RICHARD MILLE 20TH ANNIVERSARY 

Richard Mille marks its 20th year not by looking to the past, but to the future with three watches that continue to drive radical change through unlimited creativity and innovation.

For two decades, I have told anyone that would listen that the watch world would one day be divided into the era before Richard Mille and the era after. Now upon the 20th anniversary of his brand, I believe that truth is self-evident in a René Descartes irrefutable evidence of God’s existence kind of way.

There has been no modern brand in watchmaking history, created by a living founder, that has had such a massive global impact not just on horology, but also on contemporary culture itself. The change has been seismic, pervasive and irreversible. It was brought on by the singular vision of a man who was the ultimate rebel genius, who eschewed every existing aesthetic, technical and even material convention and cliche.

What was once round, he made into a Space Age tonneau that shimmered with Futurist manifesto velocity even standing still. What was once hidden, he made transparent. What once deified the past, he connected to the future. What was once heavy, he made wonderfully, ethereally, almost unbearably light. Indeed, the only thing Mille retained was a reverence for peerless finish and quality in his craft. In so doing, this iconoclast rocked the establishment so completely that you could say there is not a single brand that exists that has not in some way — whether in material use, design or even pricing — been affected by Richard Mille.

But more importantly, in the world today, Richard Mille watches have transcended their status as timepieces to fulfill a different role. His watches have ascended to become the symbols of something much more: a limitless life, an uncontainable dream, passion, resilience, performance under all conditions, individualism and fearlessness. The reason his watches are the subject of innumerable songs is that owning a Richard Mille has become that emblem of success that is unattained by most but dreamed of by everyone. In other words, it has become the fabric of optimism itself.

Richard Mille is not just a watch but a dream you aspire to, and the timepiece is a symbol that you’ve made it, that you are part of the club. The fact that it is also one of the most stunning technical objects in creation provides its substance. But like water turned to wine at the Last Supper, his watches have undergone a cultural transubstantiation because of what they symbolize to us. Says famed watch journalist Nick Foulkes, “Richard Mille is, for the current generation, as inspiring as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby was to the audience of the ’20s in that wearing a Richard Mille is the ultimate act of self-creation, self-invention and, of course, success and wealth beyond measure.”

The Significance of Richard Mille

Says Austen Chu, founder of WristCheck.com, “Across so many cultures in the US, but equally in China, a Richard Mille watch embodies that hustle to realize your dreams. I think that’s why especially for entrepreneurs, for guys that made their own success on their own terms, regardless of if it’s New York or Shanghai, Los Angeles or Hong Kong, it’s become the watch for them. It’s their membership badge.”

Ten years ago, I wrote a story called “Richard Mille — The Billionaire’s Masonic Handshake” that I attributed to the pseudonym Declan Quinn. The rationale was so I could create the narrative device of the character Declan, who by borrowing my Richard Mille watch, gained access to a bold new world where all sorts of crazy, over-the-top incidents happen based on my own experiences. I called this the “Richard Mille Effect.” These included being bought dinner in one of Ginza’s most exclusive sushi restaurants by strangers wearing Richard Mille as well as being invited by a Richard Mille-wearing Chinese billionaire to a private concert performed by Usher and to accompany her to Bordeaux to go vineyard shopping. These are all true stories. But at the time, I thought that many people might not believe that simply by wearing a Richard Mille, you could be admitted into the world’s most elite and fun-loving members’ club. Ten years later, something has changed, and that is the public’s awareness of Richard Mille. A decade ago, it had been the ultimate clandestine, super stealth, double secret membership badge of the ultra high net worth community. Today, it is anything but clandestine. (Caveat emptor: Though I own a Richard Mille watch, from a financial perspective, I have more in common with the lab technician expressing their dogs’ anal glands than I have with anyone in this community.)

Today, Richard Mille is at the height of its cultural awareness. Watch the Netflix series Formula 1: Drive to Survive, and you’ll see that every driver, team principal and team owner proudly displays a Richard Mille on his wrist, whether his team is associated with Mille or not. As of this year, Richard Mille is the single most namechecked brand in rap music, with Gunna’s video for “Richard Millie Plain” copping 14 million views on YouTube. At the same time, Richard Mille has become the most worn and coveted watch for elite athletes in the heat of competition in a range of disciplines, including track and field, tennis, golf, skiing, biathlon, F1, rally driving — you name it. I am certain that the gold medaling ping pong players at this summer’s Olympic Games stay up at night dreaming of Richard Mille ambassadorship.

It was first a novelty when tennis star Rafael Nadal first took to the clay of Roland Garros wearing his RM 27 — which set the record as the world’s lightest mechanical watch when it debuted in 2010 — prompting John McEnroe to remark, “I can’t believe he’s playing tennis with a half-million-dollar watch on his wrist”. Now, we can’t imagine him playing without it! And, a note to McEnroe, the price for that same watch is now more than a million on the secondary market. In the past 11 years, Rafa has worn a Richard Mille to his French Open men’s singles victory every single year, with the exception of 2015 and 2016. That is a total of nine French Open victories, each time with a Richard Mille RM 27 on his wrist. This extraordinary partnership has yielded five versions of the model, each of which represented a major advancement in shock-resistance and lightweight technology, including the first watch with its movement suspended by miniature cables and the first watch with its carbon fiber bridges integrated into the watch case.

 

Contributor

Wei Koh

The Rake's Founder & Editorial Director.

Published

July 2021

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