Richard Mille One-Ups Rolex With Their Own $500,000 Le Mans Watch

The battle of the very expensive chronographs...

Richard Mille One-Ups Rolex With Their Own $500,000 Le Mans Watch

Image: Richard Mille

Richard Mille couldn’t let Rolex have all the fun celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, with the famed high-end watchmaker also unveiling a limited-edition version of one of their most popular watches upon the famous race’s centenary.

Since its launch in 2001, Richard Mille has always been closely associated with motorsport – indeed, the brand’s watches have long been described as “supercars for the wrist”. Richard Mille also sponsors many motorsports teams, including McLaren and Ferrari in the Formula 1 World Championship.

They’re also a Ferrari sponsor in Le Mans. In fact, a Richard Mille logo was emblazoned on the AF Corse No. 51 Ferrari 499P that won this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, Ferrari’s first win at the famous endurance race since 1965 and their first factory-supported entry in the top category since 1973.

It’s also the 100th anniversary of the famous race, as well as the 11th instalment of the Le Mans Classic, of which Richard Mille is again a major sponsor. You see where this is headed. To celebrate all of this, Richard Mille has produced a limited-edition iteration of its RM 72-01 Flyback Chronograph called the RM 72-01 Le Mans Classic.

As it happens, rival brand Rolex also released a limited-edition take on the Daytona to celebrate Le Mans’ centenary… But (as much as this is sacrilegious to say), I actually prefer Richard Mille’s Le Mans watch.

The RM 72-01 LMC’s subdial pattern is very cool.
The RM 72-01 LMC’s in-house CRMC1 movement in all its glory.

First of all, check out that awesome colour scheme. Crafted from a combination of green and white Quartz TPT – a carbon fibre-esque material Richard Mille has pioneered – the RM 72-01 LMC’s colour scheme pays homage to the iconic Circuit de la Sarthe, as well as evokes a chequered flag. That motif is continued on the skeletonised dial, with both the date marker and a special Le Mans Classic logo featuring chequered flag designs.

Other visual touches, like how the 16 on the chronograph’s hour counter is underlined in red (a nod to the traditional start time of the endurance race) or the eye-catching stacked subdial layout really elevate the RM 72-01 LMC. It’s a beautiful watch.

It’s also impressive under the hood. The in-house CRMC1 movement that powers the RM 72-01 LMC features a clutch-like system that disengages the display and the connection to the minutes and hours from the chronograph’s seconds wheel once the chronograph is engaged, which reduces wear on the movement and ensures that the chronograph doesn’t compromise the watch’s essential time-telling function.

Another cool touch is that, like a car’s gearbox, a function indicator makes it possible to identify the winding, neutral and hand-setting positions as the crown is pulled out. It’s like shifting your watch into gear.

WATCH Ferrari F1 driver Charles Leclerc chase down thieves who stole his Richard Mille in his 488 Pista below.

But why do I like this RM so much? Well, Rolex’s Le Mans Daytona is a lovely watch, but it’s made out of white gold – which might be luxurious, but it’s not very practical or sporty. In comparison, Quartz TPT (which is extremely light, extremely tough and extremely high-tech) is a much more fitting material for a motorsports watch, in my opinion. There’s a reason Richard Milles are perhaps the only mechanical watches that top-flight race car drivers wear when they’re in the car.

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What I find harder to swallow is the price of the RM 72-01 LMC: limited to 150 units, it costs a whopping $335,000 USD (~$500,000 AUD). That’s over six times more expensive than the Rolex, or almost the same price as a Ferrari 296 GTB. Still, a man can dream… Find out more about this crazy watch at Richard Mille’s online boutique here.