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  • EP 4: Why are Richard Mille Watches So Expensive?

EP 4: Why are Richard Mille Watches So Expensive?

How does a young Swiss brand like Richard Mille found almost two centuries later than Patek Philippe compete at the same stage?

Richard Mille: Website

In the precise world of timekeeping where small details matter, from complications to the movements, every gear, every spring is judged, in a world where even a hair of misalignment could completely ruin the mechanics. Imagine a world so flawless that every single stone is meticulously sought after for years, and every tick of the clock is a symphony to the ears! This is the enchanting world of watchmaking, where perfection reigns supreme. And why shouldn't it? It serves as a beautiful reminder of the most precious element in our fleeting, finite lives: time.

What is the first thing you look for when you buy anything? The brand, but today many brands make the same thing, so what differentiates one? The product's history and quality are of utmost priority when looking for anything.

History is a major selling point for watch brands, and it takes decades of fine craftsmanship to build a luxury watch brand from scratch, to sell not just time, but its value. In this competitive environment, even the ones with rich history don’t often live up to it, defeated even after all the experience and time.

RM 40-01, Maclaren Speedtail

One can imagine how challenging it is for young watch brands to stand out and establish themselves as major league players. It’s remarkable to be named beside brands with rich histories like Patek Philippe, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Rolex, and Breguet.

Now the question stands, how does a young Swiss brand like Richard Mille found almost two centuries later than Patek Philippe compete at the same stage?

Where it all began…

Richard Mille was founded in 2001, but its story began early in 1951 with a love for everything mechanical. Richard Mille studied marketing and built his career in the world of horology and watchmaking, working at the boutique French watchmaker Finhor, which Matra, a French conglomerate, later acquired, Richard managed Matra’s watchmaking business which was later sold to Seiko.

Richard left soon after to start a watch-making business for Mauboussin, an elite jewelry firm and had climbed up to the position of CEO at Mauboussin. Around this time, Richard met Dominique Guenat, who had already established himself as an expert in the watchmaking industry, and owner of Montres Valgine. Soon the professional relationship changed to friendship with their shared love for automobiles, aeronautics, and everything mechanical.


Richard Mille always dreamt of starting his own watch brand, something original exceeding the idea of watchmaking at a time when, high-end luxury watch brands were all about sophistication, elegance, and delicateness.

There was almost no space for sports watches, so with a desire and expertise Richard Mille soon left his position at Mauboussin and with the help of his friend Dominique Guenat drew a blueprint for their own brand Richard Mille in 1999.

“Seize the moment”. Richard Mille saw an opportunity and started his brand with Montres Valgine and Swiss Watchmaker Audemars Piguet, for the next two years they designed watches with the help of Audemars Piguet's high complication development side, and by October 2001 were registered in Switzerland. After almost three years of development and prototype, the brand was ready to showcase its first model!

RM 001

RM 001

It was something of its own. The RM 001 was first showcased at the jewelry and watch exhibition, Baselworld in Switzerland, with a fresh bold design, the 001 screamed contemporary and sporty. With an exceptional titanium baseplate, it contained a tourbillon, which was considered a fragile mechanics that could easily be damaged by force, the RM 001 was built to withstand extreme shock.


If this shock wasn’t enough, the price tag on the watch at that time was an outlandish $135,000. RM-001 is fairly simple, apart from the tourbillon mechanics, so why was it so expensive? It was of the looks, the dynamics of the watch were unlike others, and it was immediately recognizable, hence it was an overnight success, and it followed,

Reasons behind the price tag

The cheapest Richard Mille on the market right now is around 60,000 - 70,000 dollars, and it’s the one no one wants, the price tag can go up more than 3 million dollars! These are crazy numbers for a watch. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons behind

Bold Designs and Aesthetics

RM 88

You can spot a Richard Mille from miles away, it has a signature look, which not a lot of other watch manufacturers have, and the fact that they have perfected the design to sit comfortably on the wrist of your hand is amazing. The shape of the watch has become a status symbol.

With their futuristic designs comes athletic aesthetics, it's bold and distinct. and if not the perfect shape that fits perfectly on your wrist, the screaming design, an RM is infamous for being super lightweight, some even quote, “It’s as if you’re not wearing a watch itself ”

Materials and Movements

When we look at a Richard Mille watch, one question does pop into the back of our minds, i.e. where did they get the inspiration from? Well, these watches are inspired by Formula One cars and fighter jets, which is why tend to have such a powerful overall look

But that’s not where it stops, these watches are actually made up of materials used in Formula One car and aerospace industries, materials like carbon fiber, grade 5 titanium, graphene, Gold Carbon TPT (gold fused with carbon and quartz), high-tech ceramics and the list goes on.

It’s something way out of the world of the watch-making industry. The company has invested an abundance on research and development of materials to be used in their watches and these processes lead to random patterns in the layers of carbon, so no two RM are identical, each one is unique and of its own kind

Why use all the materials they use? Richard Mille watches are known to be as light as a feather and super durable. An RM watch weighs around 40 grams and one of their lightest watch RM 027 weighs less than 20 grams.

The brand makes In-house movements, RM 037 Unisex Automatic, powered by CRMA1, was their first automatic in-house movement introduced in 2012. All the mechanical complications in a watch are very delicate, especially the tourbillon, and Richard Mille is all about one, so they changed it all, the RM 27-05 flying tourbillon Rafael Nadal could withstand a g-force of 14,000! which is mindblowing for a watch that weighs only 11,5 grams. 

“During the 2020 Bahrain GP, Roman Grosjean crashed his car into a track wall at 120 miles per hour and was trapped in the flaming car for 28 seconds before being saved. Surprisingly, he was wearing an RM 011 Red Quartz TPT watch, which functioned perfectly fine even after the crash.”

Marketing Genius

Making a Richard Mille watch is a complex and time-consuming process, which is mostly done by hand, and being a watch brand listed at the top of the league, the demand is of course way more than the supply, RM makes only around 5000 watches every year to keep it exclusive.

It can be argued that Richard Mille demands so much because of the right marketing. Marketing is everything, no matter how good your product is, if not marketed correctly it’s not going to reach the heights. it’s an art and brands like Richard Mille have mastered it

You can spot an RM on famous actors and sportsmen. They carefully select their partners and are associated with exclusive sports and elite players such as Formula One and Golf. Some of their most famous partnerships were with 11-time Grand Prix winner Filipe Massa, 22-time Grand Slam winner Rafael Nadal, and golf prodigy Bubba Watson, plus many more. One of their most recent brand ambassadors is the Jamaican-born track and field sensation Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.

The watch brand is no longer just a timepiece; it's now a status symbol for the ultra-rich, and it is truly a racing machine on your wrist