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20th Anniversary
Richard Mille - Richard Mille

Richard Mille Richard Mille

Founder*

With an immediatly successful brand, launched in 2001 and featuring a radically different style, Richard Mille embodies the triumph of contemporary haute horlogerie. “I owe a lot to Audemars Piguet for having provided all their development resources, as well as to my friend Dominique Guenat, who set up the first Manufacture.” The first RM should have been unveiled in 2000, but there was a delay with the legendary torque sensor, commissioned from Renaud & Papi, so the launch had to be postponed for one year. Mille gave fine watchmaking a new face, basing his breakthrough concept on three pillars: the best in innovation and research; a liveable watch (very lightweight and easy-to-wear, featuring useful functions and highly resistant materials); and a brand reputation cemented by the most extreme hand finishing, for which expense was no object. “I was drawn to the idea of placing two contradictory worlds in osmosis: putting all things infinitely complex and delicate alongside everyday-wear reality, bringing fine watchmaking closer to the ethos of sport, lifestyle, and art for both men and women,” he once said.

Richard Mille

Richard Mille © Richard Mille

Richard Mille has sought to be successful in every niche, with the brand expressing itself in multiple ways so as to be meaningful and appealing to a highly segmented clientele with limitless enthusiasm for the brand’s output; devotees who feel they are establishing an art collection. Each new watch adds its own special contribution, as illustrated in the partnership between Richard Mille and Philippe Starck, with whom he produced two one-of-a-kind timepieces for Only Watch in 2005 and 2007. Mille is very much into the technical side of things, letting loose his unbridled creativity on many different levels in the automotive segment, turbocharged in particular by his partnership with Felipe Massa in 2004. In 2008, in the midst of the financial crisis, “rather paradoxically, we really took off, and moved into a new orbit”. Doors continued to open. In 2010, his young partner, Rafael Nadal, won Roland Garros wearing a RM 027 on his wrist, weighing 19g! “The picture was everywhere.” In 2013, Mille turned down a buyout proposal from Kering. Production, which has gradually increased to over 4,000 watches a year, is sold through the brand’s 45 outlets. So far, no segment has reached its limit, and there are plenty of unexplored markets out there still. Some things remain the same, though: just as in the beginning, together with his associates Dave Tan, John Simonian, and Peter Harrison (each of whom is now in charge of a world region), “Richard Mille is a friend thing”.

*On the occasion of GMT Magazine and WorldTempus' 20th anniversary, we have embarked on the ambitious project of summarising the last 20 years in watchmaking in The Millennium Watch Book, a big, beautifully laid out coffee table book. This article is an extract. The Millennium Watch Book is available on www.the-watch-book.com, in French and English, with a 10% discount if you use the following code: WT2021.

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The brand

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.

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