By Rebecca Doulton
This is Rafa Nadal's 10th year at Roland Garros, Paris. A lot of things have changed since 2005, when the 19-year-old Majorcan tennis star first played at the French Open, eliminating Roger Federer in the semi-finals and Mariano Puerta in the finals.
On the styling front, Nadal's hallmark pirate pants and muscle shirts have been upgraded to more conventional tennis wear, and lovers of luxury watches will doubtless spot his new RM 27-02, especially designed by Richard Mille. A manual-winding tourbillon calibre, this men's watch packs as much high technology into its diminutive case as an F1 car.
Unlike many professional athletes, who slip on their endorsement watches for the photo call or press conference, Richard Mille watches are taken to the heart of the action and designed to take as much of a hammering as Nadal's opponents. The resilience and mandatory lightness that characterise these watches is achieved thanks to the use of high-tech materials, often borrowed from the aeronautical and racing car industries.
The new Tourbillon RM 27-02 Rafael Nadal watch is no exception and features the use of NTPT carbon, known for its resistance to micro-cracks, in its skeletonised baseplate. The "unibody" baseplate and case band have been fused into one single piece, enhancing rigidity and resistance to impacts, just like in the chassis of a racing car.
Having established the base structure, the bridges in grade 5 titanium support an impressive mechanical heart, capable of running for 70 hours without jeopardising the precision and regularity of the tourbillon, with the incorporation of a rapidly rotating barrel. If this sounds too technical, imagine the complexity of designing a delicate tourbillon watch to withstand the thrashing accelerations of more than 5,000g (G-force) from the forearm of the world's no. 7 ranked player in a movement weighing just 3.35 grams.
The case, bezel and caseback have also been made with state-of-the-art materials using TPT quartz and NTPT carbon, in which 600 layers of quartz filaments are piled on top of layers of NTPT carbon like a sandwich, and then heated. The end result is a strong material designed to withstand high temperatures and electromagnetic waves.
Only 50 models of the new RM 27-02 Richard Mille watch will be leaked onto the market. Whether or not Nadal will get to sink his teeth into the Roland Garros trophy is hard to predict, but we can assure you that the Tourbillon RM 27-02 will be the star of Centre Court for many horophiles and collectors.