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Formula One driver Kimi Raikkonen sheds his icy reserve to talk timepieces

The racing legend shares candidly about his collaboration with Richard Mille.

Before meeting famously chilly Formula One driver Kimi Raikkonen for a group interview a few days before the Singapore Grand Prix (GP) in September, I was unsure about what to expect. After all, the F1 legend – who has clocked more than 300 races, 103 podium finishes and 21 wins in 18 years of racing – is known as the Iceman, thanks to his well-documented monosyllabic interview answers.

So, it was a pleasant surprise to find the Finnish driver in a relatively good – dare we say, even chatty – mood during the 15-minute session, which was hosted by Swiss luxury watch brand Richard Mille. Wearing the new RM 50-04 Tourbillon Split-Seconds Chronograph Kimi Raikkonen on the day of its global launch, the Alfa Romeo Racing Team driver answered with a smile – and a bluntness rare in watch ambassadors – when asked what he liked about the ultra-lightweight timepiece: “I’ve been in teams that worked with different watch brands, but I’ve never really been a guy who wears a watch, because they always felt uncomfortable and they never appealed to me.

 

Richard Mille Luxury Watch-10

The RM 50-04 Tourbillon Split-Seconds Chronograph Kimi Raikkonen.

 

“I was a bit sceptical when we first signed the deal – I thought, ‘Oh, it’s another watch brand.’ But once I got my watch, I was so surprised because I didn’t even notice I had it on. It’s a great-looking watch and it doesn’t weigh anything, so for me, it’s perfect.”

Having turned 40 last month, Raikkonen is the rare driver who is 40 and above and still active in the 2000s. Even though younger drivers dominate the spotlight, the father of two is far from done: Just last October, he won the US GP as part of the Scuderia Ferrari team. With his consistently demonstrated talent and longevity, and yes, even with – or perhaps especially because of – his unwillingness to play the PR game, he remains one of F1’s most popular stars, with 1.7 million followers on Instagram.

As with all sportsmen though, he’s had his ups and downs. At the Singapore GP, a collision with another car forced him to drop out of the race, more than three-quarters into it. But one gets the feeling that Raikkonen doesn’t spend too much time dwelling on what’s past. At one point, he muses: “I’ve been very blessed that I’ve been able to race with guys like [Michael] Schumacher and [Mika] Hakkinen. I’m here today, and I have two kids and a lovely wife. I’ve always done what I’ve felt is right for me. I wouldn’t change anything that I’ve done, even the not-so-good things. It’s all part of learning.”

(Related: Richard Mille and Pharrell Williams take us to Mars with the RM 52-05 Tourbillon)

 

Light years ahead

What sets the RM 50-04 Tourbillon Split-Seconds Chronograph Kimi Raikkonen apart from the competition?

Movement: Seven grams. That’s less than the weight of two sheets of A4 paper. It’s also the weight of the split-seconds chronograph tourbillon movement that powers the RM 50-04. This is made possible through the use of ultra-light materials, including titanium and Carbon TPT, as well as skeletonisation that removes every bit of excess material.

Dial: Paying tribute to the Alfa Romeo C38 car, the watch features several accents in racing red. The colour adds oomph to the Carbon TPT flange, the chronograph counters, the power-reserve, torque and function indicators.

Resistance: The construction of this watch gives it a stunning impact resistance of 5,000 g, more than sufficient to stand up to the g-forces that F1 drivers experience (up to 6 g while cornering). We asked Raikkonen if he wears the watch while driving. His answer: “Sometimes, but not always.” Fair enough.

Numbers: A number “7”, referencing Raikkonen’s competition number, further cements this watch as a tribute to the renowned racer. This special edition is limited to just 30 pieces, and was first revealed to the world here in Singapore on September 18.

Case: Alfa Romeo’s C38 race car inspired the RM 50-04’s colours. The bezel and caseback are made of white Quartz TPT, which has a layered appearance because it comprises 600 layers of ultra- fine silicon fibres – we’re talking 45 microns, or the thickness of a strand of hair – that is saturated in a white resin and then heated. The result is light, tough and resistant to UV light and high temperatures. The case middle is made of Carbon TPT, made of carbon fibres that go through a similar process.

(Related: All you need to know about the RM 25-01 timepiece Sylvester Stallone created for Richard Mille)