In 2010, Richard Mille copy announced its partnership with tennis phenom Rafael “Rafa” Nadal, along with a groundbreaking new watch, the RM 027. Light enough to elicit laughter when placed in your hands, the RM 027 is a marvel of engineering that is both tough enough to endure the incredible forces of life on Nadal’s wrist and light enough to float in water (yes, actually). Now, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Richard Mille’s relationship with Nadal, the RM 027 sees its fifth generation with the new and wondrously expensive RM 27-04.
Yes, following in the very shallow (barely visible, really) footsteps of the 027, we had 2013’s 27-01, 2015’s 27-02, 2017’s wild 27-03, and the stunning new RM 27-04. The spec list reads like a supercar compared to more common commuter fare options. Total weight? Thirty grams (with the strap!) and only 3.4 grams for the cable-suspended, manually-wound tourbillon movement. The case is made of something called “TitaCarb” and, like past examples, it’s been designed to be worn by Nadal while he’s playing tennis.
Measuring 38.4mm across, 47.25mm tip to toe, and 11.4mm thick, the 27-04 is a Richard Mille replica with skeletonized dial with a case made of the aforementioned TitaCarb, which is 38.5% carbon fiber to offer excellent tensile strength (3,700 km/cm², for those wondering) while being as light as possible. Sapphire crystals front and back offer a view of an incredibly cool – and tennis-inspired – movement design that is suspended in a lattice created by an 0.27mm diameter steel cable that holds the movement in place via two (red) turnbuckles.
The weave of the steel cable is inspired by that of a tennis racket, and while it would be easy to simply try to make your tennis watch look like a racket, RM has gone the extra mile here and made a top quality fake watch that actually relies on a similar structure to support the movement and help it manage the shocks and G forces generated by a professional tennis player. In testing, the 27-04’s caliber RM27-04 was able to resist accelerative forces in excess of 12,000 Gs – which is a first for Richard Mille. Maintained by a pair of PVD-treated 5N gold tensioners, the super-tight weave of the cable forms a unique and exciting dial.
Suspended in that tiny 855 square millimeter net is the caliber RM27-04 movement, a tourbillon-equipped, manually-wound movement that has been fully skeletonized and can be seen from either side of the darkly matte featherweight case. As mentioned above, all of these elements come together in a package that is only 30 grams in weight. For reference, I recently weighed a steel 38.5mm three-hander from a popular microbrand at 134 grams with its bracelet sized. Want more? In 2017, Richard Mille fake announced the RM 50-03 McLaren F1, the lightest split-second chronograph in the world at the time. It weighs 40 grams. Finally, the original RM 027 weighed just 20 grams (19 for the RM 27-01), so while the 27-04 is a bit heavier, none of the previous Rafa RMs could match 12,000 Gs. You can only bend physics so far, at least until the 27-05.
I’ve said it before, but despite the absolute fact that I will never own a Swiss replica Richard Mille, I just love the brand for what they do. And, if you’re like me (pragmatic in practice, but a romantic obsessive by nature), you might just see their watches like supercars: I love that they exist and that they are special. Likewise, I don’t follow tennis, but I think these are massively cool exercises in both cutting edge mechanical watchmaking and legitimately interesting ambassador marketing.
With a headline-ready price of $1,050,000 and a total production run of just 50 units, while the RM 27-04 can certainly make your wallet feel a lot more than 30 grams lighter, that’s only a problem for a very small group of well-heeled and very privileged watch nerds. As for the rest of us, we’ll need to be happy enough with the hopes of someday seeing one pass by in traffic (or while watching Nadal hunt down more wins on the tennis court).