Aligning his brand with the world’s top performing human beings is a case of natural synergy, says Richard Mille, whose horological creations – and the champions who wear them – refuse to bow to limits.
Constantly striving to set new world records and to break existing ones takes the grit of a champion. It’s why Richard Mille’s eponymous manufacture holds records for accuracy, performance and lightness. Its founder thinks and acts like a champion, with challenges greeted as warmly as old friends. Mille is adamant that building a winning team, whether in haute horology or professional sports, is as much about nurturing relationships as it is about besting challenges. It’s why he didn’t quietly drop a partnership with F1 champion Felipe Massa when the motorsport driver announced his retirement at the end of last year. In fact, he hosted an exclusive event for the driver in Abu Dhabi, inviting VIP guests to celebrate Massa’s illustrious F1 career, where Revolution caught up with him to talk about his approach to achievement. Keeping
Massa was a sound move in retrospect, as just a few months later the driver announced his return to motorsport.
Richard Mille brand ambassador Felipe Massa (left, pictured with Mille) and Rafael Nadal right)
You’re a longstanding advocate of Formula 1 and you even support two teams – these relationships are important personally, but also to the development of your watches…
A racing car is something that needs thousands and thousands of hours of study and development and we are the same. It’s the crème de la crème; and as I have said before, we aren’t interested in volume – with F1 you only get a certain amount of cars. I am in this same position. Extreme technique is a common denominator in all my watches. So for me, these Formula 1 extremes are my everyday cup of tea. And every time I have the
flavours of Formula 1 in front of me, the sounds (although the sounds are not as nice as they used to be) those beautiful cars, it’s just fantastic. I love it even if sometimes the challenges are a headache. It’s my life.
Extreme conditions aren’t really the ‘friends’ of a mechanical watch yet you seek them out at every opportunity.
I love to put my watches in extreme conditions. For example, my friend Romain Grosjean wears a Richard Mille watch during the Grand Prix, which is a killer for mechanical watches because there are so many random vibrations, Gforce, shocks, everything that is an enemy of a watch. I love to test my watches in extreme conditions. This is why we test at 5,000 Gs, which is a killer. But we want to go on until the last possible limit every time. It’s the same with all our materials, the weight, the performance. Everything has to be at the limit. I hate anything that is fake. I wouldn’t do a watch just for the podium. I love to take risks. It was the same with Rafael Nadal for tennis, for Pablo MacDonough in polo, Bubba Watson in golf. In each sport you have a different technical approach because you have different challenges and I love all that.
Richard Mille with Mark Cavendish and Romain Grosjean.
Your watches are very complicated yet you put them through such extremes in testing…
I hate compromises and I hate gimmicks; everything must be genuine and extreme. The problem we face as a brand is to have — on one side a very complex watch — and on the other side a very reliable watch. To make the two things work together is very complicated. Our watches, although extremely complex are very reliable. When I launched the brand everyone was saying it’s impossible to play golf with a mechanical watch. And I proved that to the contrary. I love extreme performance, this is why I love Formula 1. A mechanical watch doesn’t have the same performance as an electronic watch, but we have proved that we can have more or less the same performance… The RM031 has an average tolerance of plus or minus five seconds a month. A normal watch has a performance plus or minus four to eight seconds a day, and we were averaging, with those timepieces more or less five seconds a month. The last piece that left the factory was 1.03 seconds a month which is absolutely extraordinary, by far the best performance ever in the watch history. We are a young brand but we have the best technical experience in all categories. I love that.
You support two different Formula1 teams – McLaren-Honda and Haas. Does that ever feel like a conflict?
I love them all. Honestly, I support them both because friends of mine are driving the cars; the team principals are very nice people and I am very honoured to be part of the history. I am very strong in my relationships with my ‘buddies’ as I always say. We are like a family and we are very faithful, we are there for the best but also the worst; where Massa had his accident not once did I feel that we would not carry on together. When Nadal stopped I had no problem to carry on with Nadal. In sports things can be challenging and complicated. But that’s life.
What’s your relationship with Felipe Massa like?
He is a gentleman, very intelligent, a fantastic human being, very funny. A real sportsman. I love to have these kind of relationships which are very deep, very genuine and like family. It is not like it happens a lot in marketing when you press the lemon and when the lemon has no more juice you throw the lemon away.