Richard Mille - The World’s Most Expensive Watch
Updated: Mar 24
Richard Mille - The Watch for the 1%
Ask any normal person "name a luxury watch brand." Most likely, 90% of them will say "Rolex." The Crown has been around the block, sponsoring everything from tennis to golf to the occasional NFL ad. But dig a little deeper and you may get other answers: Omega, IWC, Brietling. Even deeper? Now we're getting somewhere: Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe, Hublot and even some rare Zenith's might be on the list. Especially if the person you're asking has a little bit of cash. But since 2001, there's been a new kid on the block who has taken over the luxury watch game, especially in pop culture. This is Richard Mille.
How Did Richard Mille Start?
Started in 2001, Richard Mille was named after its founder who, in 1998, left his job at Place Vendome to launch his own line of watches. In classic watchmaker fashion, they went full luxury when defining what the watches should look and feel like. They explored sailing, race cars, luxury cars and even aerospace engineering, apparently pulling their game-plan out of Richard Branson's playbook. After a few years, they incorporated the company and then lost no time in creating partnerships. Being based out of Switzerland brings with it certain advantages for a watchmaker, chief among them being the proximity to other watchmakers. This allowed Mille to strike a partnership with Audemars Piguet and start producing, with the RM 001 Tourbillon dropping at Baselworld in late 2001. The rest, as they say...
Quick personal story: I got into luxury watches in 2012 when I lived in London. I studied there for a few months in college, and was told repeatedly that I had to visit Harrods, the world's biggest and most audacious department store located in West London. I finally made the trip out there and stumbled upon floor 7, nicknamed "The Millionaires Club."
The floor had some truly outrageous highlights: a personal submarine and "stab proof" pinstripe suits among them. But I wandered down a dimly lit hallway and found myself in a mirrored hallway that turned out to be the luxury watch wing of the floor. Impeccably dressed attendants could tell that the 19 year old in the cheap Adidas hoodie didn't belong, but they were extremely kind in walking me through the different brands, each brand having their own private, guarded offshoot of the wing. However, in the middle of the section, there was a single watch under a glass dome with a dedicated spotlight, spinning as if to show off to the whole room that it was the center of attention. I inspected the watch and found out it was a completely amber Hublot. The watch bezel, casing and strap links were all made of 100% amber. The price? 160,000 GBP, about $300,000 at the time. I thought to myself that this was the most expensive watch I will ever see in my life. Well Richard Mille looks at this, throws its head back and laughs, because it's only getting started.
How Expensive Is A Richard Mille?
There's a reason this watch is extremely popular with athletes, rappers and celebrities: they are prohibitively expensive. They start at around $175,000, making them some of the most expensive watches on the planet. Because of this, they remained a very secretive brand until they began partnering with high-profile celebrities. They first rose to prominence in 2008, when global tennis icon Rafael Nadal broke his own rule of never wearing a watch on-court. During the French Open, an orange case was spotted on his left wrist. After the match, he announced he partnered with RM to design a watch that was light enough to be worn on the court, but could withstand the G-Forces imparted on a wristwatch from a professional tennis player. The matching orange to the clay of Rolland Garros was just a nice touch.
From Nadal, the watches exploded on the scene. The iconic shape of the watch, combined with the ridiculous price, means it because a favorite of the celebrity scene. Bubba Watson won the Masters in 2012 wearing a Richard Mille. They are prominent sponsors in Formula 1, appearing on wrists like Lando Norris and legacy drivers like Alain Prost and on the cars of McLaren's racing team. Soccer star Paul Pogba was spotted in one during his summer holiday in Miami earlier this year.
Odell Beckham caught flack a few seasons ago for wearing one worth $189,000 on the field during a game. They also created a watch for soccer legend Roberto Mancini, the recent winner of Euro 2020 as manager of the Italian national side. The RM 11-01 in Italian Green is the only Richard Mille I've seen (and worn) in person. In 2020, I had the opportunity to attend some Super Bowl events in Miami with my 9-5, and got to interview Cam Jordan of the New Orleans Saints. His watch? The RM 11-01. I mentioned it and he was kind enough to let me wear it for about four seconds. It is as light and beautiful as advertised.
The ones that really take it to the next level? Richard Mille has exploded in the rap scene. Migos, in their most recent single "Straightnin'" turns a pandemic into a bandemic with "Richard Mille probs." Post Malone owns an all black, skeleton version of a Richard Mille that retails for $1,000,000. Jay-Z continues to flex on absolutely everyone with his ultra-rare RM 56-01 in a transparent icy green. The price tag? $3 million.
The big winner here is Pharrell. The ageless music producer combined with Richard Mille to "go where no one else has ever gone before," according to his press release for his custom watch. That place he went with RM? The bottom of the ocean, where he sources plastic from in order to build the creative elements of his custom piece, the RM 52-05. The price? This shouldn't surprise you by now - it's $969,000.
Is Richard Mille Worth It?
Sure, why not? To be honest, these watches are unbelievable accomplishments in technology and engineering. I don't love the case shape personally, but it serves two purposes:
It stands out. No one is going to mistake this for a Rolex or something you got on MVMT.
It houses the technology within the watch
It's tough to summarize how intricate watchmaking truly is, but suffice to say that these are a feat. Not only do they house incredibly small and efficient pieces to make the watch function as, well, a watch, but as mentioned earlier, they have to withstand G-Forces. Athletes wear these on the court, field or course, and they put incredible strain on a watch. The wrist rotation is enough to shatter the inner workings of a normal watch, so these have to stand up to much more abuse than your standard timepiece. If you have $300,000 burning a hole in your pocket, go for it. Just make sure you have enough in your emergency fund first.
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