Monday 6 February 2017 1:00 pm

When McLaren met Mille: A British F1 legend collaborates with a Swiss watchmaker using material made in Manchester

If you had £996,500, the first thing that springs to mind might be a new house, or a yacht perhaps – but a wristwatch? Surely not? Well, yes, absolutely for sure in the case of 75 collectors, who have already put their name down for a piece of extraordinary technical wizardry unveiled just last week in Geneva.

The so-called “RM 50-03 McLaren F1”, from modern watchmaking’s most pioneering brand, Richard Mille weighs less than 40 grams – including the new strap – making it the lightest-ever mechanical chronograph. How this is achieved (and how that astronomical pricetag is just-about justified) comes down to an entirely new material for the world of watchmaking: Graph TPT™.

It’s more commonly known as graphene, a pure lattice form of carbon first isolated in 2004 at the University of Manchester, which earned Professors Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov the 2010 Nobel Prize for physics. Graphene is six times lighter than steel, and 200 times stronger, which is why Richard Mille’s newfound partner in Formula 1, McLaren is working hard on integrating graphene into their Grand Prix cars. And, of course, how Monsieur Mille had the opportunity to use it for his watches.

It requires something close to a physics PhD to understand the composite materials science going on (and a watchmaking qualification to understand the split-seconds chronograph mechanism in combination with the tumbling tourbillon carriage) but it’s certainly unlike anything on this planet.

If you’re still unconvinced however, your £996,500 could get you seven McLaren 570S’s instead. Your choice.