Often colorful, always highly technical and very expensive, Richard Mille once again blasts our senses with this new Richard Mille RM 35-02 Rafael Nadal Quartz-TPT. Richard Mille chose the run-up to the French Open tennis tournament for the announcement of the latest in one of their most famous and representative family of watches, the Rafael Nadal line, for the tennis champion and brand ambassador. Beyond the blinding colors and exotic case material, this model is notable as the first automatic watch in the collection.
Due to the use of “Quartz” in the name, it is perhaps important to note up front that this is a mechanical watch – just in case you never heard of Richard Mille and were confused despite the images that show the movement from front and back. Quartz refers to the case material, and it’s not the first time for the mineral to find its way into a Richard Mille watch case – see this also bright red RM 011 watch, for example. The material is produced by a company called NTPT (North Thin Ply Technology), and the case is then machined at Richard Mille’s ProArt facility that we visited here, where nearly all the brand’s cases, and also some baseplates, bridges, and other components are produced. You can see the white highlights layered in the case, and that is the undyed quartz, with the red color achieved by a resin also developed by NTPT. Richard Mille claims that this material can “withstand accelerations of up to 5,000g’s.” Mind you, while they do put all prototypes through a fair number of shock and drop tests, you probably won’t want to test the Richard Mille RM 35-02 Rafael Nadal Quartz-TPT for 4,999g’s.
The RMAL1 movement is visible from the dial-side and, for the first time for this collection, also through an antireflective-treated sapphire crystal exhibition caseback. I would personally want as much for Richard-Mille-money. From all sides, you will be able to admire the RMAL1 movement with its grade 5 titanium baseplate and bridges that have been wet-sandblasted, treated with PVD/Titalyt, and… much like Nadal before an upcoming match, “stretched to ensure supreme rigidity and impeccably smooth surfaces.”
Visible through the caseback is the brand’s patented variable geometry rotor, the winding efficiency of which can be adjusted (by a watchmaker) to fit the user’s general activity level. For Nadal, chances are it’s in its most conservative setting that allows for the least amount of winding. With a power reserve of about 55 hours, the variable inertia (a lot of “variables” here…) balance wheel operates at a rate of 4Hz, and a double-barrel system aims for greater torc stability and improved long-term performance, though Richard Mille’s release materials do not indicate any specific accuracy claims.
While most (all?) Richard Mille watches for sale seem to be about lightweight, exotic materials; sporty, avant-garde designs; and cutting-edge horology with no financial limit, the Rafael Nadal collection embodies these traits most famously. Since the first Rafael Nadal collection watch, the RM 027 in 2010, the focus has ostensibly been to suit the needs of a professional tennis player during a match (even though a lightweight G-Shock would likely work as well to tell the time and not break, but that is neither mechanical, nor as cool) – and Rafael Nadal does actually wear these watches while playing (see above link)… And yes, he did break quite a few of those early RM 027’s before they could make one that lasted.
For off-court daily wear, the Richard Mille RM 35-02 Rafael Nadal Quartz-TPT watch offers three-hand time-telling, should be light on the wrist, and reasonably sized with dimensions of 49.94 by 44.50 by 13.15mm. The addition of automatic winding is a welcome convenience.