A conversation with Mr Richard Mille, President& CEO, Richard Mille.
By Peter Chong
With exclusive, never published before hand sketches,showing development of the design of the fascinating watches
PC: Richard, thank you formeeting me and for being here for this interview. My objective for thisinterview is to allow our Timezone readers to have a better understanding ofyou as the man behind the brand, and a good look at the central keypropositions of the Richard Mille watches.
Shall we begin with yourinvolvement in the watch business. You have been in this business for a longtime, although the Richard Mille brand is a fairly new company. Tell us moreabout your background.
I am totally mad about this subject; watches, cars, aircraft. I am notpersonally a watchmaker, and I am pleased to say, Enzo Ferrari was not a cartechnician, but he had a very clear idea of what a high-performance car should be.
I believe I have a precise idea of what a high-performance watch shouldbe. I think I have gone deeper into technique than many others . Nowadays, alltop of the range models for any brand are developed with teams of engineers,with computers, with cad machines, so I had no hang-ups about starting my ownbrand, with a strong concept and very precise technical ideas.
PC: You had an illustriouscareer with Mauboussin before you started on your own; tell us more about thathouse.
I left the Company for 2 reasons: my project for launchingmy own watch was ready, and I did not agree with some members of the family ontheir latest strategy , which was to abandon selective distribution and replaceit with a hypothetical â��mass marketâ�� distribution. This proved to beunrealistic and megalomaniac. Since then, the new owner has reestablished acorrect distribution policy.
PC: Where did you first startyour fascination on watches, and how you built your businesses?
But I remember the many times I worked on spare parts thatI later used on my model cars that I had built from scratch and that I stillhave today. Since then, I have spent mytime reading technical books relating to watches, cars, aircraft, etcâ�¦and thisnaturally led me to visualise a strong conceptual watch which was highlytechnical but without gimmicks.
This concept was, however, so technically complex that itled to the very high end positioning where it stands now. This is how mypassion was transformed into reality, and the tremendous success of this brandis certainly due to the fact that the inspiration was purely technical and notat any time commercial. This is stilltrue today.
PC:Tell us more about why you decided to startRichard Mille.
shares inMauboussin, so all lights were green!
PC: You exude great drive andpassion, has the Richard Mille the man always been like this? (Richard waswaving his hands in excitement and jumping up and down making his point in thehotel suite in Geneva when we metâ�¦testimony to his passion and â��fire andbrimstoneâ�� style of expression) Were there difficult times during the birthingof Richard Mille the brand, and how has this great passion pulled you through?
PC: What are the key tenets and special propositionsthat the brand will bring to collectors?
RM: I modestlythink, and professionals confirm it, that this brand opens a new era in watchhistory, in terms of concept, technique.
RM: It has the 3basic requirements for auctioneers, i.e: Authenticity, quality, rarity, and Iwould add another: creativity, which represents an important aspect in terms ofartistic value.
All important artistic periods, as in painting forexample, represent a complete rupture with existing works. I wanted the Millewatch to represent a rupture, but at the same time, I wanted to keep the bestof watch-making tradition, such as hand finished angles,
PC: How do you intend to deliver this (these)promise(s)?
PC: I thinkyour products look absolutely beautiful and are a breath of fresh air, but thecollecting community has been shown very fickle â�� favoring new, innovativebrands while the novelty is there, and then going back to the traditionalmakers after the â��honeymoon is overâ��. How do you intend to stay relevant foryears to come?
The success of my brand is due to the fact that I can pass on my passionto my client, and my clients can saythat they wonâ��t change this watch for another, although they have plenty othersin their safe. It means that they know my watches are truly genuine, and thatthere is no lie in the technical data.
So I am not going to revert to a situation â�� with purely commercialobjectives â�� that Iâ��ve always hated, and which I have done everything possibleto step away from. On top of that, I think I have more that enough technicalideas and concepts for the next 20 years to come and I would be too frustratednot to transform them into reality! The great painterâ��s collections becamevaluable because of continuous creations. After 2 years of existence, wealready are at model NÂ° 9, model No.10 is in the pipeline and with the arrivalof each new model, more important developments!
PC note to audience. The RM008 is a split secondchronograph with tourbillon. Also shown left is the original design of theunique case, which is elegant and at the same time exudes strength andengineering feelâ�¦much like a Ferrari.
This is certainly the mostcomplicated watch I have ever made and I would go so far as to say that it willprobably be one of the most complicated the world has ever seen.
As for the RM 009, it will belightest mechanical watch ever seen, made from ultra-modern materials.
I am very proud of the RM 007which will be released in May of next year. The 007 is my first watch designedfor ladies and I have done everything I can to avoid the stereotypical femalewatch. Often ladiesâ�� watches are simplymodified versions of the manâ��s watch with a few diamonds for good measure. Irealised that women of today are much more demanding; they are now powerfulexecutives, they choose their own cars and will appreciate a watch with a bigpersonality.
The RM 010 will have to remain mysecret for the moment but I can assure you that there are lots of developmentsin the pipeline.
PC: Please dolet me have the details when you are ready, Timezoners all over the world arewaiting with bated breath for this one! Richard, let me turn now to yourfascination with Formula 1 racing. Why this fascination? How and where doesthis relate to watchmaking?
PC: What lessons have you learntfrom F1 techniques that you have applied to your watches? Do you believe awatch movement has to be absolutely rigid with respect to its case ? Do you feel a lighter watch is technicallymore superior to a heavier one? What about the movement what special features?
PC noteto readers: The RM006 was a world first to implement a carbon fibre movementplateâ�¦what began as an experiment to test the new material, resulted in abeautiful watch.
Plates made from gold, brass and copper are notrigid and will react to temperature changes and shock. Carbon fibre, which isamorphous, will not react in this way and remains rigid, with excellentisotropic results, as well as chemical stability. For example, this material will not react to thermic shock.
RM: Although I amnot a watchmaker, I have very precise technical ideas and concepts.
PC:Tell us more about Dominique?
We decided to start a jointventure in 1999 and created a group of companies specialising in different watch areas; manufacturing
PC: Describesome of these high technical added values.
PC: You havebeen known to throw your watch on the floor, or across the table to drive homethe point that your watches are especially tough. Are those watches stillrunning well? Do you really encourage your customers who buy these beautifultimepieces to rough-handle their watches?
PC: You use somerather interesting materials in your watches. Tell us about some of them, theirspecial qualities, and special problems you have encountered working with them.Note to Timezoners: shown left is the design of the crown.
Sketches of the pincers of the split second hand onthe Rattrapante RM08, and design of the rotor bearing of RM005.
PC: What is your relationship with Renaud et Papi? How has this playedinto Audemars Piguetâ��s very similar Royal Oak Concept watc
We have some â��babiesâ��in common,and the best is to yet come!
PC note to Timezoners: See design exchange documentshown left showing the collaborative nature of the relationship.
PC: Thank you very much, Richard, and obviously youhave had very good success with RM watches, and I wish you even greatersuccess.
Â© Peter Chong October 2004.