Why Richard Mille Are So Expensive?
Although Richard Mille has only been around for a couple of decades, thanks to their craftsmanship, ingenuity, and overall idiosyncrasy, they have taken the high-end luxury watch world by storm. Richard Mille has quickly become the most exclusive brand in the game. Everyone reveres the name, yet spotting one in the wild is a rarity. Most people will only see a Richard Mille watch while browsing the internet, with the exception of those with very rich friends. And while the watches are impressive to behold, it’s oftentimes the price that is the most astonishing. Richard Mille watches are very expensive, which leads casual watch fans to ask “why?”
This brings us to the purpose of today’s topic: Why are Richard Mille watches so expensive? We are here with 5 clear-cut reasons for Richard Mille’s exorbitant prices. At the end, we will give our opinion on whether the prices are justified or not…but be warned, like most watch fanatics, we love Richard Mille, so we may have some bias here. Nevertheless, we will speak only to facts when discussing the “why’s”.
HOW MUCH DO RICHARD MILLE WATCHES COST?
Entry into the Richard Mille club will run you around $80,000. That’s for a brand new RM 005, which is their “cheapest” model. If you go pre-owned, you may be able to get it for 20% less than retail.
From there, the watches go up and up. Prices for Richard Mille watches range from $80,000 to $2 million+.
As Richard Mille’s tourbillon watches are extremely popular, we should also note that the tourbillon models cost about $500,000 to $800,000 on average.
The point is, Richard Mille watches are expensive…better yet, they are exorbitant. When looking at the mean price of the Richard Mille catalog, you will find that Richar Mille is the most expensive watch brand in the game.
So, what makes Richard Mille watches so expensive? And, is the price justified?
We will answer this question, but first, let’s give you a brief glimpse into the history of the Richard Mille brand.
BRIEF HISTORY 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. The brand that astonishes us and that we all know and love today, 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 truly lives the brand
While Richard Mille has many illustrious ambassadors, such as Felipe Massa, Fernando Alonso, Pharrell Williams, Rafael Nadal, and Roberto Mancini, to name but a few, nobody exudes the nature of the brand better than Richard Mille himself. The life he lives is authentic and a perfect representation of the inspiration behind the watches. He is passionate about Formula 1 and regatta races, he makes his way around the world in high-end private jets, he hangs out with celebrity actors and athletes, and he loves and always wears Richard Mille watches. The guy is as legit as it gets. Mille’s lifestyle is exactly that of what Richard Mille watches represent.
5 REASONS WHY RICHARD MILLE WATCHES ARE SO EXPENSIVE
When thinking about the Richard Mille brand, we were able to break down the reasoning behind the prices into 5 categories…
1. 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. Moreover, the curved surfaces fit together within a 100th of a millimeter to completely prevent moisture or dust from entering. If you know anything about machining, you should be particularly impressed by this.
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 for, involves 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 calibre is extremely laborious and it involves the highest level of technical mastery, which is one aspect of why Richard Mille watches are so expensive.
2. AVANT-GARDE MATERIALS
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, featherweight feel, and 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 leads 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.
3. COMPLICATED MOVEMENTS
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. The movement parts are usually made of a special alloy that consists of about 90% grade 5 titanium, 6% aluminum, and 4% vanadium. Again, these are materials only used in very hi-tech industries, so for watchmaking, this is unheard of. As for the baseplates and coatings, they are usually treated with PVD (Physical Vapor Deposition) or Titalyt, which is extremely durable and resilient. This kind of innovation takes many years to accomplish. The micro-engineers at Richard Mille are truly next-level.
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. With a comprehensive redesign and high-tech materials, they make tourbillons to perfection. Their tourbillons are clear proof of their dedication to advancing haute horology.
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. If you need a mechanical watch for an apocalypse, Richard Mille better be the one.
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.
5. 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”.
IS A RICHARD MILLE WATCH WORTH THE PRICE?
From a technical complexity, visual finishing, and avant-garde exotic material point of view, Richard Mille stands above and beyond the rest. They do things no one else has done in the watch industry and they have built an unrivaled reputation of elitism. So, whether or not Richard Mille watches could or should be priced less is irrelevant. The fact of the matter is, there is nothing on the market like a Richard Mille, let alone anything like it that’s priced for less. The brand is not just exclusive, but the products themselves are too. Again, there’s nothing else like it out there!
Is it worth it, well, that’s up to you to decide. We say, absolutely! We’ve felt the power of holding and wearing a Richard Mille watch at Diamonds By Raymond Lee. In fact, we’ve played with many of them. After all, we sell Richard Mille watches! What we can say is, a Richard Mille gives you a special feeling, almost like a huge ruby or sapphire does. The price feels justified. If it wasn’t, people would have wised up by now. The luxury watch community is smart, no questions about it. All in all, the value is clearly there, which is why you can spend a fortune for one and resell it for a fortune just as quickly. The market has proved its value to be true, and that’s all that matters.
Related: Richard Mille RM11-02 Jet Black Limited Edition Watch Review