Richard Mille is an unorthodox brand. Founded in 1999 they are incredibly young and yet an ever increasing number of people consider them the ultimate watchmaker. They also remain some of the hardest watches to understand, simply because they defy rational thinking on so many levels. Then again approaching RM with rationality is devoid of everything that makes them so good.
With a brand named after himself, it is clear that the timepieces he creates will be just as unique as the man himself, and unique is the right word to describe Mr. Mille.
One of his interests is automotive racing, among others the mother of all car races, Formula 1. Next to the personal passion of driving his own vintage F1 cars the Formula 1 industry has proven a great inspiration for the brand. The result is a 10-year deal with McLaren, the first product of which we saw in their latest flagship model, the RM 50-03, which sports a mind-blowingly light tourbillon split second chronograph movement weighing only 7 grams. The connection to extreme sports, however, runs much deeper than branding and design. The Mille watches are always careful to integrate something into every watch which gives it a unique DNA, and it is with this kind of thinking that it suddenly seems only logical to have a suspended movement modelled on a McLaren Honda F1 car.
Despite some models however looking more like a villain’s high-tech gadget rather than an actual watch, the result is something surprisingly wearable. This is because behind all the dramatically sounding materials used and the complex trial and error phase each watch goes through is the goal to create a watch Mr. Mille describes himself as “efficient and relentless, no gimmick, no glamour.” A representative for this is the case design, which provides an insight on a micro level on what makes the brand so unique. Inspired by a personal interest in aviation, automobiles and design, the result is something brand new, setting itself apart from the competition by virtue of a design which is both functional and iconic.
Now, of course, no discussion about Richard Mille watches would be complete without talking about the price, as after all, they seem to be the main conversation point if you would believe the internet. Where the uninitiated however see the price tags as bragging rights for the super-rich, Mille sees a sheer endless field of creativity and options. When asked about the price Mr. Mille has a simple explanation; high production costs and low output. To add some numbers to this statement, consider this; a kilogram of RM titanium screws cost more than 20 million to make, and where Patek Phillippe is considered exclusive at an annual production of 50,000, RM produces merely around 4,000 pieces a year.
And then there is another facet to the price placing RM into a league of their own. No one else creates such crazy pieces because no one else goes through the research and testing which required for the foundation of this brand. This creates a monopoly in which Mille can comfortably develop his masterpieces outside the normal tribulations that the watch industry is currently going through.
Dreamers are a rarity in a world which becomes smaller by the day. At 50 years of age, Mr. Mille made his dream come true by creating the watches he felt no one else dared to create: the product of a perfectionist left dissatisfied by a lifetime in the watch industry.
The watches are an anomaly. On paper, they make little sense, heck, even when wearing them there is no denying that a 6 figure watch which comes with a Velcro strap is crazy by any scale. And while people can argue as much as they want about the prices or the choice of material they use, what they can’t argue with is that the whole watch world would be a bit less wonderful, if it weren’t for Richard Mille watches.
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