Richard Mille Expensive Watch

Why are Richard Mille watches so expensive?

by Natalie Wong  January 25, 2021

Although Richard Mille has only been around for a couple of decades, thanks to their craftsmanship and marketing ingenuity, they have taken the high-end luxury watch world by storm.

Richard Mille has quickly become the most exclusive brand in the game. Especially in Asia, everyone knows what Richard Milles are, but it’ll be considered a lucky day if you manage to spot one in the wild.

And the reason for that is because Richard Mille watches are very expensive, which begs the question of “why?”.

This brings us to the purpose of today’s topic. So here are 5 reasons for Richard Mille’s exorbitant prices.

A Brief History of Richard Mille

Richard Mille

Richard Mille, the founder of Richard Mille

To understand the brand, you need to learn about the man behind it – Richard Mille. Richard Mille began his horological career in the 1970s with the French watchmaking company Finhor. Finhor was bought by Matra in 1981, and that’s when Mille really started to excel. He rose through the ranks, eventually running the entire watchmaking operation.

After about a decade, Mille left Matra (which by then had been acquired by Seiko) and took on a position leading a new watchmaking endeavor by Mauboussin, a jewelry firm looking to get into the luxury watch market.
Towards the end of the 90s, Mille finally took the leap to start his own brand, a brand called “Richard Mille”.

He began his venture by collaborating with Audemars Piguet (which is now a shareholder of Richard Mille). The concept for the Richard Mille brand was to bring watchmaking up to speed with the 21st century. With Mille’s extensive, technical experience and progressive mindset, the Richard Mille brand did exactly that. Within 2 years (circa 2001), Richard Mille released its first watch, the RM001. It was a tourbillon timepiece, unlike anything the watch industry had ever seen.

What came next was high-profile endorsements, marketing ingenuity, and prolific creations of revolutionary timepieces.

Richard Mille Expensive Watch

Watchmaking & Design

A Richard Mille watch is instantly recognizable thanks to its idiosyncratic design. It looks like a cross between a Formula 1 race car, which is a major inspiration behind the brand itself, and a futuristic timepiece. The aesthetics are unapologetically bold and distinct. What’s more, they are all made to be incredibly lightweight and ergonomic, which means maximum comfort.

What a lot of people don’t understand is how difficult it is to create Richard Mille’s iconic tonneau-shaped case, which is what the brand has established as one of its main features. The sandwich-style watch case is extremely costly and complicated to manufacture. It comprises three decks – front and back bezels and a middle section – with each component being curved. There are zero flat surfaces, which makes machining incredibly difficult.

When it comes to the design, everything is accounted for to optimize comfort and aesthetics. It’s all hand-finished and highly technical. Just the dial alone, or the lack thereof, is mind-bogglingly complex. The skeletonize dials, for which Richard Mille is also famous, involve an intricate layering of sapphire crystals and other elements to make for optimal legibility, as well as viewability into their complicated movements.

Overall, hand-made watchmaking of this caliber is extremely laborious and it involves the highest level of technical mastery, which is one aspect of why Richard Mille watches are so expensive.

Richard Mille Expensive Watch

Avant-Garde Materials

Richard Mille 010

An entry-level Richard Mille could set you back at least SGD $200,000

It’s not just the design that makes Richard Mille watches so futuristic and revolutionary, it is the hi-tech avant-garde materials too. They are using materials never before seen in the watch industry. These are cutting-edge materials you will generally only find in Formula 1 cars, aerospace industries, and racing yachts. They aren’t just radical materials in watchmaking, they are extremely progressive in even the most hi-tech industries.

Mille put many years and millions and millions of Swiss francs into research and development to find ways to use these materials for his watches. These metals and materials have new compositions that are unknown to watchmaking.

While it is cool to say “these watches have special materials”, it is actually done because it has functionality and purpose. When you try on a Richard Mille, it will be immediately apparent. Richard Mille watches, as large as they are, are extremely lightweight. They weigh on average just 40 grams. It’s like a credit card on your wrist!

What’s more, these materials bring immense resilience and durability into the mix. Altogether you have super solid construction, a featherweight feel, and an absolutely gorgeous patina. It’s truly mind-blowing, and this is amplified even more when you factor in the complexity of the case’s architecture that we discussed above.

