Talking with Yohan Blake on Richard, Racing, and the Resolve of ‘The Beast’!

Jan 23, 2013,14:19 PM

[La Bête et la Belle: the “Beast” takes on Richard with the RM059]

At this year’s SIHH Richard debuted the RM059 Yohan Blake. Much speculation preceded this year’s SIHH with what the new Yohan Blake watch would look like. Not the one that was worn at the Olympic Games in the summer (although I will come back to that); no, the one that would be a limited edition and be individual to Yohan Blake, his tastes, his style, his watch. The watch that Blake wore at the Games, and that caused furor, was basically an adapted RM038. I had seen the computer-generated mock-ups of the RM059 back in September 2012, and as seems to happen most of the time at the moment, there was quick dismissal on my part. I remember a similar reaction to the white RM038; but I ended up as a fan and still think it’s a genius watch.

[It was a Yohan Blake/Jamaica themed booth at SIHH in 2013]

But the colour scheme for the RM59 was even more extreme, even more telling and the bridges for the watch resembled the ‘clawing’ action of Blake’s hands before the 100m and 200m finals. But it’s a strange thing, seeing a watch for yourself, and actually wearing it. Only then do you know if it is a watch you would wear, would want. There is no substitute for seeing and feeling the watch for yourself. Trying the watch on, I loved the way it seemed to mold to the wrist, become part of my arm. And as trite as this sounds, a friend of mine said: “It’s the Ben10 watch!” and he’s right! He’s right, not just on the colour, but because of the way the watch seemingly molds to your wrist (just as it does for Ben10).

The man who will actually be wearing it racing, and who influenced the design, was on hand to discuss the watch. It was a genuine pleasure to sit down with Yohan Blake and talk about watches and other areas of life now that he is a Richard Mille ambassador. Yohan Blake, who at the moment is only JUST the second fastest man on the planet (I might add that Yohan was quick to state that he was soon to be the fastest man), is quiet and unassuming and who is truly dedicated to his sport. It was not always the case that Yohan thought he would be a sprinter. Like any self-respecting Jamaican boy, he wanted to be a cricketer, and then perhaps an actor. But he shifted from cricket to athletics after the headmaster of his local school saw the speed of his run-up for bowling and advised him to change. The acting career might yet be, but he found that his sporting talents lay elsewhere: on the athletics track and in the fastest (self-powered) human race on the planet. Yohan was a born racing machine.

[The furor as Yohan Blake entered the Richard Mille booth at SIHH. With Richard Mille and Laurent Picciotto]

Blake found out he was fast, and for his age, faster than any other human on the planet. He still holds the national junior record for 100 metres and is also the youngest sprinter to ever run under the 10-second barrier. Hence, when asked in 2008 who might challenge him, Usain Bolt said that Blake would because: “He works like a beast. He’s there with me step for step in training.” The nickname: the “Beast”, stuck and Yohan Blake has used it to good effect.

[From left to right: Richard, Yohan, Debbie Gourdon, and Laurent Picciotto]

Yohan came to prominence in winning the 100 metre World Championship title in 2011. He remains the youngest to hold the title as well. Although a certain other Jamaican sprinter was disqualified, Blake proved a point by beating his team-mates at the Jamaican sprint trials in the Olympic year. It is true that Blake has come to form during a ‘Golden Age’ for Jamaican sprinting. Not only do the 3 out of 5 of the world’s top sprinters come from the small Caribbean island, but on current form (and it showed in the 4 x 100m relay final at the Olympic games) they would out run any other county on earth. I asked Yohan whether he thought the squad could go faster and without a moments’ hesitation he answered in the affirmative.

Racing is what Yohan Blake does and I suppose it was natural that Richard at some point, looking for new arenas in which to compete, would turn to a sprinter to wear one of his watches. That Richard did it in such a dramatic fashion was typical of the man. While timing at the London 2012 Olympic Games may have been exclusively the preserve of Omega, and it was also a requirement of the Games that no athlete was allowed to endorse a brand while the games were being held (and up to three days after), Richard gave Yohan a watch to wear. No advertising or endorsement by Blake. But the Richard Mille watch design is so iconic, it was immediately spotted and the world’s media did the rest. With the toys firmly thrown out of pram, Omega went to the IOC, who complained, but Richard was firmly within the rules and within the bounds of permissible action.

