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by Iain Treloar
September 1, 2020
Photography by Gruber Images
As one of the superstars of the sport, Julian Alaphilippe is used to the finer things. He races a US$12,000 bike, can snap his fingers and get as much laminate flooring as he can dream of, and has all the alcohol-free beer he can stomach.
But there’s one detail on his left wrist at the Tour de France that puts all of that in the shade: the French superstar is racing wearing a watch priced at a modest US$120,500 (AU$163,500).
The timepiece, a Richard Mille RM 67-02, weighs in at 32 grams and features carbon composite and titanium components. Richard Mille touts the 67-02’s sporting credentials on its website as “thin, lightweight, coloured, elegant and athletic … the RM 67-02 is the watch for any situation” … if your situation is having a lot of money and a hankering for a precision-engineered, slightly cartoonish watch.
Image: Richard Mille.
As a watch designed to “be adapted to various sporting disciplines”, you might assume that the 67-02 tracks heart rate or fatigue or other smartwatch-y features. You’d be wrong. Despite a spec list including a white gold rotor, titanium cogs, and “Calibre CRMA7 skeletonised automatic-winding movement”, it’s just a very fancy analog watch.
It’s unusual for professional cyclists to race with watches, luxury or otherwise, as they can easily be damaged in crashes, add a tiny bit of extra weight, and ever so slightly increase wind resistance. Those factors evidently don’t bother Alaphilippe, who lost Milan-San Remo by half a wheel to Wout van Aert this year. The Frenchman bounced back for an emotional win on the second stage of this year’s Tour de France, taking the yellow jersey with it.
Richard Mille – the brand and the bloke – has a long relationship with the sport of cycling. Mark Cavendish – not racing the Tour de France this year – is such a fan of high-end watches that he was overcome with emotion when meeting Mille at the 2016 Tour. “He was in tears when I went to see him on the starting line and kept telling me ‘I can’t believe it’,” Mille alleges. “For us, it’s important to find people with whom the connection is genuine, so the sincerity of our relationship increases every year, every time we meet.”
Cavendish joined Bahrain-McLaren in 2020, with Richard Mille also coming on board as a team sponsor; the brand’s logo wraps around the arms of the riders in a blue block. At the Tour de France, the Bahrain-McLaren squad is also racing wearing Richard Mille watches, although a slightly chunkier model than that sported by Alaphilippe.
The nature of Alaphilippe’s relationship with Richard Mille is unknown, although the Deceuninck-QuickStep star has posted on social media a couple of times in the past about having met Mille. Alaphilippe received the watch back in June, and has worn it at all races since, although for the Tour he’s changed out the strap from red to a royal blue that matches his team colours nicely.
Now Alaphilippe’s sporting the maillot jaune, Richard Mille is doubtless hard at work in a hermetically sealed Swiss laboratory, scrambling to produce a yellow band that’ll probably cost as much as a car.