Inside Wealth

Lost and Found: Nadal's $370,000 Watch

Rafael Nadal celebrates with his trophy after winning the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium, on June 11, 2012 in Paris.
Patrick Kovarik | AFP | Getty Images

Among the many things he is known for, tennis great Rafael Nadal wears what is probably his most expensive watch on the pro tour.

His lightweight Richard Mille timepiece is priced at 300,000 euros, or around $370,000. He’s worn the watch since 2010, and it was strapped to his clay-stained arm as he held aloft his seventh French Open trophy this week.

This morning, however, came news that the watch was stolen. It was allegedly taken from the hotel room where he and his family were staying during the Open. Nadal said he woke up and noticed that the watch was gone.

Apparently, French police work fast — because it’s just been found. Police sources are saying they nabbed a hotel barman who took the watch and hid it along a railway track in the Essonne Area (they traced his security badge). The watch has since been recovered.

This would all be minor news, if the Mille weren’t the most famous watch in tennis — and perhaps in sports.

As my readers recall, Nadal agreed to start wearing the watch as part of a sponsorship agreement with Richard Mille. The details were never disclosed, but it’s unlikely that Nadal actually paid for the watch — instead, offering to wear it on the court to give the company press.

Mille is one of those small-volume, ultralux watch brands that has its image roots in Formula 1 racing and “performance.”

Nadal's watch, which has the macho-luxury name “RMO27,” is made of carbon-composite as well as titanium and Lital, a lithium alloy containing aluminum, copper, magnesium, zirconium, which are often used in lightweight aircraft. It weighs a mere 20 grams.

It also has a complex Tourbillon to insure maximum accuracy. And there were only a limited number made.

In other words, this isn’t your grandpa’s chunky diamond Rolex.

I’m glad the watch is back in the hands of its owner. Partly for justice. But mainly because as a big Nadal fan, I appreciate how much of his success is owed to his obsession with personal routine and repetitive habit.

Losing that trusty 20 grams on his wrist could have been costly — for his game as well as the watch company.

-By CNBC's Robert Frank
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