Richard Mille On the piste with (but mainly without...) Alexis Pinturault
Alexis Pinturault, 2019 skiing world champion in Alpine combined, is very cool and very quick. He is also a kind of living laboratory for Richard Mille, whose watches he wears, and – not infrequently – breaks.
Courchevel, early April 2019, 2000 m altitude. The temperature is -7°C, and 20 cm of snow has fallen overnight. It’s still snowing quite heavily, and I’m starting to wonder if I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. I’ve just been told that Alexis Pinturault’s teammates in the French national squad have given him the nickname “The Beast”. But, at 180 cm tall and 80 kilos, he doesn’t look much like a monster. However, while I’ve only seen him fully clothed, I’ve glimpsed enough thigh to easily imagine him pulling off a 20-minute wall sit – without a wall. After a gentle first descent we head back up the lift to an altitude of 2700 metres. In Courchevel, “Pintu” is completely at home. His family own a hotel near the Altiport – the high-altitude airfield – which is where he started skiing. The first time he ventured down the slalom run, the instructor trying to train there soon felt his irritation turn to appreciation. As well as being the current world number two, world champion in Alpine Combined in 2016, 2017 and 2019, and something of a local hero, Alexis Pinturault is also a thoroughly nice guy.
Alexis Pinturault in the ski room, preparing for a spot of leisure skiing © David Chokron/WorldTempus
We reach the top of the first run, and reality bites. I’ve barely angled my skis downhill and Pinturault is already 20 metres ahead. His Sunday skis are dedicated racing machines, and his turns don’t seem to slow him down at all. That’s when he turns at all... His head appears to remain perfectly motionless, despite the ups and downs of the terrain. Hidden beneath the powder, his legs are doing all the work. At least, I assume they are – he makes it look ridiculously easy. The only person who seems to have little trouble keeping up is Tim Malachart, marketing director for Richard Mille, who organised this “ski clinic” for a small group of journalists.
Powder? What powder? © Renaud Corlouër
It’s an opportunity to highlight some of the brand’s founding principles. The company’s ambassadors are always elite competitors in their chosen sport, but they are selected because of their personal affinity with the brand. Some have a dedicated watch that bears their name, while others have their own model in one of the current collections. But they all wear their watches while doing their sport. For Richard Mille, sponsorship is not just about communication, it’s also about development. These athletes wear their watches in real-life situations, during training, but also in competition where the sporting rules allow. High-level sport serves as the ultimate quality assurance for Richard Mille’s product development teams, as Alexis Pinturault explains.
What is the watch you’re wearing?
It’s an RM67-02 in my own colours, in white quartz TPT. It’s important for it to be light. And it also has to be robust, because I wear it in training.
The RM 67-02 that Alexis Pinturault wears both on and off the piste © David Chokron/WorldTempus
Have you ever broken it?
Yes, several times! One time the strap gave way. Another time the crown popped out after I hit a gate during training. But every time I come back with a broken watch, the people at Richard Mille seem quite pleased. It helps them to improve their product.
How important to you is your equipment?
It’s essential. The season has just finished, and I’m already testing equipment for next year. I have a ski technician at Head and we go through everything together. Skis, bindings, poles, tuning, boots. When skiers take a season or more off, they lose track of how equipment has improved. And there’s no turning back the clock.
What do you think is the difference between a competitor and a champion?
Dedication. On the circuit, it’s clear that some people are 100% committed; winning is all they think about. Others take it easier, they go out, they don’t train as hard, or as systematically. To reach the top, you have to give it everything you’ve got. All the time.
What else do you need, apart from discipline?
Support. Some people have an entourage of five or six people. Coach, physical trainer, equipment technician, physio, assistant. It makes all the difference, when you don’t have to carry all 12 pairs of skis, eight pairs of boots and your luggage. When you don’t have to drive your own van from resort to resort during the season. It also means you can go to the southern hemisphere in the summer to continue training. But all that comes down to financial resources and sponsors.
Is Richard Mille a good sponsor?
I always choose my partners according to the human factor. It’s less about maximising revenues, and much more about loyalty. For example, I’m in the second year of my second three-year contract with Richard Mille. And I have no intention of switching!
Richard Mille did not simply try to find his place in the watchmaking world – he carved one out for himself, constantly striving not to take anything for granted, and to make innovation and extreme technical prowess his driving forces.Find out more >
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