By Rebecca Doulton in Madrid
The great thing about Richard Mille and his growing list of friends and ambassadors is that almost all the sports personalities actually wear their RM watches in action. More than a vapid photo call moment, we have seen Rafa Nadal sweating it out till the bitter end on a clay court, his lightweight, customised Richard Mille watch - the RM 27-01 or, more recently, the RM 35-01 - taking as much hammering as his opponent.
From the screeching tyres of the Formula 1 track with Felipe Massa or Romain Grosjean to the 100m Olympic sprint on Jamaican Yohan Blake's wrist, from the decks of the yachts competing in Les Voiles de Saint Barthes to the bumpy rally races of Sebastien Loeb, it's fair to say that Richard Mille's watches get a good thrashing. But thankfully, endowed with the very latest technology and cutting-edge materials - often borrowed from automotive and aerospace industries - the watches are designed to withstand the most extraordinary circumstances.
Actors also play an important role in Richard Mille's group of friends, including Black Swan beauty Natalie Portman and Malaysian actress Michelle Yeoh of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon fame, who has been part of the select coterie since 2010. In 2011, Yeoh oversaw the design of the RM 051 women's watch with a diamond-encrusted Phoenix on the dial, a bird closely associated with Asian lore.
The legendary Hong Kong actor and martial arts expert Jackie Chan is also part of the Richard Mille gang, and his Dragon's Heart Foundation, a charity that "aims to improve the lives of underprivileged young people through education and sport", is one of the prime beneficiaries of his friendship with Richard.
The new Richard Mille RM 57-01 Phoenix and Dragon Jackie Chan watch features a dragon curled around the left side of the case and a phoenix, wings spread in flight, on the right. Both supernatural beasts have been meticulously hand-carved from rose gold, including the parts of their bodies we can't see. By uniting the phoenix and the dragon, two of the "Four Supernatural Spirits" in Asian mythology, the watch promises its wearer a double dose of good fortune.
Lest the realistically carved beasts distract you, there is a very serious manual-winding watch movement underneath the action on the dial. The RM 57-01 features a skeletonised dial with a tourbillon at 6 o'clock and the hour and minute hands in the upper half of the dial. The double winding barrels ensure a power reserve of 48 hours, which is indicated by a red line between 10 and 11 o'clock. Limited to 15 pieces in white or rose gold, this is destined to become a collector's piece.
Golfer Bubba Watson and, more recently, Italian golfer Diana Luna are also friends of the brand, but the latest surprise was the news that Italian chef Carlo Cracco has joined the Richard Mille family. A celebrity in Italy, where food is king, his restaurant Cracco-Peck was awarded two Michelin stars and he recently appeared on Italian TV as the star of Masterchef Italia.
Carlo Cracco was recently photographed wearing the RM 11-01 Flyback Chronograph Roberto Mancini watch with a 60-minute countdown timer - useful for cooking, undoubtedly - a 12-hour totalizer and annual calendar in a titanium case - a lightweight material that is resistant to high temperatures.
"I am particularly intrigued by watches, particularly the complicated ones," says Cracco. "Reliable timekeeping in a kitchen is absolutely essential. A place where steam, steel and sharp edges rule - kitchens are full of hidden dangers. This is why it is important to rely on a watch that is robust at the same time as being reliable. I believe this Richard Mille model is perfect to face all those challenges."