The champagne was on ice at Richard Mille’s production facilities in Les Breuleux. At end 2020 and on the eve of its twentieth anniversary, the brand was on course to join the handful of watchmakers whose turnover exceeds CHF 1 billion. Coronavirus meant this was not to be, although it’s only a matter of time given that demand for the brand’s watches has always outstripped supply. Speaking to Swiss daily Le Temps at end October last year, co-founder Dominique Guenat confirmed that a two-month factory closure during the coronavirus crisis meant production fell short of the planned 5,200 watches, in line with the 10-15% increase recorded in previous years, at 4,300 units. Still, at an average price of CHF 200,000 it soon adds up.
It’ll be a couple more months, then, before Richard Mille becomes the Swiss watch industry’s eighth billionaire brand, joining Audemars Piguet which passed the billion mark in 2019. This won’t be the first time the two have “crossed paths”, after Audemars took a 10% stake in Richard Mille which has a long history of partnering with Audemars Piguet Renaud et Papi in Le Locle for certain movements. Richard Mille certainly didn’t let 2020, a tough twelve months for Swiss watchmakers, get the better of its many projects, especially in the latter half of the year. On the sports front, the Richard Mille racing team took to the track with an all-female, four-driver line-up. On the arts front, dancer and choreographer Benjamin Millepied directed a piece to music by composer-conductor Thomas Roussel for the launch of the RM 72-01 Lifestyle In-House Chronograph.
Product-wise, one of 2020’s major reveals has to be the RM 27-04. The ninth watch developed for Rafael Nadal, it coincided with the ten-year anniversary of the tennis champion’s partnership with the brand. Remarkable for its tourbillon calibre supported by a microblasted steel mesh, it weighs just 30 grams including the strap. Meanwhile, the brand’s women customers – who make up almost 40% of sales – were introduced to Bianca, Carmen, Diana, Donna, Gloria, Grace and friends, aka the RM 71-02 Automatic Tourbillon Talisman. Following on from the RM 71-01 Automatic Tourbillon Talisman, a powerful collection of ten women’s watches launched in 2018 that combined inspirations from Art Deco and tribal art, the RM 71-02 “erupted in coloured stones, drawing on the untamed energy and raw glamour of the 1970s.” Each of the ten styles is proposed as a seven-piece limited edition and boasts a different array of coloured gemstones set in different patterns. Powered by its in-house automatic tourbillon movement, they are Richard Mille’s tribute to a decade that witnessed the rise of clubbing and disco, when a world of glam and glitter came alive at night.
For its last release of 2020, Richard Mille upped the stakes with the RM 65-01, the most complex timepiece ever from the brand which spent five years working alongside Vaucher Manufacture to perfect the 480-component movement. Rather than a limited edition, the brand has designed this integrated automatic split-seconds chronograph – which incorporates a date display, function selector and its first rapid winding mechanism – for everyday wear. The high-frequency calibre delivers 1/10th of a second precision – but with a 1/5th of a second scale for optimal legibility. A Carbon TPT® case weighs light on the wrist and provides important resistance for daily use while functions are underlined by colour coding. Priced at CHF 270,000, the new RM 65-01 takes Richard Mille into 2021 on a high!