Section 1 - History
Richard Mille is one of the latest and greatest interpreters of the “nouvelle vague” in watchmaking and pushes horology to its technological and aesthetic limits.
And shows this kind of determination from the very beginning: the watchmaker dubs its watches as “racing machines on the wrist”.
The designs are bold, brazen and evident, and are made with the clear intention to push technique and design forward, to places never explored before.
It is rather evident that Richard Mille has a passion for cars and planes based on the tonneau-shaped watches he designs.
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, working at Finhor, and after that, Yema and Cupillard Rieme.
In 1992 he then left to develop a watchmaking branch for the Mauboussin jeweler.
In 1998, he left the Place Vendhome jewelry company to set up his own company together with Dominique Guenat, owner of the Montre Valgine company, and with the support of APR&P (Audemars Piguet, Renaud et Papi), they worked hard to define the identity of the new brand, drawing inspiration from their common passion of fast cars, aeronautics and sailing, and presenting their first collection in 2001 at Baselworld.
Their introductory timepiece was the RM001 Tourbillon, and its design left the watch crowd completely dazzled. Many others came out in the following years, focusing on research in new technology and innovative materials, quickly making the company the wunderkind of horology of the Noughties.
The relation with Audemars Piguet has strengthened during the years, culminating in 2007 with the entry of AP as a shareholder and the joining of the Foundation de la Haute Horlogerie.
Apart from this, the company remains independent and relies on a proprietary network of subcontractors for the manufacture of the elements of its timepieces. It operates its global distribution through 85 stores worldwide.
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.
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 round. As such, every component in a Richard Mille timepiece is non-standard.
It is like the company is re-discovering horology one component at a time.
As such, the timepieces of the watchmaker are quite original and instantly recognizable.
The typical tonneau case has become a sort of signature, even if there are some watches that have different shapes. More, what sets them apart is the concept of layering.
Most Richard Mille timepieces show the concept of layering in action - that is, even the case is composed of different curved layers perfectly juxtaposed.
As this result is almost artisanal, it isn’t a surprise that most releases of the watchmaker are Limited Editions. 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.
Section 2 - Iconic pieces
1 - Sports watches
There is little to discover about the “iconicity” of a Richard Mille watch: every one of them is an icon, and most of them are available only in very limited quantities.
However, there are a few more “popular” models, as well as some which, apart from the usual characteristics of the brand, display some extraordinary features which set them apart even from the regular Richard Mille production.
The “Felipe Massa” is one such line. Developed together with the F1 pilot, this line of watches was focused on lightness.
In 2004, the watchmaker launched the RM06 Felipe Massa Tourbillon, which weighed just 48 grams (excluding the strap), and in 2005, it bettered itself with the RM09 Felipe Massa Tourbillon, setting a world record with 29 grams.
But this was not the end of the run.
The company continued to fight against gravity and improve its record-setting timepieces with the “Rafael Nadal” line.
In 2007, the record was reduced to 20 grams with the RM27 Rafael Nadal.
The movement of the timepiece is made from titanium and LITAL®, an advanced alloy based on Lithium and used in aeronautics.
And in 2013, the manually wound RM27-01 Rafael Nadal Tourbillon watch pushed the concept to the extreme, with a final weight of only 18.83 grams.
In 2017, Richard Mille released the RM50-03 McLaren F1, the lightest rattrappante chronograph in the world, with just 38 grams.
The RM18 Tourbillon “Hommage a Boucheron” is instead different: here the wheel train - which is clearly visible through the skeletonized movement - is made in semi-precious stone discs bordered with a rim of high-tech metal.
2 - Dress watches
As strange as it may sound, the watchmaker offers some dress watches (available in several references as for its components and finishings) - which are among the most affordable of the company. They are the RM33 Extra Flat Automatic and the RM63-01 “Dizzy Hands”. First, they are distinctive between the current Richard Mille production, because they are round and thin, with a case that, as customary in the products of the watchmaker, is superbly executed.
Of course, their design reveals that they are the typical Richard Mille: they look assertive, with a definitely masculine look, but if you wanted a Richard Mille as a dress watch, these models would be it.
The Dizzy Hands, which has a fascinating complication of horological art, the so-called “suspension of time” is also available as a world timer with the RM63-02 reference.
