The luxury watch industry is rife with competitive spirit and jaw-dropping designs. There are the old-school players whose names are simply synonymous with quality timepieces. Then there are the newcomers — the industry babies who’ve made their own imprint on the industry. Such is the case for Richard Mille, the game-changing brand founded in 2001 that essentially turned the watch world on its head.
The Swiss watchmaking company specializes in exquisite pieces that set a new standard: they were sharp, bold, innovative, and stylish — and, as Mille desired, “ultra-high end.” It was his goal to create something that differed dramatically even from the obvious upscale brands of the world.
Back in Time
Mille’s mission was to carve out an entirely new category, a dream born after years of experience in the industry. Having worked with other elite brands, he understood the intricacies of creation and the challenges of development. He took inspiration from his love of technology and racing cards, both of which he was certain could play integral roles in his desire to create an out-of-the-box business that essentially redefined luxury.
It was in that spirit that the Richard Mille watchmaking company was born. He wasn’t satisfied with modern-day offerings, despite their obvious beauty and quality. His intention was always to go a step further — to show that something could be even more impressive, more advanced, more refined.
Mille was 50 when he established his eponymous brand with Dominique Guenat, who owned Guenat S.A. Montres Valgine, a family-run watchmaking company. Mille, to his credit, served as the director of watchmaking at Mauboussin before he pursued his dream. And for him, the fine art of timepiece creation was nearly happenstance. He thought of his father’s guidance to always follow his dreams. It led to stints at a variety of companies, ranging from accessible name brands to far more exclusive lines.
He aimed to produce the ultimate timepiece of his fantasies — and that meant ignoring things like price tags in an effort to make the vision a reality.
When the two joined forces, it was with great hope for the future. At the time, Mille had only a single concept in mind. He aimed to produce the ultimate timepiece of his fantasies — and that meant ignoring things like price tags in an effort to make the vision a reality. Engineering, workmanship, technology, power, precision, and pure art all contributed to the general concept behind his goal. He wanted to be so much more than a mere watchmaker. His vision was all-encompassing; he believed he could reinvent the timepiece design world and create something more visionary and groundbreaking.
And so he got to work, drawing on only the highest quality components, including an ergonomic tonneau case and torque screws, to create a watch that, when finally introduced to market, boasted a six-figure price tag. The RM 001 Tourbillon was, in fact, a groundbreaking creation that made an enormous statement when it was introduced at Baselworld, the famed watch and jewelry trade show held annually in Switzerland.
That price tag was a mind-boggling number, of course, but for those who could afford such luxury, it was well worth every penny. The creation solidified Mille’s place in the industry, and the brand earned a rightful place in the competitive world of luxury watchmaking.
Race to Perfection
That his passion for racing served as inspiration for his designs should come as no surprise. Speed, finesse, and curves are all hallmarks of that particularly industry, and they’re just as relevant to watchmaking. He closely studied many concepts of racing, such as friction reduction, resistance to impact, and effective materials, to determine how he could develop higher-quality timepieces. As such, consumers are likely to find elements like titanium carbide, sapphire, carbon TPT, graph TPT, and titanium grade 5 in their Mille watches. Few, if any, of these were ever used in the creation of watches prior to this.
He closely studied many concepts of racing, such as friction reduction, resistance to impact, and effective materials, to determine how he could develop higher-quality timepieces.
Naturally, the two worlds easily formed an alliance, and today the Richard Mille name partners with a number of the largest races in the world, including the Spa Classic, the Nürburgring Classic, the Rallye des Princesses, and the Rallye des Légendes Richard Mille. Mille also serves as a sponsor for many leading Formula 1 drivers and teams.
Hallmarks of Perfection
Just what is it that sets a Mille watch apart from its counterparts — apart from its cost? It’s all in the details, the precision, the outward beauty, and the innate attention to perfection. Among the most accurate pieces to grace the watch world is the RM 031. During its inception, the Mille design team was committed to embracing those standard hallmarks of classic watchmaking excellence and uniting that with high-performance features that set it apart.
