may 2017
april 2017
march 2017

Richard Mille

Cut and Thrust

Do you still need introducing? 

 
Richard Mille:
Well, Laurent certainly needs no introduction! (laughter)
 
Laurent Picciotto:
I’m not sure how I should take that!
 

I think it was meant to be friendly!

 
Richard Mille:
Of course, Laurent knows that. We’ve been together for a long time.
 

So you can tell each other absolutely everything? 

 
Richard Mille:
Almost! I can say that I really like the guy, his outlook on life, the philosophy of Chronopassion and that of his business, where there’s no room for compromise.
 
Laurent Picciotto:
Personally, I especially enjoyed the first five or six years before we were so well-known. We had complete freedom and the range was still rational. After that…
 
Richard Mille:
What do you mean ‘after that’, Laurent? There’s nothing you can’t tell me, remember! (laughter)
 
Laurent Picciotto:
After that, there was a tendency towards inflation. There were a lot of models, sometimes too many. I was afraid of the catalogue becoming over-full, and we all know only too well the effect that can have on how a brand is perceived.
 
Richard Mille:
Not guilty, your honour! (laughter). We needed to expand. I suppose I did go on a bit of a creative binge at one point. However, I’ve always moved cautiously. For instance, when I moved up-market with a tourbillon, I also moved in the other direction, towards more affordable models. It’s true that I’m haunted by the idea of being captive to a single product range. So yes, I’ve developed a lot of models, but always with the same DNA and brand consistency. Eighteen ‘tourbillon masterpiece’ models, ten of them in limited editions, and thirteen ‘series’ or ‘GT’ pieces with much more settled models – that’s a good ratio.
 

The positioning of the first watches could have put a lot of people off. A price tag of €176,000 upwards for the RM01 was a bit over the top, wasn’t it?

 
Laurent Picciotto:
We were one hundred percent sure of the product. We really wanted to carry the exercise right through, redesigning the movement, shape, use, and so on. Although admittedly, when we added up all the investments made for the first RM, we weren’t expecting it to have cost so much.
 
Richard Mille:
Personally, I was more worried about the issue of production! If the concept worked, how were we going to honour all the orders? (laughter)
 

Was the idea of releasing a more affordable model for around €30,000 the result of that initial price shock? 

 
Richard Mille:
Yes!
 
Laurent Picciotto:
No! (shared laughter). Let’s say that I wasn’t keen on the idea of making the brand more accessible. I thought that would be a betrayal of the people who had bought the first watches. But I was mistaken. For an independent, RM has been impressively successful. It’s become an established brand.
 

Doesn’t an established brand need to have its own in-house movement, though?

 
Richard Mille:
I really don’t have a problem with that issue. I work with the best. For me – and thus for my customers too – that’s a guarantee of quality. I’m very pleased to be working with Renaud & Papi and Vaucher. An in-house movement is not better than other movements just because it’s in-house. I have my RM37, which is ‘in-house’, and it’s really great from the point of view of both performance and finishings. As for the others, there’s nothing but benefits to be had from working with the most highly skilled people, whether they’re part of our firm or not.
 

Doesn’t subcontracting the movement mean you are also subcontracting all the related problems – including the issue of backlogs?

 
Richard Mille:
Laurent and I differ on this point. The thing I see as being important is ensuring I make the design impactful enough to draw everybody else along. It’s a virtuous circle, and that’s what we need. It doesn’t matter if it clogs up R&D. It doesn’t matter if supply gets a bit tight.
 
Laurent Picciotto:
It is complicated to handle, though.
 
Richard Mille:
You should be more open-minded, Laurent! There are all sorts of potential customers: men, women, young people, older people, sportsmen and women, city-dwellers, and so on. That means there are lots of watches to be designed, even if they don’t come out at regular intervals!
 

Doesn’t that make the brand difficult to apprehend for the retailer? 

 
Laurent Picciotto:
Let’s say that the fact that models don’t come out regularly is atypical, to say the least. That said, in watchmaking predictability is a fantasy that never actually occurs in real life. So you have to dare to do new things and keep on seeking your Holy Grail – which by definition will always be found in the design following the current one. And we’re taking our customers with us – I see that on a daily basis. Some of them have almost come to blows to get their hands on an RM! That’s the price of success. It’s a completely unique, ground-breaking timepiece – introducing a customer to a watch like this is always a sheer delight!
 
Journalist : Olivier Müller (11/2012)