Based in Les Breuleux, Switzerland, Richard Mille is known to have taken a different approach to traditional high-end watchmaking from the very beginning; the brand dubs its watches as “racing machines on the wrist”. The designs are proudly bold and brazen, and are made with the clear intention to push technique and design to places never explored before. Richard Mille, the man, has a passion for cars and planes, which is clearly expressed in the tonneau-shaped watches that bear his name.
The concept of visibility is applied to its extremes in a typical Richard Mille timepiece, as the concept defines the form, not the other way around. Every component in a Richard Mille timepiece is non-standard; it is like the company is re-discovering horology one component at a time.
Richard Mille timepieces are original and instantly recognizable. While the brand does make other shapes, tonneau (barrel) shaped cases have become an RM signature. What sets the watches apart is the concept of layering; even the case is composed of curved layers. The result is artisanal, so it isn’t a surprise that most of the watchmaker’s releases are limited editions – and exceedingly pricey.
Read more about how Richard Mille continues to manufacture some of the most coveted and expensive modern luxury watches today.
Jump to a Section:
- History of Richard Mille
- Richard Mille Manufacturing
- Grey Market and Authorized Dealers
- Notable Models
- Notable Owners and Patrons
- Collaborations and Sponsorships
History of Richard Mille
Richard Mille has pursued the most innovative watchmaking designs and highest quality materials ever since its founding. Futuristic and high-tech are both words that are commonly used in reference to Richard Mille and the brand often compares its materials and manufacturing process to that of a Formula 1 race car.
Richard Mille, who is the frontman of the company, was born in France in 1951 and has a marketing background. His first steps in horology were in Besancon, the cradle of French watchmaking. He first worked at Finhor, followed by Yema and then Cupillard Rieme.
In 1992, went on to develop a watchmaking branch for the Mauboussin jeweler. In 1998, he left the Place Vendome jewelry company to set up his own company.
Richard Mille partnered with his friend Dominique Guenat, who was the owner of the Montre Valgine company. With the support of APR&P (Audemars Piguet, Renaud et Papi), Mille and Guenat worked hard to define the identity of their new brand, Richard Mille, drawing inspiration from a common passion for fast cars, aeronautics, and sailing.
- 1999: Richard Mille and Dominique Geunat join forces to create Richard Mille
- 2001: The partners establish HOROMÉTRIE SA, the operating company of the Richard Mille brand,
- 2001: Richard Mille debuts its first watch at Baselworld 2001, the RM 001 Tourbillon
- 2007: Audemars Piguet becomes a 10% shareholder in Richard Mille
- 2013: Richard Mille opens the ProArt I facility to manufacture cases and movement components
- 2019: Richard Mille opens the ProArt II facility to house technical offices, engineers, the R&D team, and the artistic department
Richard Mille presented its first watch in 2001 at Baselworld. The introductory timepiece was the RM001 Tourbillon, and its design left the watch crowd completely dazzled.
Many other RM watches were released over the following years. With the company’s focus on research in new technology and innovative materials, Richard Mille quickly became the new millennium’s wunderkind of horology.
The relationship with Audemars Piguet strengthened over the years, culminating in 2007 with the entry of AP as a 10% shareholder of Richard Mille.
Richard Mille now has over 80 different models in the current collection, all of which are made with the same commitment to quality poured into its first creation.
Richard Mille Watch Manufacturing
Richard Mille’s inspiration often comes from the hardcore shock-resistance concepts that are built into Formula 1 racecars. These values were a big factor when manufacturing the RM 001 and the Richard Mille brand builds each of its timepieces with shock resistance and durability at the forefront of its focus. Richard Mille has even gone as far as to conduct real-life crash tests with a few of the forefront athletes that are in business relationships with Richard Mille.
The philosophy of the brand stems from the marketing experience of Mr. Mille, and is focused on three core principles:
- Providing the best watchmaking technology and materials, with an innovative mindset.
- Creating sculptural, three-dimensional wrist architectures which show the movement.
- Manually finishing every element of the watches.
Richard Mille Production
One of the main reasons that Richard Mille watches are so expensive is that there just aren’t that many out there. The company’s emphasis on quality over quantity results in just 3,000 to 4,000 Richard Mille watches produced every year. According to a Morgan Stanley report on the state of the Swiss watch industry in 2021, Richard Mille joined the billionaire club with estimated revenues of CHF 1.1 billion. The company is ranked as the seventh (in 2020 and 2021) top Swiss watch brand in terms of annual revenue.
