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Richard Mille Defies the Watchmaking Norm

The watch brand pushes boundaries to unveil high-tech, high-mech timepieces that do anything but conform

Twenty years ago, entrepreneur Richard Mille founded his own eponymous watch brand, vowing to create timepieces that are different and unique. Today, Richard Mille is one of the most successful independent watch brands in the world thanks to its pioneering use of materials and technical innovations that define each and every timepiece.

Starting his brand not as a watchmaker but as a businessman, Richard Mille was cautious with his business plan from the get-go, opting for smaller production while maintaining larger-than-life design. It was one of the key factors contributing to his success. By investing heavily in research and development of watch architecture, materials, and movements, Richard Mille became an almost overnight success.

A lover of vintage cars and planes, Mille looked to create watches with bold personality that could be used even under the most extreme conditions. He worked with the finest companies inside and outside of the watch industry to develop daring three-dimensional pieces that are stronger, lighter in weight, and more advanced than almost any other watches on the market.

In fact, Mille was one of the first to venture into the idea of creating his own alloys and high-tech materials for watchcases and components. He introduced Northern Thin Ply Technology (NTPT) and other new carbon processes to the watch world. He also created some of the most inventive movements with unusual features, and was the first to introduce a nearly $2 million three-part sapphire case for one of his timepieces.

An indelible mark was made on the watch-collecting world when Mille unveiled the Richard Mille RM 25-01 Tourbillon Adventure watch. Built in cooperation with Sylvester Stallone, the timepiece was inspired by the roles Stallone played as Rambo in First Blood and Rocky Balboa in the Rocky series. Stallone, also an artist and painter, had direct design influence on the $983,000 watch. Not only does it include a tourbillon escapement (to compensate for errors in timekeeping due to the effects of gravity when the watch is in different positions on the wrist), but it also comes with two interchangeable Carbon TPT bezels, one bidirectional daytime bezel with 24-hour scale, and a second bezel with cardinal compass points. Additionally, for hikers and extreme adventurers, this watch features a hermetically sealed compartment made of Carbon TPT that holds five capsules, each of which can render a liter of water safe to drink.

Another keen invention out this year is the RM 53-01 Tourbillon Pablo Mac Donough, in tribute to polo player and Richard Mille brand ambassador Pablo Mac Donough. This watch is equipped with a cable-suspension mechanism inside the movement that features pulleys and cables so that the movement can absorb shocks of more than 5,000 Gauss. It is also equipped with the world’s first laminated sapphire glass crystal—making it virtually unbreakable. This is important because Richard Mille requires all of the brand ambassadors to wear their watches while playing.

In fact, that’s one of the driving factors behind Richard Mille’s constant push forward in technology. No matter which sport the brand’s ambassadors are involved in, the watch stays on the wrist. From race car drivers to tennis players such as Rafael Nadal, golfers like Bubba Watson to polo players like Mac Donough, and even sprinters and Olympic athletes such as Yohan Blake and Wayde van Niekerk, they all wear their watches on and off the playing field. This is one of the supreme differences between Richard Mille and other brands. His reasoning: He wants people to know that his watches—which range in price from about $100,000 to millions—can go the distance in real life and not be a hindrance to performance.