If anyone knows the importance of time and making every second count, it is surely the man that can run under 10 metres a second. The 100 metres as a race is more complex than it looks. It might look like a frantic rush across the track, but it is also about technique to get the maximum out of yourself. But broken down, there are nuances where knowledge of technique will govern the win or loss come the finish line. At the start, there is the importance of driving from the blocks, weight down, only rising fully as you near the 20 metre mark. The next 50 metres, the sprinters will hit top speed. The final 30 metres, de-acceleration sets in and often the 100 metre race will be won or lost on who can maintain their speed most effectively to the finish line.

Blake still wears the same watch he wore in the Olympic final. He wears it everyday, training and racing. I asked if it made a difference and if he felt the watch on his wrist. He said no. He is so concentrated and focused on the race, on that finish line a short time away, that the watch is not noticed. However, it seems appropriate that Yohan Blake would wear a Swiss watch. His fastest recorded time is from the meeting at Lausanne last August ; and the Swiss do like their athletics. I asked if it was difficult to train when in Geneva and it being so cold outside the hotel. No was the answer, its not the cold; what makes it difficult to train is trying to go for a run when every 50 metres or so someone stops you for an autograph and a photograph!

Still, it was something to see: to see Yohan try on the finished RM059 for the first time. I asked to photograph Yohan Blake with the new watch on his wrist. This was the first time he had actually seen it; tried it on. And then, something that almost all of us (including yours truly) would do: he puts the watch on his wrist, takes out his mobile phone, and takes pictures of it to send to friends and family. I have to smile. Here is the man with the watch that has his name on it, and like any of us, just has to share it with others.

I asked if he planned to send the photo to his less fortunate countrymen that might have to wear a sponsors’ lesser watch. Yohan laughed and said yes, he would receive the picture and perhaps that there would be a slight envious feeling from the world’s fastest man (soon to be second fastest as Yohan pointed out). When Blake returned to Jamaica from the Olympics, Richard Mille watches became a household name and everyone wanted to see the watch. When he returns this time, with the RM059, Blake is sure the curiosity will be even more intense.

When asked about the Olympic final watch now that the RM059 is ready, I was told that later on this year, the watch that is part of Olympic history (and showed how corporate the Olympic Games have become) will be auctioned off. I think that there will also be some provenance to go with it in terms of documentation. Despite some wealthy individuals in Jamaica (and beyond) making offers for the watch, it is Yohan Blake’s wish (and Richard’s for that matter) that the watch be auctioned off to provide funds for Blake’s own foundation and charity: “YB Afraid to Dream” ( Growing up in poverty, Blake wants to give something back, to give others the chance that he was fortunate to receive. The money will go for the underprivileged children to help support their education, their well-being, the promotion of opportunities for their future. The auction will be sometime this summer, and Yohan Blake hopes that generous watch enthusiasts will step forward to bid.

The RM059 was a collaborative effort between Richard and Yohan. Yohan had talked to Richard about the design and colouring elements that he wanted to see. And from there, and in Yohan’s own words: “Richard used his design genius to come up with a number of possible designs. “ Together, they worked on honing down to the one design that really worked for both.

The first thing that strikes you about the watch is the colour. Obviously the colour composition of the watch mirrors the colours found on the Jamaican flag. The case is a composite injected with the same carbon nanotubes that are used in the carbon casing. Only in this instance Richard has found a way to colour back the composite material. I personally like the material and the effect of the carbon nanotubes. The effect for the watch is the same ultra-light and ultra-strong case that Nadal has for his watch. The visual effect is a jelly like substance that molds or melds to the wrist.

The case is asymmetric. Although there was talk around SIHH of an aerodynamic shape, I think the design was more to accommodate the unusual bridge design than anything else. The (four) bridges fan out in a ‘claw’ like fashion that mimics Blake’s hands when he is performing his ‘Beast’ impression before the start of the race. The green and yellow colour bridges are actually made from an alloy composed in part from aluminum, magnesium, silicon and lead. The bridges and the plates holding the gear train are integral to the movement. The whole structure is then screwed into the case mid-section. As ever, the tourbillon movement is finished to Richard’s exacting standards. There is still the highest of haute horologerie.

