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Richard Mille - Interview of Alexandre Mille

Richard Mille Interview of Alexandre Mille

Alexandre Mille in a few questions

It's the 20th anniversary of the Richard Mille brand; what would you wish it in this unusual year?
We have just relocated our Paris offices. We were starting to be too cramped in the premises we had been occupying, so we have now moved into an entirely renovated and very beautiful mansion, where we can work in the best possible conditions. Together with the teams, we are well aware of just how far we have come in just 20 years! My wish for the brand is thus to pursue this path! My father's vision has become a reality over the last two decades. Most of what he had planned has come to fruition: extremely controlled growth in terms of production and sales, the transformation of distribution, the creation of our 42 boutiques, etc. There is every reason for this to continue, since he is still very much on the scene as a leader and the main outlines of the scenario for the next ten years are already in place.

The RM 72-01 arrived on the markets last October; what do you see as its key assets?
It was our first in-house chronograph movement, housed in the heart of a watch featuring lifestyle-driven aesthetic codes. We are increasingly opening up to new universes such as art and culture in the widest sense of the terms. The launch of this new model was accompanied by two of our partners who both excel in their respective arts. Benjamin Millepied and Thomas Roussel collaborated to create an artistic film highlighting this model featuring elegant and sophisticated design intended for both men and women. Even through the flyback chronograph function is a complication previously reserved for the collection’s sports watches, it makes an excellent match with this lifestyle model. Witness its particular appeal to youthful customers and women, which pleasantly surprised us.

Interview d'Alexandre Mille

RM 72-01 Lifestyle In-house Chronograph © Richard Mille

Tell us about your career to date in the family business and your current functions.
Before joining the family business, I took a degree in law and political science, and then went to film school, specializing in directing. I subsequently worked for a subcontractor of the brand who was in charge of producing the films that we broadcast during the SIHH. After that, in 2014, my father asked me to develop the video division within the brand. This enabled me to become familiar with the complexity of our mechanisms, since my role was to design video tutorials to help train sales teams, particularly on the most complex models such as the RM 039 Tourbillon Chronograph Aviation. I also filmed the watchmakers and developments within the Richard Mille workshops in Les Breuleux, a process enabling me to develop a close relationship with the production teams. I further enriched this video library by filming our partners such as Rafael Nadal, Bubba Watson and the McLaren F1 team as I travelled to cover the Richard Mille universe until 2017. It was then that our distributor for the Americas and associate of the brand, John Simonian, offered me the opportunity to come and work with him in the United States, in Los Angeles.

What aspects of your American experience made the deepest impression on you?
I learned a lot in the field, in the stores, meeting customers as well as the sales teams. I was in charge of training the latter in Richard Mille boutiques across the US. The job involved a lot of traveling with John, and every evening for three years we had a debriefing session, often followed by dinner. This taught me a lot  about inventory management, distribution and human resources, and how to best support salespeople. This experience has served me well in my current position, which involves overseeing management and sales at the brand's head office in Paris since 2019.

Richard Mille was close to the 5,000 watches a year mark, do you think you will be able to pass this milestone again in 2021?
2020 should have been a pivotal year for us, because in 2019 we had in fact produced almost 5,000 watches, but the two-month closure of the factory in 2020 due to the international health crisis put a damper on the prospect of exceeding this symbolic figure. We might conceivably do so this year, although we naturally cannot expect to continue achieving 15% annual growth. In addition, we have done a substantial amount of work on these 5,000 timepieces by giving the collection more coherence and reducing the number of references – always naturally guided by the wish to always satisfy our customers.

 

Interview d'Alexandre Mille

RM 07-01 Automatic Starry Night © Richard Mille

How would you define the typical Richard Mille customer today?
There isn't really a "typical customer", as our client base is very diverse. In Asia, we have customers aged 15 who choose their own watches, whether or not they are paid for by their parents. We naturally also have older customers, many of whom have become friends and share an appreciation of the family-driven and extremely human nature of the brand. They enjoy keeping in touch with our teams, with the whole Richard Mille family, and we ourselves try to learn from them. Six of the founders' children work in the company! People are impressed by our “tribal” side, as well as the fact that we keep our feet firmly on the ground – because we are only making watches after all! (chuckles) Sometimes customers come to the office just for a friendly visit and a chat. We cultivate a sense of closeness and accessibility. Everybody loves each other and it's very tough for us at the moment not to be able see each other, as we form a real family.

 

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