Watches

R I C HARD MI L L E

Esquire (Singapore) - - Front Page -

When Richard Mille founded his name­sake com­pany in 2000, he could not have known that he would even­tu­ally lead the in­dus­try and set a new def­i­ni­tion of con­tem­po­rary haute hor­logerie. But he did. The lux­ury watch in­dus­try was a very dif­fer­ent place 18 years ago. Haute hor­logerie had only just come out of its in­fancy, fol­low­ing a re­nais­sance in the 1990s.

Con­sumers at that time were reawak­en­ing to the al­lure of lux­ury me­chan­i­cal watches and ma­jor play­ers such as Omega, Cartier, TAG Heuer and of course Rolex dom­i­nated the market. Make no mis­take, each of th­ese are beau­ti­ful brands and sta­tus sym­bols in their own right but while most peo­ple were con­tent with what the market of­fered, Mille felt that the in­dus­try as a whole was missing some­thing—piz­zazz maybe—and so he set out to cre­ate it. At 50 years old, he quit his job and started his own brand.

Mille wasn’t a watch­maker even though he had spent nu­mer­ous years in the lux­ury watch in­dus­try. Cor­re­spond­ingly, his watches looked like noth­ing else on the market. Launched in 2001, the RM 001 was an ex­tra­or­di­nary work of me­chan­i­cal sci­ence. Yet it was not with­out artis­tic beauty. Made of ti­ta­nium and car­bon nanofi­bre, this tour­bil­lon wrist­watch rep­re­sented haute hor­logerie in the fu­ture, or watch­mak­ing 2.0 if you will.

The RM 001 was also the time­piece that Mille fa­mously tossed onto a hard­wood floor with­out bat­ting an eye­lid. His point was ev­i­dent, that a Richard Mille tour­bil­lon was ul­tra-shock re­sis­tant. Whether you see it as a clever mar­ket­ing strat­egy or a gen­uine demon­stra­tion of prod­uct su­pe­ri­or­ity, what’s ir­refutable is that every­body was talk­ing about it, even to this day.

When the in­dus­try de­fined a lux­ury time­piece with pre­cious gold, plat­inum and di­a­monds, Mille saw lux­ury as in­de­struc­tibil­ity. He didn’t like the idea that peo­ple would have to pay hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars on a lux­ury watch that was so frag­ile you couldn’t feel at ease while wear­ing it. Or if a friend asks to see it you hes­i­tate be­cause you’re afraid he’s go­ing to break it.

So in the years that fol­lowed, Mille con­tin­ued to work with state-of-the-art ma­te­ri­als in or­der to cre­ate the next tech­ni­cal break­through. Ex­tremely pas­sion­ate about For­mula One rac­ing, he found this uni­verse to be deeply in­spir­ing for his brand of watch­mak­ing, bor­row­ing from it not only in terms of ma­te­ri­als but also tech­niques. Since day one, he has re­mained true to his horo­log­i­cal vi­sion, which is to fo­cus on in­no­va­tion, strong de­sign iden­tity and no cost con­straints. So while the price point of the av­er­age Richard Mille time­piece is astro­nom­i­cal to say the least, it isn’t sim­ply a re­flec­tion of pres­tige, but rather, the ex­tent of tech­ni­cal in­no­va­tion that went into its mak­ing.

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