Section 3 - News
During the 2018 SIHH in Geneva, Richard Mille, along with its stakeholder Audemars Piguet, has announced that it will not participate anymore to the show, citing “different brand distribution strategies”. And it does not come out as a surprise the fact that the company looks instead to the East and to the West.
A proof is that during the same year, in October, the company opened its largest store in New York, a stately, impressive architecture featuring a 10 meters tall facade composed of 24 different glass panels illustrating the tourbillon movement of the RM008.
As for the East, the watchmaker has shown its interest in the Far East for a long time. For example, a cooperation with the Malaysian actress Michelle Yeoh has culminated in 2011 with the release of the Tourbillon RM051, one of the first ladies watches of the company, in just 18 pieces (the lucky number of the actress). As for the Chinese symbolism, the RM51 is dedicated to the Phoenix, celebrating courage, willpower, and kindness.
Section 4 - Gossip/Style
Sept 2018 - The rapper and producer star Jay-Z was spotted wearing one of the most phenomenal timepieces from the company: a unique piece Blue Sapphire Richard Mille RM56. Presented in 2012, this version watch case requires over 1000 hours to be made. It is entirely made in synthetic sapphire, giving the watch a translucent aspect which makes it ethereal.
As limited edition as it is the “stock” model, with its $1.65 million list price, this version is one-of-one.
Dec 2018 - Akash Ambani, the son to the richest man in India, Mukesh Ambani, was spotted wearing a (regular) Sapphire Richard Mille RM56.
To explain how rich this means, in 2007 Ambani gifted his wife a $60 million dollar Airbus A319 for her 44th birthday. Yes - this means a commercial airliner.
The plane has a capacity of 180 passengers and has been personalized so to include a living room, a bedroom, a satellite television, a sky bar, a jacuzzi, and an office.
Mar 2019 - Between the most famous Richard Mille wearers, we have to note Luke Bryan, whose collection we have covered in-depth in this article.
The country music star and American Idol judge seems to have a passion for the Richard Mille brand, and especially, for the RM63 model, as he owns two - an RM63-01 “Dizzy Hands” and an RM63-02 “Worldtimer”.
Section 5 – Current Most Popular Models
As the production of the watchmaker lies in the order of the few thousand pieces per year, around 4,000 in 2017, many of which are in limited edition, it comes as a consequence that the most popular models are the ones which are continuing to be manufactured through the years after their first launch on the market.
Between the most sought after, we find the RM08, and especially, the RM11, that is, the “Felipe Massa” flyback chronograph, which has been released by the company in an almost endless array of versions. You would find it in mode “subdued” versions with a titanium or a rose gold case and black rubber strap down to more sports-inspired ones in flashy colors, between which the orange and black McLaren edition is one of the most popular.
A version of the RM11 with a blue case is known as the “Jean Todt”, and another, a rose gold case with a green wristband, is known as the “Roberto Mancini”.
The RM27 “Rafael Nadal” is also another classic of the watchmaker. It is an evolution of the RM11 and incorporates a tourbillon as well as a construction involving advanced materials for the case. The most advanced specimen, the RM27-03, features an extra-light case and a movement made with advanced quartz, carbon nanotube, and titanium elements.
The Rafael Nadal has been developed in cooperation with the tennis player, and - a somewhat unique case in sports timepieces - he actually used to wear it while playing. To resist the amazing solicitations that a pro tennis player induces in its watch, the movement has been tested so to withstand a force of 10,000 Gs - which is a pretty unique feat. As is it's very gaudy livery in yellow and red - quite difficult to miss it.
The RM33, with its simple and almost understated shape, is also quite popular - one of its main attributes is also the more affordable price tag. This two-hander, though, presents an extremely sophisticated look and noteworthy thinness, just 6.3 mm, which makes it suitable for a dressy occasion, while having the possibility of sliding under the cuffs of the shirt.
This wearability is also the secret of the success of the other round reference of Richard Mille, the RM-63.
Section 6 – Current Approximate Price List By Line/Model
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 you find watches costing easily five times or more than what you would pay from other luxury horology watchmakers, with asking prices around a $250,000 average, with peaks of millions for the most esoteric models.
