The name, Yusaku Maezawa may not be one that is all too familiar to us. However, in his home country of Japan, the man is quite the — as the kids say these days — BFD (big f**king deal). Maezawa is the billionaire entrepreneur and mastermind behind the largest online clothing retailer in the land of the rising sun, Zozo Inc. He founded the entity in 2004 and exited in 2019 having sold off 50.1% of the company to SoftBank and a further 30% of his personal stake in the company to Yahoo Japan.
In 2021 he’s making headlines again in a way that’s seen his notoriety skyrocket to a level that is out of this world — quite literally. While planning his exit from Zozo Inc. earlier in 2018, Maezawa had already bought out all of the seats on the first trip around the moon with Elon Musk’s SpaceX. The flight is scheduled for 2023, for which Maezawa has announced that he plans to bring eight artists along.
But Maezawa has, himself, already been to space now by the time you’re reading this. On December 8, 2021 Maezawa along with his production assistant Yozo Hirano and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Misurkinon blasted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome on the Soyuz 2.1, a carrier rocket with the Soyuz MS-20 spacecraft, for a 12-day stay onboard the International Space Station (ISS).
During their time there Hirano took charge of documenting everything that Maezawa experienced on board the ISS. From the mundane of how Maezawa slept in space to how he made himself a cup of tea. You can find all of these published as short videos on Maezawa’s popular YouTube channel.
Of all the videos published, there is a 25 second segment within the one from December 16 that has particularly caught the attention of the watch collecting community. You see over the course of time that Yusaku Maezawa has been in the lime light, he’s been photographed wearing some excellent timepieces. These include the 18.83 gram Richard Mille RM 27-01 Tourbillon Rafael Nadal, which he was photographed with after having paid a record price in 2017 for Jean Michel-Basquiat’s Untitled (1982) and a diamond indexed Patek Philippe perpetual calendar chronograph (most likely a 3970EP) that he wore at the press conference he held to announce the fate of Zozo Inc. in 2019 — just to help draw a picture of the man as a watch buyer.
On the occasion of Maezawa’s launch to the ISS, it was your friendly neighbourhood watchspotter, Nick Gould (aka @niccoloy), who noticed the unmistakeable silhouette of Richard Mille’s tonneau case tucked under Maezawa’s sleeve. Later as more photographs emerged from the pre-launch preparation and press session, it became abundantly clear that the watch was, in fact, the RM 27-02 Tourbillon Rafael Nadal. Interestingly, strapped to his left arm over his suit was also a Speedmaster on a velcro strap.
In the aforementioned 25-second segment of the video published on December 16, Maezawa makes mention of this very RM 27-02 as he casually unfastens it from his wrist while speaking in Japanese saying, “Other things I brought with me… Oh this watch! This is a timepiece from Richard Mille. Rafael Nadal, the tennis player, is famous for wearing this. Extremely light, but you may not see how light it is because it’s [in] zero gravity.” He says all this, while his RM 27-02 is afloat in front of him.
But, why is any of this a big deal?
Reason 1: Because It’s the First Richard Mille in Space
It was Gould who highlighted first that this is the first instance of a Richard Mille to have gone past the grips of gravity, to live in space and aboard the ISS for 12 days.
Reason 2: Because It’s the First Tourbillon in Space
This is also the first instance of a tourbillon timepiece to have gone to space since Abraham-Louis Breguet invented and patented the tourbillon in 1801. Again, it was Gould who put forward that this is the first time that the regulating organ that was invented to counter the effects of gravity, has been subject to the zero gravity of space. And this with a watch that Richard Mille says weighs well under 20 grams on Earth and is designed to be able to withstand impacts of up to 5,000 Gs.
The irony of it isn’t lost on any one of us, we can assure you, that it doesn’t matter how little a watch weighs on terra firma, it will weigh a total of zero grams, in zero gravity. But to witness a USD 800,000 timepiece, strapped to an orange sports strap, carelessly hovering within the confines of the ISS is a first unlike any we could’ve ever anticipated.
Reason 3: Because This Was Not a PR Stunt By Richard Mille
In the present day Social Media fuelled landscape of all things, watch collectors are quite unmoved when the community points out how someone of notoriety happened to be wearing some cool watch at some cool event, or very simply on a grocery run. The reason there being that most of these are instances of watches that are there because the person in question has some sort of formal ambassadorship agreement. Very rare is the case these days when the watch photographed on a celebrity or important individual’s wrist is there because they genuinely collect and wear their watches.
So when a pioneering space tourist brings his beloved wristwatch on his adventure to the ISS and takes time to speak about it briefly, and it just happens to be one of a 50-piece limited edition from one of the most prolific watchmaking entities of the 21st century, it’s hard not to call it a pretty BFD.