To say that the watchmaker Richard Mille is a fan of motor racing is an understatement – he has an enviable collection of Formula 1 cars, is heavily involved with both F1 and Formula E, and describes his audaciously technical watches as ‘racing machines for the wrist’. A watch collaboration with friend and F1 legend Alain Prost would therefore seem an obvious choice, other than the fact that the Frenchmen have designed a watch for a different kind of racing.
Prost is one of the most successful drivers in F1 history, winning the championship four times. Prost won his first three F1 titles in 1985, 1986 and 1989, having duels with Ayrton Senna that rank among the greatest F1 moments ever. In 1991, Prost had a bad year and was sacked from Ferrari at the end of the season after openly criticising team bosses. The next year he took a sabbatical from F1 and his physical therapist– a former competitive cyclist – suggested that riding a bike might help keep him in shape and help him recover from some of the inevitable knocks that affect a sportsman in his late thirties.
Prost took the cycling very seriously and it developed into a lifelong obsession. It also had the desired effect on his rehabilitation, as he came back to F1 in 1993, promptly winning the title again and then retiring as champion with more race wins than any other driver, a record that stood until it was bettered by Michael Schumacher in 2001.
Prost was always known as a very technically aware racing driver, and he takes the same forensic, obsessive approach to bikes that he did to cars. He regularly takes part in amateur races and delights in the tiniest technical details of his bikes, constantly making small adjustments to them himself to improve performance.
Mille was a keen bike rider in his childhood, and then in the last ten years, largely through his friendship with Prost, he has become fascinated with the competitive sport of cycling and the technical leaps that have been made in bike technology. The two men are involved with Formula E together, with Mille a partner in the Renault e.dams team that is co-directed by Prost. Having already collaborated in motor racing, when it came to making a watch, they decided that it should reflect this other shared passion.
After many hours of consultation with Prost, Mille created the RM 70-01, which contains a highly inventive new movement. The Grade-5 titanium curved tonneau case is angled to make it easier to read while holding handlebars, and it features a mechanical mileage counter to measure the distance the wearer has pedalled. As if that doesn’t make it complicated enough, it also features a tourbillon. For most watchmakers, this is a delicate complication that needs to be treated with care, but all Richard Mille watches are made to be worn – which is why you see Rafael Nadal wearing his on court and Mark Cavendish wearing his when he races.
The other thing it has in common with other Richard Mille watches is exclusivity. The Prost watch, designed to be worn on the right wrist and priced in the high six figures, is limited to just 30 pieces – so obsessive cycling fans will need to get on their bikes.
The ultra-lightweight RM 70-01 Tourbillon Alain Prost, £POA; richardmille.com