Among the most affordable, as said, we find the RM33 Ultra Flat Automatic, available in Titanium or in Rose Gold, which you can find on the market for around $65,000 for the Titanium version, while the Rose Gold retails for around $70,000.
The smaller diameter, but more endowed horologically RM63-01, the “Dizzy Hands”, is available at something more than that, around $80,000. Its twin brother, the RM63-02 “Worldtimer”, is instead more expensive, in the $140,000 realm.
The RM11, as we have seen, is available in different models which change cosmetically the details around the same “core” unit.
The most affordable ones are the “Roberto Mancini”, and start around the $135,000 range, but the models easily climb into the realm of the 200,000s and the 300,000s, with peaks of $350,000 for the McLaren and the “Jean Todt” editions.
The RM27 is another popular model of the watchmaker - if dream watches can be “popular”, let’s say. The “Rafael Nadal” has a movement which is attached to the case through the use of four steel cables, so to give it its enormous resilience. You would not be surprised that this prodigy of micromechanics does not come cheap. You would have to shell out the best part of a million to secure yourself this prodigy - exactly around $740,000 for the RM27-03 versions.
If you want something more affordable, and you are a sailing fan, Richard Mille offers a “budget” timepiece which might be perfect for you. We are talking about the RM60-01, the “Regatta Flyback Chronograph”, the first “tool watch” of the company.
The RM 60-01 is made in Titanium, and offers a huge 50 mm, very technical (and crowded) dial, and is mounted on a bright yellow rubber strap.
It is available for around $130,000.
Section 7 – Previous Blog Post
Today we take a look at some of the rarest and sought after Richard Mille watches on the market today. These two watches are next to impossible to find and therefore they are going for at least double their retail price...
Section 8 – Q & A
What is the most expensive watch?
Richard Mille watches are among the most peculiar you can find around the world. As for the analogy with the F1 race cars, they mostly look like one. And their price - as new - well, it doesn’t match the one of a race car, but for sure it rivals a luxury sedan.
One of the “cheapest” you can find is this RM007 - a striking and very typical model from the company, featuring it's signature tonneau-shaped case. You can find one new for about 65.000 USD, but your mileage may vary.
What makes Richard Mille's watch so special (expensive)?
The sandwich-style Richard Mille watch case is one of the most expensive and difficult to manufacture. Comprised of three decks - front and back bezels, as well as the middle section - each component is curved. There are no flat surfaces to make machining easier and what's more, the three curved surfaces have to fit together to within one-hundredth of a millimeter to stop moisture or dust entering.
Richard Mille has started to use case and baseplate materials that are normally used in such realms as Formula 1 cars, aerospace and racing yachts. The materials used are leading-edge technology - even in the industries outside of watchmaking. Not only is the metal or material new in terms of composition, but the ability to use them in watchmaking is also unknown. Mille dedicates years - and invests millions of Swiss francs - to understanding the material and how to incorporate it in his watches.
What is your opinion on Richard Mille watches compared to Vacheron, A. Lange and the likes?
The worst way of considering Richard Mille as a brand would precisely be by comparing it to watchmakers like Vacheron Constantin or Patek Philippe.
With traditional brands, I would rather be looking for some classical designs, a high level of finishing in the traditional way or rare crafts such as guillochage or engraving. The materials would be either steel or gold. Brands such as Vacheron Constantin and Patek Philippe also have a mind-blowing vintage market that should not be neglected.
With a brand like Richard Mille, I would go the opposite way and be looking at hyper-modern designs, something more provocative. I’d look for skeletonized watches and exotic materials for example. Something that would be the anti-Patek in a way, making it therefore impossible to compare.
Which Richard Mille watches have high resale value?
In 2018, the current watches with the highest resale value among Richard Mille models are the $2,020,000 RM 56-02 Tourbillon Sapphire, the original $690,000 Nadal, the “regular” $1.65 million RM 056, and I’ve seen the McLaren model for around $500,000.
Why do so many people wear fake Richard Mille watches?
The reason why is that RM watches are extremely costly, and they look very hip.
The RM style, which is bold and brash, is based on extensive use of advanced materials, which are not as easy to spot as - let’s say - more traditional gold.
Oh, and did I say they are costly? And when I say costly, I mean it? The cheapest RMs start from around 50.000 USD, give or take, and it is similar to the one on top.