Richard Mille and Michelle Yeoh bond over a shared love of watches, artistry and the pursuit of excellence
When Richard Mille launched his eponymous watch brand in 2001, he set out to create a new business model far removed from traditional marketing strategies. So it’s only natural that the relationships he has forged with his brand partners are more like that of family than business associates. Case in point is the bond shared with the brand’s first female ambassador, Michelle Yeoh.
“From the beginning, we’ve respected each other’s artistic pursuits. I believe that if you don’t resonate with the principles a brand upholds, you can’t be its ambassador,” says the Oscar-winning actress who became close friends with the watchmaker in 2010 through her now-husband Jean Todt. “Richard is committed to supporting young artists and helping them continuously exceed their limits. This is the Richard I know and admire.”
Yeoh, who represents elegance and artistry and whose most essential accessory is an elegant and powerful wristwatch, certainly knows what it means to exceed one’s limits. She was already a superstar in Asia, with over 30 films to her credit, when her role in the 1997 James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies turned her into a Hollywood star. More breakout roles followed in blockbusters such as Crazy Rich Asians and Everything Everywhere All at Once, for which she became the first Asian to win the Academy Award for Best Actress.
“For all the little boys and girls who look like me watching tonight, this is a beacon of hope and possibilities,” Yeoh said as she accepted her award. “This is proof that … dream big, and dreams do come true. And ladies, don’t let anybody tell you you are ever past your prime. Never give up.”
Even before the Oscars came calling, Richard Mille was so impressed with Yeoh’s artistic talents, knowledge of watches, natural sense of luxury and understanding of women’s tastes that he suggested that they create two jewellery pieces specifically for women together. The RM 051 Phoenix Tourbillon debuted in 2011, featuring the legendary bird adorned with diamonds and projected into the world of haute horlogerie. Designed to celebrate courage, will and kindness, the RM 051 was limited to 18 pieces in tribute to Yeoh’s favourite number.
A few years later, as the brand celebrated its “Year of the Woman” and Yeoh returned to screens for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon II, they released the RM 51-01 Tourbillon Tiger and Dragon. Available in a limited edition of 20 pieces in 18K white or red gold, the new model showed two intricately carved, finished and painted creatures clutching the tourbillon movement.
“My father gave me my first gift, which was a wristwatch. Later, the first valuable thing I bought for myself was also a wristwatch,” Yeoh explains. “My love for wristwatches stems from there, and I only wear large men’s watches because, for me, it’s a statement.”