R I C HARD MI L L E
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.