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Richard Mille - The RM Factor

Richard Mille The RM Factor

What’s behind a watch like the new Richard Mille RM 07-04 Automatic Sport?

There are a few existential questions (horologically speaking, of course) that are brought up by the new Richard Mille RM 07-04 Automatic Sport. This is the first women’s sports watch made by what is arguably the world’s most desirable luxury watch brand today, especially if you consider factors such as waiting list length and duration, resale value, and market positioning. All these factors are functions of demand versus supply, which is to say they speak directly to the desirability and consumer perception of a luxury brand and its products. 

Others have tried to pierce the veil of mystery that surrounds the runaway success of Richard Mille, to break down and replicate the impact made by this millennial company (founded in 2001). The fact is, any other brand attempting to follow the Richard Mille playbook is setting itself up for disappointment. The unique flashpoint of Richard Mille’s success was very much a result of the right things happening at the right time, due to the visionary and astute leadership of the brand’s eponymous founder, due to the specific nature of the watch business in the early 2000s, due to some unmeasurable quantity of elusive yet essential chance. The beauty of a brand like Richard Mille and of its watches is that they are almost beyond analysis, beyond categorisation, beyond labels. 

The RM Factor

RM 07-04 Automatic Sport © Richard Mille

Compare that with the existing status quo in horology. We like our labels, in watchmaking. Men’s watch, women’s watch, unisex watch, classic watch, contemporary watch, vintage watch, neo-vintage watch, sports watch, dress watch, daily watch, complicated watch, ultra-complicated watch, grail watch, iconic watch, must-have watch, starter watch, celebrity watch, luxury watch, Big Three watch, indie watch, fun watch, technical watch. The thing is, not one of these labels is definitive, or even definable. There are people who purport to know what these labels mean, but as a rule these people tend to lack either or both of the following two things: serious watch knowledge and introspection. The new Richard Mille RM 07-04 has been described as a women’s sports watch, but is that how we should approach it?

What makes a sports watch? For some, it’s an aesthetic. A sports watch looks like something you can wear at the gym, in the pool, on the football field, or in an action movie while you’re plastered in mud, hacking through a Central American rainforest whilst battling bug-faced alien warriors. For others, it’s all about how robust a watch is, whether it can stand up to environmental stresses like water pressure, extreme temperatures and physical shocks.

The RM Factor

RM 07-04 Automatic Sport © Richard Mille

The Richard RM 07-04 is all these things, but it transcends the sports watch label. It is more accurately described as a performance watch. Everything about it is oriented towards high performance, from its case of TPT composite and woven strap with Velcro fastening (for a total watch weight of 36g), to its titanium movement and crown function selector (which eliminates accidental damage to the winding stem, an emblematic and proprietary feature of Richard Mille watches since the 2001 RM 002).

What makes a women’s watch? Once again, most people see this as an aesthetic thing, related to size, colour and decoration. In my observation, however, Richard Mille watches have never conformed to gender labels. Women wear the so-called men’s watches from the brand and vice versa. The Richard Mille watches designated for men are frequently gem-set and come in a wide range of eye-catching colours (the TPT watches especially). The Richard Mille watches designated for women are as technically impressive and innovative as their masculine counterparts. While the RM 07-04 is certainly more restrained in its proportions than some other watches in the collection, Richard Mille’s expertise in lightweight and ultra-slim men’s watches tells us that the correlation between watch dimensions and gender is not as fixed as we think it is. 

The RM Factor

RM 07-04 Automatic Sport © Richard Mille

The way I see it, there is nothing overtly or consciously feminine about the RM 07-04, and on a fundamental level it represents one of the best examples of a luxury watch I can think of. Not because it’s clad in precious materials, not because it boasts traditional high-end finishes — none of that stuff we conventionally associate with luxury watchmaking. If there’s one thing that the last few years has taught us, it’s what true luxury is. True luxury involves choice and the ability to exercise it freely. In context of the RM 07-04, true luxury means that proscriptive labels are no longer imposed on you; no one will presume to tell you what to wear on your wrist, based on what’s in your pants. Ironically, it appears that the acme of luxury is a life with as few labels as possible.

And when it comes to Richard Mille watches, there is only one label that matters — the one on the dial that says “Richard Mille”.


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