rm 35-03

Photos: Richard Mille

In the world of competitive sports, watch sponsorships are common. But it is rare to see a sports ambassador wear the watches they endorse while competing — unless said timepieces are by ultra-premium horology brand Richard Mille.

In fact, one of Richard Mille’s most well-known ambassadors, tennis superstar Rafael Nadal, did not even wear a watch when he first met the brand’s eponymous founder in 2008. Wearing a watch while playing a hard-hitting match? That would have been even more unthinkable.

Except, of course, Richard Mille himself eventually managed to convince Nadal. Working closely with Nadal, Richard Mille developed the RM 27 Tourbillon Rafael Nadal, the world’s lightest tourbillon timepiece. This pioneering watch was unveiled in 2010.

Thanks to high-tech, lightweight materials and innovative construction, the RM 27 weighed less than 20g while standing up to the jarring forces of high-level tennis — as proven by Nadal, who wore these watches while playing (and often winning) matches.

rm 35-03
RM 35-03 Automatic Rafael Nadal in Carbon TPT. (Photo: Richard Mille)

Since then, several other timepieces have emerged from this partnership. Aside from the RM 27 editions, the other key Rafa-inspired model is the RM 35, which the brand calls the “Baby Nadal”. While the RM 35 models do not have a tourbillon, they possess all the elements of rugged performance associated with the Nadal watches. In fact, the RM 35-03 Automatic Rafael Nadal is distinguished by one technical feature that is exclusive to it — a butterfly rotor.

The RM 35-02 — an earlier iteration in the RM 35 range — featured Richard Mille’s signature variable-geometry rotor, which can be optimised to suit the wearer’s activity level. While this feature has to be adjusted by a watchmaker, the butterfly rotor, which is used in the RMAL2 movement powering the RM 35-03, puts the ability to adjust the rotor’s geometry in the wearer’s own hands.

rm 35-03
Back view of the RM 35-03 showing the RMAL2 movement. (Photo: Richard Mille)

In default mode, the two titanium, wedge-shaped segments of the butterfly rotor are combined to form a semi-circle — that is, the shape of a typical rotor. However, pressing the “Sports Mode” button at 7 o’clock causes the two segments to separate so that they directly face each other in a shape reminiscent of a butterfly’s wings.

In this position, the self-winding process is suspended, allowing the wearer to engage in a sporting activity without causing the watch to be excessively wound. As part of this mechanism, an On/Off indicator at 6 o’clock shows whether the rotor is active (On).

rm 35-03
The RMAL2 movement shows the butterfly rotor in its open position when the watch is put in Sports Mode. (Photo: Richard Mille)

The function selector is another familiar, motorsport-inspired feature on the RM 35-03. Controlled by a pusher at 2 o’clock, it enables the owner to toggle between winding, neutral or time-setting modes. The lightweight, high-tech cases of the RM 35-03 complement all these sporty elements. The latest RM 35-03 iteration sees its 43.15 by 49.95 by 13.15mm case crafted from Carbon TPT, a carbon composite.

This new edition joins existing ones in white Quartz TPT and Carbon TPT, and blue Quartz TPT and white Quartz TPT; both were introduced in 2021. These timepieces can stylishly stand up to the stresses of competitive sports — or simply, everyday life.