If you are wondering what kind of materials, the list goes on and on – carbon nanotubes hardened with ceramic (NTPT® carbon), gold fused with carbon and quartz (Gold Carbon TPT®), perfluoroelastomer, silicon nitride, and many other materials alchemist fantasize about.

By the way, the processes for creating these materials lead to random patterns in the layers of carbon. This means no two cases look exactly alike. A Richard Mille watch, as rare as each one is, are not identical copies, they are unique individuals.

Complicated Movements

Richard Mille Expensive Watch

Richard Mille Movement Caseback

The movement behind the Richard Mille adds complexity to the design

Richard Mille doesn’t just use hi-tech materials for the construction of the case, but the movement does as well. The Richard Mille team took a different approach to horology than we are used to seeing in the classical world of Geneve.

Besides the materials themselves, the finishing techniques are exquisite. This includes Anglage and hand-polishing, satin finishes on bridges, burnished pivots, wheels, and more. The execution is to the highest degree, leading to a sporty, technical movement that is an absolute pleasure to look at.

Richard Mille really was a pioneer when it came to understanding that modern watchmakers want to see the movement of a watch. After all, the movement is arguably the most interesting part of a mechanical watch.

What’s more, Richard Mille is all about tourbillons, which is a rotating cage that requires a very high level of inventive refinement to escape. Everything about the movement in a Richard Mille watch is intuitive and designed for high impact reliability. With Richard Mille, you don’t just get unwavering accuracy, precision, and reliability, you get beauty and sophistication.


Richard Mille Expensive Watch

As you have probably figured out by now, making a Richard Mille watch is complex and very time-consuming. Most of the work is done by hand! But that’s not the only reason Richard Mille watches are scarce. It also comes down to exclusivity. If you make a ton of watches every year, it loses some of its mystique.

As such, Richard Mille makes less than 5,000 watches per year. While that is not exactly a small number, especially for such a young brand, it does keep things very exclusive. The demand far exceeds the supply each and every year, which keeps people craving for more. Many models are produced in a limited edition as well, which amplifies this effect. Strong prices on the secondary market and auction reflect just how powerful this brand’s value is.

All in all, scarcity is a very smart marketing tactic, which leads us to our final reason for why Richard Mille watches are so expensive.

Marketing & Status Symbol

Richard Mille watches only adorn the wrists of the most elite members of society. It has become the ultimate expression of wealth in the watch industry. That’s why they coined the term “Billionaire’s Handshake” for those who wear Richard Mille’s.

While the watches are very impressive in design, engineering, innovation, and so on, the marketing of Richard Mille has been pure genius. It is arguably the main reason why they can command such high prices. They’ve done a fantastic job of creating a major sense of exclusivity. You know if you have a Richard Mille that only other people like you can afford one. 

By wearing a Richard Mille, you are stating that you spent big money on it. It has become the highest status symbol in the watch industry, right alongside Patek Philippe. Even more so just for the fact that people know you spent a boatload for a Richard Mille and only the richest of the rich and famous celebrities wear them. 

Moreover, Richard Mille’s are a lot more recognizable than some of Patek’s more obscure and expensive models. 

Put simply, you are paying a massive premium just because of the Richard Mille name and reputation. Whether you like the watches or not, just knowing that someone has that much money to drop on a watch is impressive. This is undoubtedly a tricky business model, but Richard Mille pulled it off remarkably well.

And if you ask people why it is so expensive, they can also state the Richard Mille slogan – this is “A racing machine on the wrist”.

Jackie Chan Richard Mille

Notable Asian celebrities like Jackie Chan have endorsed Richard Mille

Our Thoughts On The Watch

For watch enthusiasts in Singapore or Asia, Richard Mille marks the holy grail of watches that we must have in our watch collection. The amount of time, research. and craftsmanship justifies the high ticket price that tags along with the watch. Coupled with the limited supply that gets produced annually, it explains why prices are nearing SGD $200,00 in the secondary market for a timepiece like this.

With all the factors mentioned above that go behind the making of the Richard Mille brand, we’re confident to say that this brand could be the Patek Philippe of the 21st century.

This article was first posted by diamondsbyraymondlee.