available at Richard Mille boutiques and authorized Richard Mille retailers worldwide.