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Richard Mille - One Year, One Watch

Richard Mille One Year, One Watch

2001 : RM 001*


Now the new century had begun in earnest, history could be made in earnest, too. For many people, before it actually became the year in progress, ‘2001’ tended to bring to mind Stanley Kubrick’s exceptional Space Odyssey, released in 1968. The film dealt with space, knowledge, and technology – as well as madness and the unknown. Now, 2001 itself had arrived. It was forever to be remembered for the 9/11 attacks. There will always be a before and after September 11, the deadliest terrorist attack in history – and the first one to be followed live on television worldwide. Everybody remembers where they were on that terrible day. I was at Heathrow, stuck in the British Airways lounge for hours, before finally being able to head back to Paris on a TGV high-speed train. If 2001 is to be summed up in a single word, it must be ‘break’. One dictionary definition of the term is “an interruption of continuity or uniformity”. A break can be both traumatic – and an opportunity. It’s a moment in history for which there’s a ‘before’ and an ‘after’. And since it can thus refer to the passage of time, it’s also a relevant word when it comes to watches. So, which watch best embodies that? First of all, it had to be a new, unexpected piece that provoked extreme reactions. A ‘breaking point’ suggests a degree of violence. That ruled out a simple revamp, or a watch from an ‘old-world’ or established brand. And since there had to be a ‘before’ and an ‘after’, the watch must be a pioneer that paved the way for others: one that redefined and influenced its environment, as well as being able to withstand the test of time. It couldn’t be a one-off; its disruptive effect must have endured. So there we have our selection criteria: a new watch, a new brand, a new design, new materials… and the winner is: the RM 001, the very first Richard Mille.

One Year, One Watch

RM 001 © Richard Mille

Why Richard Mille?

Between 1997 and 2001, startups were popping up all around the globe, with the same aim in mind: to disrupt, break, shatter, and demolish the Old World. They founded their new world, causing structural changes and creating new business models. They were both fascinating and frightening. Between 2000 and 2020, they changed the shape of our daily lives. Richard Mille is a horological embodiment of this startup culture. The keen industrialist founded his business in 1998. Richard Mille became a true startup – in thought and in deed. The small, agile brand pushed back the boundaries of contemporary watchmaking on a niche market. And all this is why it best symbolises the year 2001.

The Richard Mille RM 001 – The Black Monolith

In 2001: A Space Odyssey, the black monolith stands for the progress of knowledge. The RM 001 launched in 2001 is, in its own way, another black monolith, urging us to rethink watches in a new light; disruptive in its entirety. First of all, there’s the tonneau case: raw, aggressive and yet refined. Then there’s its transparency and depth. The RM 001 is a watch you can dive into. The numerals float, the tourbillon ‘breathes’ at the heart of the watch, and the power reserve springs up out of nowhere. And when you turn it over, you can see yet more of the movement. It’s a superb striptease, performed by a terribly sexy watch. Then too, there’s the rubber strap, a new feature for a ‘hyper luxury’ watch; and those revolutionary materials, used here for the first time in watchmaking.

The Richard Mille RM 001 is the opening movement in a symphony conducted by Richard Mille, paving the way for other watchmaking breakthroughs. Stanley Kubrick would have been proud of it.

The take from the devil's advocate 

There’s something seductive in this ability to create a break, and that’s what the Devil likes about RM’s creations. Let me make a confession here. As far as I’m concerned, Richard Mille is a Holy Grail of watchmaking. I’ve never owned one, and that’s probably the thing I resent the most about this watch. With a launch price of €200,000, even today, it remains unaffordable for most collectors. Apart from that minor detail, when all’s said and done the RM 001 is a prototype: a wonderful sketch, but one with defects; these were to be corrected as the 2000s progressed. But that’s another story.

*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.

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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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