An ultra-light high-performance chronograph – dubbed ‘the world’s lightest mechanical watch’ – has been unveiled following a collaboration between Richard Mille, McLaren F1 and engineers at the University of Manchester.
The RM 50-03 watch, weighing just 40 grams, was made using a unique composite incorporating graphene to manufacture a strong but lightweight new case to house the delicate watch mechanism.
The graphene composite known as ‘Graph TPT’ weighs less than previous similar materials used in watchmaking.
The strap of the new watch has also been improved by the addition of graphene material. The rubber of the strap was also injected with graphene which has shown to improve its mechanical properties and its resistance to wear.
Richard Mille said that McLaren was already a pioneer in the application of carbon to F1 cars back in the 1980s, and many aspects of its approach dovetailed nicely. “Via McLaren Applied Technologies, McLaren is deeply involved in research and development beside the automotive industry. This was an opportunity for us to discover the applications of graphene and to apply it for the case of the watch, a world first premiere,” he explained. “The RM 50-03 represents a new approach to the challenges of lightness underlying our watchmaking philosophy.”
Robert Young, Professor of Polymer Science and Technology at the University, said the project with McLaren and Richard Mille involved an investigation into the possibility of incorporating graphene into components in composite watches to enhance performance with the view of saving weight.
“We evaluated the effect of including graphene in both the watch case and strap. We helped in the fabrication of the different components and analysed their microstructures using x-ray computed tomography and Raman spectroscopy, along with a detailed evaluation of their mechanical properties,” he said.
“We have shown that the incorporation of graphene into the watch case can have major implications for improved performance of the component in service and also enable further weight reduction in future designs.”
The watch has been precisely designed and inspired by the wishbone suspension structure of a McLaren-Honda Formula 1 car. Combining the design and materials the casing of the watch has withstood “tremendous” shock damage and survived unscathed in tests, according to Richard Mille.
Graphene is the world’s first two-dimensional material at just one-atom thick. It was first isolated at The University of Manchester in 2004 and has the potential to revolutionise a large number of applications including high-performance composites for the automotive and aerospace industries, as well as flexible, bendable mobile phones and tablets and next-generation energy storage.