The manufacturing process of Richard Mille watches uses a mix of high-tech computer-aided design, cutting-edge machinery, and traditional hand decoration and finishing.
According to Richard Mille, about 80% of its components are built in-house and the company relies on highly specialized suppliers to provide the rest.
Notable Advancements and Innovations
Richard Mille’s innovation has allowed the brand to make technological advancements the likes of which other luxury watch brands have not seen the opportunity. Richard Mille’s advancements in watch accuracy, shock-resistance, as well as lightness of its timepieces have all been aspects of the brand that have allowed it to rise to one of the most in-demand luxury watch brands in the world.
Here are just a few Richard Mille’s innovations:
- RM UP-01 Ferrari: the thinnest mechanical watch in the world
- RM 67-01: Richard Mille’s lightest automatic watch (32 grams)
- RM 62-01: Richard Mille’s first grand complication with tourbillon and vibrating alarm
- RM 38-01 Bubba Watson: features a patented G-sensor that allows the wearer to see the accumulated motion of their golf swing
- RM 27-01: weighing 18.83 grams, it broke the record for the lightest mechanical watch ever made
Materials used in Richard Mille Watches
Richard Mille manufactures watches with materials that brands even outside of the watchmaking industry have little understanding of. The baseplate materials that Richard Mille uses for its watches are the same materials that are normally used in racing boats as well as race cars.
Some of the materials Richard Mille uses to make watches:
- Quartz TPT
- Carbon TPT
- Gold Carbon TPT
- Carbon nanotubes
- Silicon Nitride
- Colored Ceramics
The research and development of new materials is where Richard Mille really shines. For example, Carbon TPT and Quartz TPT are ultra-light and durable composite materials often used to make Richard Mille cases.
There’s also Cermet, which is the brand’s exclusive material that combines ceramic and titanium.
The company also uses strengthened ceramics and sapphire to produce cases, along with more traditional materials such as titanium, gold, and platinum.
The luxury timepieces from Richard Mille are uber-costly. We cannot really find other words to define them. They are in a category of their own, where some watches can cost five times more than what you would pay to buy other luxury watch brands.
As one of the most expensive watches available today, there are plenty of people who want to wear a Richard Mille watch – even if they can’t afford one. More than a few online personalities have been called-out publicly for wearing fake Richard Mille watches.
Some counterfeit Richard Mille watches are obvious with poorly executed cases, sloppy dials, and cheap materials. Unfortunately, better quality fakes can be harder to spot.
Richard Mille Grey Market Prices and Authorized Dealers
Richard Mille Authorized Dealers
However, as is the case with several other luxury watch brands, most Richard Mille boutiques don’t have much stock. It can be quite a sad affair to walk into an authorized store only to be greeted by empty display cases and to be told that your favorite model is completely sold out and there’s no viable waitlist.
Richard Mille Grey Market Prices
The grey market does offer a better choice of Richard Mille watches, complete with older discontinued models, brand new watches, and limited editions too. However, they’re still not that plentiful given Richard Mille’s low production capacity and extreme popularity in the market.
As such, Richard Mille watches typically sell for much higher prices on the secondary market than they were initially sold for at retail. These hyper-luxury watches are collector’s items and their prices reflect that.
Notable Richard Mille Models
Not only do most Richard Mille models develop a cult following but they’re also produced in very limited quantities. However, some models are more popular than others, often because they display some extraordinary features that set them apart from regular production Richard Mille watches.
Richard Mille Felipe Massa
Developed together with the famed Brazilian F1 driver, the Richard Mille Felipe Massa line focuses on lightness. In 2004, the watchmaker launched the RM 006 Tourbillon Felipe Massa, which weighed just 43 grams (excluding the strap).
In 2005, the RM 009 Tourbillon Felipe Massa debuted, setting a world record as the lightest tourbillon ever produced, weighing just 29 grams.
In 2007, Richard Mille added another model dedicated to the driver in the form of the RM 011 Automatic Flyback Chronograph Felipe Massa, available in a range of case materials.
The RM 050 Tourbillon Chronograph Felipe Massa was launched in 2012, featuring a new manual-winding tourbillon and split-seconds chronograph movement, and limited to only ten pieces.
