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As tennis star Rafa Nadal took to the court Tuesday for the start of the French Open, he had a new good luck charm around his wrist: an $775,000 watch made from a space-age quartz material and built to withstand 5,000 Gs of g-force.
Richard Mille, the favorite cult watch of the super rich, announced over the weekend that it's launching a new watch for Nadal called the RM 27-02. Mille has been a sponsor of Nadal's for five years, and Nadal wears Mille watches—known for their super light weight and advanced materials—in all of his matches.
But the latest Nadal watch is so advanced and complex it borders on engineering insanity. Like its predecessors, the RM 27-02 is a mechanical tourbillon, which is almost unheard of in a sports watch. But to adapt to Nadal's whiplash style of tennis and crushing power, the new watch can also withstand 5,000 Gs of force, compared to 88 Gs for the original Nadal watch.
The case is now even harder and lighter, thanks to a new construction technique and new materials. Rather than making the caseband and baseplate as two pieces, Mille created the first "skeletonized" baseplate that was inspired by the chassis of race cars and fuses the two components together.
Mille's engineers also used a new material for the watch, working with North Thin Ply Technology, the company that makes composites for space exploration and Formula 1 racing. The new material is known as TPT Quartz and is composed of hundreds of layers of quartz piled on top of each other and fused together with silica heated to 250 degrees.
The watch also contains grade 5 titanium and a sapphire crystal.
For all of its technical wizardry, however, the new RM 27-02 is also a work of visual art, with its black and silver skeletal insides, its switchblade-like hands and bright red winder.
"On this watch, we gave a lot of attention to the finishes," Mille said at the watch launch Saturday. "The movement you see here is a pure marvel; it's a step forward in terms of watchmaking expertise, even though it has a lot of shock resistance. We gave a lot of attention to the beauty of the finish because we are top watchmakers, and for us, it is very important to do this."
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Given that Nadal won his first match of the tournament Tuesday morning, tennis fans will likely be seeing a lot more of the watch at Roland Garros over the coming week as Nadal tries for a record 10th French Open title.
(UPDATE: This story was updated Wednesday after Richard Mille released a U.S. price for the watch. When it was originally published the price cited was the European price converted into U.S. dollars.)