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With his hands furiously working the steering-wheel of an 875hp Peugeot 208 as it scorched up Colorado’s Pikes Peak hill climb last summer in a record eight minutes, 13 seconds, it is unlikely that Sébastien Loeb, nine-times World Rally champion, had much opportunity to check the time.
But that has not stopped Richard Mille creating a $625,000 limited edition wristwatch in the driver’s honour. As well as displaying the hour of the day, it serves as a wrist-mounted G-force meter to gauge how hard the wearer’s body is being accelerated, slowed down or shoved sideways in extreme situations.
Some might say the watch is nothing more than a gimmick, but it is widely accepted that the world of haute horlogerie has become less about the anodyne business of timekeeping and more about the demonstration of technical prowess.
In that regard, the RM 36-01 Tourbillon Competition G-Sensor Sébastien Loeb is undeniably impressive.
The rotary G-sensor might be a mere 17mm in diameter, but it contains 50 components and can display forces of up to 6G through a moving weight connected to a needle, which oscillates between a green zone (for mild force) and a red zone (critical). The direction in which the force is to be measured can be set by turning the brown ceramic bezel, with the display being instantly reset with a prod of the button protruding from the centre of the dial.
The eye-watering price of the RM 36-01 is further accounted for by the fact that its case band is made from an anthracite polymer (a form of carbon fibre) injected with carbon nanotubes – microscopically small tubes made from a web of rolled graphene sheet, which is exceptionally strong and rigid.
The back, movement baseplate and bridge screws, meanwhile, are made from grade five titanium and the dial is hewn from sapphire crystal.
Indeed, the engineering that has gone into this watch almost rivals that of Mr Loeb’s record-breaking Peugeot. The manual winding movement features a tourbillon escapement, 70 hours of power reserve, a shock-resisting free-sprung balance wheel and a modular time-setting mechanism that is separate from the main movement for ease of maintenance.
Even the winding crown is special, featuring a “gate” system similar to that of a car’s gear lever, with different positions for winding, hand-setting and “neutral”.
But if you have the inclination to own an RM 36-01 – and you have the necessary cash – you will probably have to drive as fast as Mr Loeb to get one, as just 30 are being made.