six different price segments: masstige, universal luxury, luxe, prestige heritage, independent and uber luxury. Masstige (mass and prestige) includes brands such as Hamilton and TAG Heuer, with average prices between 1,000 and 3,000 Swiss francs. Universal luxury covers brands like Rolex, Omega and Cartier; Luxe is a step up again incorporating names like Hublot and Corum. Prestige heritage is the label given to artisan companies such as Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin and Urwerk and MB&F’s kooky designs fall under the independent segment.
Then – then – you have the ‘uber luxury’ bracket with prices upwards of 120,000 Swiss francs. Richard Mille sits comfortably here. Reassuringly expensive, as the Stella Artois marketing machine would have it.
become a symbol of the elite. Each of the 60 or so models – all limited runs with Richard Mille closely involved in the design – are instantly recognisable. Sometimes too much so, as Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov discovered when flashing his RM 52-01 at his wedding this summer.
But what lies behind the price tag? What sets Richard Mille watches a cut above the rest? Plaza Watch was invited to the boutique factory – which is too insufficient a word to describe the gleaming, unruffled, small-scale artisan workshop I was to discover – in Switzerland to peek behind the curtain.
The brand is formally headquartered in Paris, but it is the small and tranquil village of Les Breuleux in the district of Jura where Mille wonders are forged by a generation’s worth of Swiss timesmiths. Breitling, Corum, Girard-Perregaux, Rolex, Patek Philippe, TAG Heuer and Tissot form some of the Richard Mille neighbourhood. Watch Valley, as it’s known, is a cluster of similar villages in