Indeed, the RM 031 draws on rich roots — tradition is never far from the Mille concept of watchmaking — while implementing modern-day elements that contribute to its authenticity and elevated caliber. It begins with a sturdy structure — the type of stock that serves as the backbone for any reliable watch. Grade 5 titanium fully treated with black PVD lends stability, rigidity, and sleek style to the watch. The material is also resistant to corrosion and among the most rigid on the planet — and also something that provides excessive support to the gear train for flawless functionality.
Indeed, the RM 031 draws on rich roots — tradition is never far from the Mille concept of watchmaking — while implementing modern-day elements that contribute to its authenticity and elevated caliber.
Then it’s on to the powerhouse elements that serve as the watch’s driving forces. The Swiss anchor escapement, direct impulse escapement, and detent escapement work simultaneously to produce greater accuracy. The watch beats at a magical 36,000 vibrations per hour (VpH). For reference, the average wristwatch boasts a 28,800 VpH measurement — and while that’s speedy, nothing came close to the RM 031’s escapement capabilities. It was, in fact, something of a wearable, miniature race car.
But perfect components mean little if there isn’t something supportive to hold it all together. Knowing they had drawn on something very nearly approaching perfection, the Mille engineering team then sought to perfect its transmission. They did so by applying a 20° pressure angle to the gear train, which sets the stage for optimal performance. Rotary motion is improved, changes to the going train’s engagement are regulated, and torque transmission is boosted. The result: immaculate performance for the life of the watch.
The Collection Highlights
Once upon a time, Mille crafted watches strictly for men. Today, the lineup includes a collection for women, as well. There are highlights aplenty, with styles designed in honor of world-renowned golfers and tennis players to hip-hop artists and race car drivers. Each possesses its own innate sense of style — they’re almost breathtaking in their presence, what with their obvious attention to detail and deliberate workmanship.
There’s also an outward sense of technicality about these watches. They aren’t conventional by any means — they are, in fact, considerably more futuristic in appearance than anything else on the market today. They exude a sense of grandeur, and some feel like they’ve been launched decades before their time.
For all its intellectual backbone, the Mille lineup is not without its selection of playful styles. The Bonbon Collection exhibits a childish sort of charm. The range of 10 models, limited to only 30 pieces each, is delightful from an artisan’s perspective. They brim with color, personality, and flair.
For all its intellectual backbone, the Mille lineup is not without its selection of playful styles.
Indeed, the candy, fruit, and pastry collections into which they’re categorized are entirely fitting. The chosen shades are next to flawless. The RM 07-03 Marshmallow, for example, is a mouth-watering feast for the senses — a ceramic timepiece encased in white with citrine, tsavorite, and pink sapphire stones, while flashes of yellow, lime green, and baby pink brighten the backdrop. Rarely does luxury appear so light and mirthful.
The antithesis of anything sweet is the RM 67-01 — it’s more about sheer sophistication. The watch is among the brand’s many lifestyle pieces, one that’s designed for daily wear thanks to its flat silhouette and rigid design. Boasting large, eye-catching numerals and a sparkling surround, it’s undeniably elegant at a glance.
For those who are truly blown away by the brand’s incredible aesthetics, both inside and out, the RM 003-V2 is well worth a glance. Its highlight is a three-dimensional design that provides a comprehensive look at the watch’s interior. Witness the way the gears set into motion, the way that each part plays its own role. For all its technicality, it’s highly stylish in its own right.
The Statement Piece
To say a Richard Mille watch is an investment piece is something of an understatement. Spotted on the likes of some of the world’s most renowned and prolific entertainers and sportsmen, these watches are celebrated for their complexity, attention to detail, and tonneau-inspired precision. They’re extreme timepieces, with serious clout and cachet to their name. That they boast otherworldly price tags should not come as a surprise.
They’re extreme timepieces, with serious clout and cachet to their name. That they boast otherworldly price tags should not come as a surprise.
There are no limits in design. It’s precisely what makes Mille the purveyor of horology for the contemporary set. They’re technically intense, highly avant-garde, and overly advanced beyond what it means to be technologically inclined. Mille seems to redefine futurism — essentially imagining what’s possible well before its time. For those who appreciate such intricacies just as much as they value fashion, there’s no question that the Mille brand is worthy of such appreciation.