Luxury watch brands have a history of technical achievement and fashion breakthroughs and Richard Mille is no exception. The young brand has been making waves in the luxury watch market since it was founded in 1999. Although a new entrant, Richard Mille watches are expensive, even by luxury watch standards. They can run from over $50,000 on the low end all the way to several million dollars. But why are Richard Mille watches so expensive?
Richard Mille may be relatively new to the luxury watch market, but his craftsmanship and brand add an ingenuity and idiosyncrasy to the world of high-end timepieces that is rarely seen.
The Richard Mille brand effectively straddles the fine line between luxury design and dazzlement that stands out even to the untrained eye. Consider Mille’s own words on the subject of his watches:
“I want people who see my watches to go, ‘Wow!’ And the more they look at them, the more they go into it, the more I want them to say, ‘Wow!’ I work on a razor blade between gimmickry and amazement.”
~ Richard Mille
With this goal, it’s no surprise that Richard Mille prices are among the highest charged for watches in the world. The RM 35-2 Automatic Rafael Nadal, for example, once retailed for around $135,000. However, since this now-discontinued model is so hard to find, it is currently valued anywhere from $400,000 to $510,000 on the secondary market.
The watch puts Richard Mille’s words into practice, with both luxury aesthetics and reliable performance at the forefront of the technical design. While the Richard Mille brand may be famous for its sports sponsorships – ranging from Formula 1 to men’s tennis – it’s not all about celebrity endorsement.
The RM 56-02 Tourbillon Sapphire, priced at over $2 million, features a case forged from sapphire and the elegant, weightless nature of a tourbillon timepiece. Even a quick look at the featured photos of these luxury watches reveals the technical expertise and sense of style required for their making:
So what is it that makes Richard Mille watches so expensive? Let’s take a deep dive into the how and why of this luxury watch brand – including a brief history of the brand, the core elements of a Richard Mille watch, and a few Richard Mille watches to keep on your shortlist.
A Brief History of the Richard Mille Brand
As an eponymous company, to understand the man is to understand the brand. Richard Mille started his career within the 1970s with Finhor, a French watchmaking company. After the local company was bought by Matra in 1981, Mille rose through the ranks until he started managing the company’s entire watchmaking operation, focusing on brands like Cupillard Rieme and Yema.
Mille left Matra’s watchmaking operations (which by then had been bought by Seiko) a decade later to start making watches for Mauboussin, a jewelry firm that was new to luxury watches.
Seven years later, Richard Mille finally started his own brand, collaborating with established player Audemars Piguet.
“In 2001 the RM 001 marked the beginning of a new era in watchmaking. Thus, the first Richard Mille watch was born, whose release revolutionized the world of fine watchmaking.”Description of the RM001 from the Richard Mille website
All of this to say: Richard Mille had nearly three decades of watchmaking experience by the time he started his own brand just before the new millennium.
RM001: The First Richard Mille Watch
With his technical expertise and intimate knowledge of the luxury look, Richard Mille released his first watch just two years after founding his company. The RM001, released in 2001, was a tourbillon timepiece designed to bring watchmaking up to speed with the 21st century.
It’s no secret that one part of the allure of Richard Mille watches is the high profile endorsements from celebrities (like Natalie Portman and Jackie Chan), as well as athlete sponsorships ranging from Formula One drivers to Spanish tennis player Rafael Nadal.
Since 2001, Richard Mille has released dozens of watch editions, with the $2 million watch grabbing headlines a few years ago. Richard Mille released the RM 52-01 Blue Sapphire Tourbillon Skull Edition in 2020 with a retail price tag of $2.65 million.
Since then, many people have been wondering how and why Richard Mille watches are so expensive.
The Core Elements of a Richard Mille Watch
While Richard Mille enjoys celebrity endorsements, the key to the price tag of the watches really is in the core elements of the timepieces. These elements include the design, the materials, and the technical elegance of the movement.
“I think the time is ripe for a return to the refinement of lifestyle that the pocket watch embodies. A personal pleasure that you know you have in your pocket, which requires an elegant gesture to use and show to others.”Richard Mille
It’s easy to spot a Richard Mille watch: if it looks like a cross between a Formula 1 race car and a high-end timepiece, you’ve found one. This idiosyncratic look has helped build the Richard Mille brand.
Richard Mille is famous for using unique case and baseplate materials, such as carbon nanotubes, gold fused with carbon and toughened ceramic. The materials bring resilience to the mix.
Richard Mille watches generally have a tourbillon, a rotating cage that brings a new level of inventive sophistication to the escapement. The movements are built with a range of distinctive materials as a hybrid of titanium.
The Best Watches from Richard Mille
Besides the famous $2 million RM 56-02 Tourbillon Sapphire, the Richard Mille brand has released a range of watches for considerably less money. Here are a few of the best Richard Mille watches to keep in mind.
Richard Mille RM 028 Divers Titanium Skeletonized
Price: $90,000 to $150,000
Richard Mille Extra Flat Automatic RM 033 RG A
Price: $100,000 to $150,000
Richard Mille RM 35-02 Automatic Raphael Nadal
Price: $400,000 to $510,000
Richard Mille RM 032 Automatic Chronograph Dive Titanium Skeletonized
Price: $120,000 to $140,000
Richard Mille Extra Flat Automatic RM 033 WG R
Price: $85,000 to $95,000
In a phrase, Richard Mille watches are so expensive because of the expertise, image, and reputation that these elegant watches bear. Want to learn more about the Richard Mille brand or find other luxury watches? Check out our dedicated Richard Mille brand page!