Richard Mille RM 11
One of the most sought-after Richard Mille models is the RM 11, including the “Felipe Massa” flyback chronograph we listed above. The RM 11 flyback chronograph is available in an almost endless array of versions ranging from “subdued” titanium and rose gold variants with black rubber straps to flashier iterations in head-turning colorways.
- 2014: RM 11-02 Automatic Flyback Chronograph Dual Time Zone
- 2013 RM 11-01 Automatic Flyback Chronograph Roberto Mancini
- 2016: RM 11-03 Automatic Flyback Chronograph
- 2017: RM 11-03 Jean Todt 50th Anniversary
- 2018: RM 11-03 Automatic Flyback Chronograph McLaren
- 2020: RM 11-04 Automatic Winding Flyback Chronograph Roberto Mancini
- 2020: RM 11-05 Automatic Winding Flyback Chronograph GMT
Richard Mille Rafael Nadal
The company continued to fight against gravity and improve its record-setting timepieces with the “Rafael Nadal” line. The Rafael Nadal has been developed in cooperation with the tennis player, and (a somewhat unique occurrence with sports timepieces) he actually wears the watches while playing. To resist the incredible shocks that a pro tennis player absorbs into his or her arms and hands, the watch movement has been tested to withstand a force of 10,000 Gs.
The RM 27 is an evolution of the RM 11, incorporating a tourbillon, as well as a construction involving advanced materials for the case.
The first Rafa Richard Mille watch was the RM 027 Tourbillon Rafael Nadal, which weighs less than 20 g (including the strap) and became the lightest watch ever produced at that time. The movement of the timepiece is made from titanium and LITAL, an advanced alloy based on Lithium and used in aeronautics.
The RM 035 Rafael Nadal launched in 2011 as the company’s first Chronofiable-certified timepiece after enduring a battery of tests to ensure that it could withstand extreme conditions.
In 2013, the manually wound RM 27-01 Tourbillon Rafael Nadal watch burst onto the scene, pushing the lightweight concept to the extreme. The record-breaking watch weighs only 18.83 grams including the strap.
Many other Richard Mille Rafael Nadal models followed over the years, each offering improved performance and design:
Rafael Nadal Richard Mille References by Year
|Tourbillon Rafael Nadal
|Automatic Rafael Nadal
|Tourbillon Rafael Nadal
|Manual-Winding Tourbillon Rafael Nadal
|Automatic Winding Rafael Nadal
Richard Mille Dizzy Hands
As strange as it may sound, the watchmaker offers some dress watches, which are among the most affordable of the company. First, they are distinctive because they have round and thin cases (rather than the barrel shape commonly found in the current Richard Mille collection) that are, as is customary of the watchmaker, superbly executed.
While dressier Richard Mille watches are available in several references, the RM 63-01 Automatic Winding Dizzy Hands is particularly notable. It has a fascinating dizzy-hands horological art complication where the sapphire crystal disk that houses the hour markers rotates anti-clockwise slowly after pressing the crown while the hands continue in the traditional clockwise direction.
Richard Mille Round Automatic Extra Flat
Another solid choice for a Richard Mille dress watch is the RM 033 Automatic Winding Extra Flat, the brand’s first extra-flat model. The watch features an ultra-slim case measuring a mere 6.30mm thick – available in red gold, white gold, and titanium. There are some striking variations with diamond-set bezels too.
The RM 33, with its simple and almost understated shape, is quite popular; one of its main attributes is also its more affordable price tag. This two-hander, though, presents an extremely sophisticated look and noteworthy thinness, which makes it suitable for a dressy occasion and having the possibility of tucking it under a shirt cuff.
Of course, despite the round cases, the design is typical Richard Mille: assertive and masculine. If you wanted a Richard Mille as a dress watch, this model would be it.
Notable Owners and Patrons
Richard Mille has always fostered the relation of the company with the sports scene: as such, many of its timepieces bear names of the most prominent contemporary sportsmen and athletes, as well as of assorted musicians, creatives, and actors.
World-renowned tennis star Rafael Nadal has been a proud wearer of Richard Mille watches and Richard Mille manufactured the Rafael Nadal RM 27-02 with the intention of creating a tourbillon that had the durability to withstand the stress of the tennis court while still weighing in at less than 20 grams.
