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Game, set and match: Rafael Nadal and Richard Mille’s latest triumph

The partnership has lasted for a decade, but the connection between tennis player and watchmaker is still going strong.

It wasn’t just a stinging 171kph ace. When Rafael Nadal bested Novak Djokovic in the 2020 French Open final, the win put him on par with Roger Federer. Both of them now have 20 Grand Slam titles to their names. Djokovic has 17. The retired Pete Sampras is fourth on the list with 14 majors.

The titanic battle between the trio has enthralled tennis fans and the world for more than a decade now. Watchmaker Richard Mille didn’t foresee this longevity. It first worked together with Nadal for the 2010 French Open, designing the RM 027 specially for him to wear on the clay courts.

A decade later, Nadal hoisted his 13th French Open trophy with the RM 027-04 visible on his right wrist. The first RM 027, which weighs an astounding 20 grams, is lighter than the fifth and newest generation that comes in at 30 grams (with the strap). But, the RM 027-04 can withstand an incredible 12,000 Gs of accelerative force. It’s a first for Richard Mille.

Rafael Nadal moments after his championship-winning shot. The RM 27-04 is on his right wrist. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Rafael Nadal moments after his championship-winning shot. The RM 27-04 is on his right wrist. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

(Related: Richard Mille opens its first-ever pre-owned watch boutique at Ngee Ann City)

The manually wound tourbillon movement weighs only 3.4 grams and is held in place by a latticework of steel cables inspired by a tennis racket. These cables aren’t just for show; they manage the forces generated by Nadal when he whips a forehand across the net.

I understand the polarising nature of a Richard Mille watch. There are many who cannot understand how it can command the million-dollar price tag while others are skeptical of the garish colours. But I admire the technical sophistication that goes into one and the lengths the watchmaker goes to in pursuit of perfecting a timepiece for the actual physical rigour of sports. Golfer Bubba Watson and racecar driver Romain Grosjean, both of whom are Richard Mille ambassadors, come to mind.

Rafael Nadal, wearing an RM 27-03 on his right wrist, celebrates his win over Dominic Thiem in last year's French Open final. (Photo by MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images)

Rafael Nadal, wearing an RM 27-03 on his right wrist, celebrates his win over Dominic Thiem in last year’s French Open final. (Photo by MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images)

There are only 50 units of the RM 27-04 in the world, each going at just slightly above a cool million. Chances are, they’re probably already sold out, but it doesn’t hurt to try.