Founder, CEO and creator of Richard Mille watches
Horologist richard mille marries rigorous professional exactitude with an enjoyment and appreciation of the finest things in life, qualities he shares with the 40 young achievers we feature in the following pages.
The man behind Richard Mille, the technically sophisticated watch brand that bears his name, is a phenomenon who has helped redefine the face of contemporary luxury watches, developing ultra-high-end timepieces that command prices other watchmakers cannot.
To understand how Richard Mille the brand made such an indelible mark in the luxury watch industry, one needs first to look at the philosophy and lifestyle of its founder.
Born and raised in the town of Draguignan in southern France, Mille travelled to Britain at the age of 20, where he spent a year learning English. He was then admitted to the Besançon School of Technology to study marketing. In 1974, he joined the French watchmaking company Finhor and later became director of export for all wristwatch brands within the group after it was taken over by the industrial and aerospace conglomerate Matra.
In the 1990s, Richard Mille joined Mauboussin, a French luxury brand, and soon became president of its watchmaking division and CEO of the jewellery division. His new position allowed him to become directly involved in the creative process of watchmaking and brought him in contact with a network of leading Swiss watchmovement craftsmen.
Although these experiences were priceless, Mille felt his creativity was limited by corporate constraints such as production costs and brand strategies. At the age of 50, he therefore decided to create his own brand, with the idea of pushing watchmaking beyond anything that existed at the time, and with a new, 21st-century approach to horology as his main objective.
It was a risky bet. Mille was planning to develop one product only — the watch of his dreams and with no regard for production costs. When that watch — the RM 001 — was released in 2001, its €200,000 price placed the fledgling brand at the summit of the luxury-timepiece market. Inevitably orders would flow, but on the watch’s release it nonetheless became an immediate success, with hundreds of orders confirmed.
Today, more than 17 years later, the brand has joined a handful of famous names at the pinnacle of watchmaking, its success irrefutable. The Richard Mille collection now comprises more than 70 timepieces, each designed and produced with the same passion and uncompromising principles that guided the brand’s first pieces.
Since the beginning, Mille has adopted a guiding philosophy: no matter how outrageous or exotic a material or technology might be, for it to be part of a Richard Mille timepiece it must have purpose and demonstrate an authentic improvement over the norm.
For Mille there’s no apology for being the most expensive or avant garde, just so long as each decision, complication, movement, design, material or brand ambassador is there for an understandable reason. Excess is utterly appropriate, so long as it aids the objective of being better than the rest — even if it takes a specialist to determine that.
Mille today is the living embodiment of the type of person he designs watches for — an individual who’s confident, bold, successful and wealthy enough to live a life of relative leisure while travelling, and enjoying fine cars and cuisine. Someone who’s a natural success and has successfully adapted to that lifestyle. It’s a fitting description of the people who wear his watches — just like the 40 young movers and shakers you are about to meet.