One of the world’s most renowned watchmakers, Richard Mille has produced an array of coveted timepieces thanks to its uncompromising quest for technical and artistic excellence
After starting his horological career in 1974 at French watchmaker Finhor, Richard Mille quickly built a solid reputation through extensive experience across the entire industry. But despite spearheading the watchmaking department for companies such as Parisian fine jewellery house Mauboussin, among other prestigious positions, the French businessman was keen for more.
And so, in 1999 and at the age of 50, Mille created his eponymous brand with the ultimate goal of creating the watch of his dreams. Now, just a little over two decades of pushing the boundaries of horology later, Richard Mille has cemented itself as one of the leading names in the watch industry with its passion for technique and craftsmanship.
This all started in 2001 with the launch of the RM 001 Tourbillon, the brand’s first luxury timepiece featuring no diamonds, precious metals or historical heritage – just exceptional engineering and a justified six-digit price tag. An instant success thanks to its daring aesthetics and cutting-edge technology, the model marked the beginning of a new era in watchmaking and established the brand as an inspiration for many to follow.
Using an approach to watch design modelled in much the same way an engineer designs a Formula 1 car, Richard Mille’s creations harness the latest technical innovations and avant-garde materials – such as carbon TPT, Graphene, Titanium-Aluminum (TiAl) and Grey Cermet, which combines the lightness of titanium with the hardness of a high-performance ceramic, all of which are incredibly difficult to work with – and require a complex machining process.
Coupled with its constant quest for perfection and the utmost in quality, which is achieved through a time-consuming and laborious development and production process, this is the reason for Richard Mille’s exclusivity, with production numbers of around 5,000 pieces per year.
The culmination of five years of development, the RM 65-01 Automatic Split Seconds Chronograph, a highly complex sports timepiece, is one such representation of the brand’s watchmaking expertise and perseverance. Said to be the most complex timepiece ever to leave the Richard Mille workshop, with more than 600 components, it features an integrated movement with a high-frequency balance for superior timekeeping accuracy and the brand’s first in-house rapid-winding mechanism. Activated by a pusher at 8 o’clock, the latter allows the barrel to be quickly rearmed in the event the watch stops – a function that was activated thousands of times during the ageing tests.
The model’s ultra-contemporary housing is equally as impressive, with the case, bezel, caseband and caseback all made out of ultralight and almost indestructible Carbon TPT.
Taking its place in the prestigious lineage of “ornamental” watches typical of the brand is the RM 47 Tourbillon, an aesthetic tribute to Japanese culture and the fruit of intense reflection and nearly four years of design work. Limited to 75 pieces, this exquisitely crafted timepiece features an extremely compact calibre specifically designed to make room for a stylised and entirely hand-crafted samurai suit of armour that involved a 16-hour engraving and nine-hour painting process.
Transcending creative limits, this new model, born out of a friendly creative exchange between Richard Mille and double Formula 1 world champion Fernando Alonso, also features a tonneau-shaped case comprised of a 3N yellow gold caseband and black TZP ceramic bezel and caseback, as well as a baseplate and skeletonised bridges made out of grade 5 titanium for high corrosion-resistance, remarkable rigidity and perfectly flat surfaces. Altogether, the RM 47 Tourbillon evokes the spirituality and values of the bushido, whilst embodying a determined quest for perfection and respect for tradition.
With such an uncompromising commitment to technique and design innovation, it’s no wonder Richard Mille has risen to the ranks to become one of the titans of watchmaking despite its relatively short history.