The Design Group based within McLaren Applied Technologies is renowned for its expertise in data-driven design and extreme engineering fusion, and is responsible for delivering strategy, innovation and commercialisation through design thinking. We collaborate with other engineers, strategists and business leaders within the group, as well as partners to deliver high-performance, intelligent and highly desirable products and services.
In this blog, our design engineer, Broderick Coburn shares his experience of working with ultra-luxury watch brand, Richard Mille.
We’re presented with challenges from businesses and partners regularly, but there was one challenge which particularly excited me when it landed on my desk towards the end of last year.
Richard Mille, the luxury Swiss watch brand, challenged us to improve the mechanical performance of what was then - a watch design in progress, by enhancing their current material systems – an application for which graphene seemed an obvious candidate.
Through the use of graphene, the thinnest, lightest, and strongest material available to man - we were able to design the world’s lightest tourbillon split-seconds chronograph – the RM 50-03 McLaren F1.
Graphene is a 2D material consisting of single layer of carbon atoms tightly bonded in a hexagonal lattice, first isolated in 2004 at the University of Manchester. It exhibits many unusual and desirable properties and its potential for a wide range of applications is huge.
To improve the mechanical properties, allowing reductions in weight, Richard Mille turned to Applied Technologies’ Design Group, with our expertise in data driven design and extreme engineering fusion.
We formed a small working group which included myself representing Applied Technologies; Bob Young, Bennie Li and James Baker from the National Graphene Institute (NGI) based at The University of Manchester; and Aurèle Vuilleumier, R&D engineer from Richard Mille.
We all met at the NGI to brainstorm potential applications for the inclusion of graphene into the RM 50-03. After exploring all possibilities, we decided our target components would be the carbon fibre composite case (bezel and caseback), for improvements in various mechanical properties, and rubber strap, for enhanced wear and tear resistance.
Beyond initial scoping and test plan development, my role in the project was to perform the material characterisation. Graphene enhanced composite specimens, representing the material to be used in the case, and graphene enhanced straps were subject to various tests at the McLaren Technology Centre. As an example, tensile testing, where we pull the specimens apart to determine directional strength and stiffness, was performed.
The end product not only looks stunning, but is a world first, and weighing less than 40g, is a marvel of engineering. While the level of technology and engineering within McLaren is well known, I was amazed at the precision engineering performed by Richard Mille to produce their timepieces.
This type of exciting project is one of the main reasons why I chose to join McLaren Applied Technologies. Aside from the projects, the atmosphere and culture in the Design Group is relaxed but focused. It consists of talented and passionate people who are committed to using their expertise to create quality products and services. We’re all working on a variety of fascinating projects, but we always bounce ideas off each other and share ideas that could improve our projects.