Would I buy the watch? Well, now I have seen it, yes I think I would! It is so very different, so very funky. It will be noticed when Yohan races with it this summer and it would be noticed on anyone’s wrist. As a racing machine for the wrist; it is on the wrist of the (very soon) world’s fastest human racing machine.

Andrew H



This message has been edited by 219 on 2013-01-23 14:19:47

This message has been edited by AnthonyTsai on 2013-01-23 15:10:33 This message has been edited by 219 on 2013-01-24 01:48:12 This message has been edited by 219 on 2013-01-24 02:00:27 This message has been edited by AnthonyTsai on 2013-02-05 20:34:11

More posts: RM038RM061-01Yohan Blake

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Comments: view entire thread


Because I'm fat, I'm also slow.

 By: dr.kol : January 23rd, 2013-14:58
If I buy this funny watch, will I start running faster? Best, Kari

Great read Andrew and thanks for the insights into the design of this Yohan Blake RM watch

 By: AnthonyTsai : January 23rd, 2013-15:06
I like the look of this jelly looking composite case. Hope we see more of them in the future! Cheers, Anthony

Thanks AT. Visually, the case is something different

 By: 219 : January 24th, 2013-01:36
and I liked it. Different and yet still haute horologerie. Definitely RIchard! Andrew H

Great post..

 By: milenium : January 23rd, 2013-15:22
Lovely post Andrew as always! It's a bold watch, but I'm sure a beauty to behold in the flesh! I would love to wear it on a sunny day in California!

Completely agree. The exact perfect environment for this

 By: 219 : January 24th, 2013-01:38
watch. Thanks for reading. Andrew H

Great Post Andrew

 By: cisco : January 24th, 2013-00:33
You underline the very human part of it and I like the post, as for the watch, I think it reflects the person, young, talented, funky, a cool guy. Explained like that, I accept it more. But as I am not cool at all :D , I still have difficulties with these... 

Thanks and yes! The watch is designed for the

 By: 219 : January 24th, 2013-01:40
ambassador in mind and in this instance it was designed with the help and input from Yohan Blake. On the wrist, loved the feel and look of the wrist. If you have the readies, it is a great summer watch! Will get to the new Nadal soon - as soon as time all... 

I love this watch! Sure everyone might say it looks like a toy

 By: Rei : January 24th, 2013-07:38
not worth the money, it's not something everyone would relate to or recognize...bla bla bla Who cares? I'd place an order straight away if I could. Bravo RM!

Interesting materials...

 By: patrick_y : January 24th, 2013-17:10
Interesting materials and now I see the bridges are for the "Beast" shape of his hands... And the case composite material is crazy strange. Definitely a strange watch that continues the Richard Mille line of racing watches.

From Yohan Blake's Twitter page. He went up to Les Breuleux to

 By: 219 : January 25th, 2013-06:21
see his watch being made. :large Cool shot! Andrew H

Great shot!

 By: milenium : January 25th, 2013-08:56
I actually think the 59 looks great on a black strap as well. It tames it down a little! The RM Ginza site had posted these great photos on their report page from SIHH 2013. I hope they don't mind me posting but these are great! RM59 RM27-01 RM56-01 What ...  

not my photo's

 By: milenium : January 29th, 2013-09:21
Hi Andrew, Sorry these weren't my photo's, just thought they were so great I wanted to post. These from the RM Ginza report page. I wish I could have attended the show. Maybe next year!

The RM desk... my best souvenir of the SIHH!

 By: foversta : January 26th, 2013-14:08
I hope that a Yohann Blake II will be released next year! ;) Thanks a lot Andrew for your report. The Blake is really a strange watch but at least, it creates a lot of emotions which is positive. Fx ...  

I ended up really liking it. So very different, but

 By: 219 : January 28th, 2013-13:48
a beautiful tourbillon movement and a watch made to take knocks. You should see the punishment the current 'Olympic' YB RM has taken. Yet, keeps time perfectly. Glad you enjoyed being at the RM booth! Andrew H

I'm sure it would be mine, too. ;)

 By: marcelo : February 8th, 2013-14:42
Hard to tell which one is more beautiful! ...  

awesome post and a great read..

 By: ocwatching : January 30th, 2013-12:44
When I first saw the press photos from SIHH, I (like many others I am sure) was turned off by the color scheme. However, the more I read (your excellent post) and see live photos, I find this piece ingenious. It will certainly elicit response (which is di...