The eponymous brand of advanced, high-tech, luxury watches known as Richard Mille was founded just around the turn of the 21st century. With the first watch making its debut in 2001, Richard Mille SA celebrates its 15th anniversary this year. Over the course of a decade and a half, the Richard Mille brand has launched a host of world first watches with highly regarded materials and movements. Additionally, the brand is the first to sign on sports brand ambassadors who wear their timepieces during their competitions. Recently, Richard Mille, founder and CEO, shared his thoughts on the brand and the market with us in an exclusive interview.
Q: Many of your watches offer sleek, bold appeal that seem to be inspired by cars – your other passion. What came first, your passion for cars or watches?
RM: “I think they have a common thread throughout my life and I can’t say which came first because I think both those loves were developing all at the same time. When I think of a new watch, I think of a design that inspires me and that design is often from one of the cars in my collection. The same is true as I evolve a line. For instances, if you take a Porsche 911 from the 1960’s or ‘70’s and look at how it has evolved, it still has the same spirit and philosophy but the look is different. I work a lot like that. I adapt my lines but they have the same DNA. My watches are so much inspired by cars and so there is almost an osmosis of two of the best possible worlds-. It is a great balance of performance, design and other intense parameters.”
Q: When you sign on a brand ambassador, is it a requirement that they wear your watches during play or competition?
RM: “Yes it is compulsory that they wear our watches. This is why we don’t work with basketball players for instance because they are part of team that won’t let them wear the watch. Sometimes, the sports star may be unsure if he wants to wear a watch, like Wayde (Van Niekerk), who wanted no metal or anything on his wrist. But then he wore our watch and set a world record with it, so now it is like a good luck piece. It is compulsory for them to wear a watch because in this way, we can prove the durability and reliability of the brand in a way no one else can. Of course, I also choose ambassadors not only based on their agreeability to wear the watch, but also based on their personalities. My ambassadors are very nice human beings. And I always work long term, plan for the ups and the downs. Sometimes when you work with a player and he has a broken arm or leg- you can do nothing, but you have to stay with them and show your support. By doing this I also let my clients know that we are there for the long term, through good and bad. And the customers think, too, if the brand is loyal with these partners, then they will be loyal with clients.”
Q: With so much downturn in the economy these days, how is the Richard Mille SA business?
RM: “Last year we made about 3,200 pieces and this year, hopefully, we will do between 3,600 and 3,700 pieces. This is where I want to be. You know, I will tell you this. I am a creator, I love to create, but I also love the business side much more than anyone knows. For me, I design a watch that fulfills a dream, a concept, but I also have to think about what I am designing for and if it works for the world. For instance, I don’t use high-tech materials or ultra-light materials just to say I did it. There has to be a reason. I a love materials but I am not compulsive with them. I will use only if they fulfill a purpose such as being totally anti-allergic, ultra rugged and durable, or super lightweight. We do a lot of allergy tests and aging tests because a watch of our price must be able t o live a hundred years or more. This is what I want for my line and for the people who buy my watches.”