Worldwide golf pro Bubba Watson has worn a Richard Mille timepiece along for his successes since 2010, when he originally teamed up with the brand. Richard Mille uses him much like Rafael Nadal, testing its watches in the extreme stress situations of high-stakes sporting events.
Popular singer and producer Pharrell Williams has been a part of the Richard Mille brand since 2006 and the RM 52-05 model was in honor of his support of the brand. The RM 52-05 Pharrell Williams model sells for $1,000,000 and was limited to 30 timepieces produced worldwide.
Celebrity icon Kanye West was seen as a wearer of the RM-010 which can be found at prices between $150,000 and $250,000 on the grey market.
Rapper and business mogul Jay-Z has been spotted wearing one of the most phenomenal timepieces from the company: a unique piece Blue Sapphire Richard Mille RM56. Presented in 2012, this version’s watch case requires over 1,000 hours to be made. It is entirely made from synthetic sapphire, giving the watch a translucent and ethereal style.
Akash Ambani, the son of the richest man in India Mukesh Ambani, has been spotted wearing a sapphire Richard Mille RM56.
Country music star and American Idol judge, Luke Bryan, seems to have a passion for the Richard Mille brand, particularly the RM63 model. He owns two of them: an RM63-01 “Dizzy Hands” and an RM63-02 “Worldtimer”.
In 2011, Richard Mille teamed up with Malaysian actress Michelle Yeoh to release the Tourbillon RM051, one of the first ladies’ watches of the company. It was limited to just 18 pieces (the actresses’ lucky number) and dedicated to the Phoenix, celebrating courage, willpower, and kindness.
Richard Mille Sponsorships and Collaborations
A winning formula for Richard Mille has been its ability to collaborate with a range of people and establishments. Some of the friends of the brand include:
- Akani Simbine
- Airbus Corporate Jets
- Alain Pros
- Alexis Pinturault
- Arnaud Jerald
- Aurora Straus
- Benjamin Millepied
- Bubba Watson
- Carlos Hank Guerreiro
- Charles Leclerc
- Cristie Kerr
- Desert X
- Diana Luna
- Didier Drogba
- Ester Ledecka
- Felipe Massa
- Fernando Alonso
- Flore Giraud
- Jean Todt
- Jessica Von Bredow-Werndl
- Johannes Thingnes Bo
- John Malkovich
- Louvre Abu Dhabi
- Maria Vicente
- Michelle Yeoh
- Miles Chamley-Watson
- Mutaz Essa Barshim
- Nafi Thiam
- Nelly Korda
- Pablo Mac Donough
- Palais de Tokyo
- Paris Brain Institute
- Paul Ricard Racetrack
- Pharrell Williams
- Pierre Casiraghi
- Polo Club De Chantilly
- Rafael Nadal
- Roberto Mancini
- Romain Grosjean
- Scott Dixon
- Sebastian Korda
- Sebastien Loeb
- Sebastien Ogier
- Simon Pagenaud
- Thomas Roussel
- UAE Team Emirates
- Wayde Van Niekerk
- Yohan Blake
- Young Talent Academy
- Yuliya Levchenko
An established yacht manufacturer based out of Italy, Perini Navi began its partnership with Richard Mille in 2006 when the RM-014 Tourbillon Perini Navi was launched to signify the collaboration. In 2007, Richard Mille released the RM-015 Tourbillon Perini Navi and sailor Ian Williams won the Monsoon Cup while representing Richard Mille’s brand name.
Airbus Corporate Jets
2016 marked the year that Richard Mille began its partnership with jet manufacturer, Airbus Corporate Jets. Richard Mille manufactured the limited-edition RM-50-02 ACJ Tourbillon Split Seconds Chronograph to mark the collaboration between the two brands.
In 2014, Patrick Peter (Peter Auto) collaborated with Richard Mille to support the Chantilly Arts and Elegance Richard Mille which is one of the most well-known automotive contests in the world.
Art Grand Prix
ART Grand Prix is a racing team based out of France that competes in single-seat formula events across Europe. Richard Mille joined Art Grand Prix in 2009 and has been a supporter of the racing team since then.
More on Richard Mille:
RM 72-01: In-Depth With Richard Mille’s Le Mans Classic Watch for Race Centenary
$300,000 Watches: Richard Mille and Beyond
Richard Mille RM028 Mexico Drives Watch
Is Purnell the Next Richard Mille?