JCK Asks: What Makes Timepiece King Richard Mille Tick?



A few minutes with the engineer/artist/inventor behind the eponymous 17-year-old watch brand

Richard MilleIn an alternate universe, Richard Mille might not have gone into the watch business. “In my mind, I had three options,” he says. “Aircraft, cars, or watches.” Looking at his timepieces—each an inimitable, fantastically complex feat of artistry and technology—it’s hard to imagine Mille doing anything else. Still, he hasn’t strayed far from his original interests. The cutting-edge materials he employs, elements such as titanium and carbon, are “innovations directly drawn from the automotive and aerospace industries,” he says. The Paris-based Mille is particularly passionate about cars—especially “the golden age of motor racing, from the ’60s through the ’70s.” (Note the photo of him, below, in one of his vintage cars at the Chantilly Arts + Elegance Richard Mille Concours d’Elegance.) His brand’s hashtag, appropriately, is #ARacingMachineontheWrist.

Richard Mille Concours deleganceAge: 67

Number of years in the biz: More than 40.

Number of employees you oversee: Around 400 with all the Richard Mille boutiques, factory, regional offices, and head office.

Family and pets: My wife, seven children, horses, ducks, geese, fish, three cats, and a dog.

Richard Mille Phoenix Michelle Yeoh
RM 051 Phoenix–Michelle Yeoh (seen on Yeoh in Crazy Rich Asians)

Describe your personal style: I do not adhere to a single style; I follow my instincts and moods to create my own style.

First watch you ever designed: I was at Matra Horlogerie, on a team in charge of special projects: We had fun creating watches for astronauts like Patrick Baudry and Jean-Loup Chrétien, Russian cosmonauts, and explorer Jean-Louis Etienne, who was preparing to cross Antarctica.

Timepiece you’re most proud of: The very first RM 001 from 2001 will ­always represent a special moment. It was the beginning of a great adventure.

Richard Mille RM 031 high performance
RM 031 High Performance (limited to 10 platinum pieces)

Best advice you ever received: “Recognize what you believe in, and do not deviate from the path you have chosen to follow. Dare to believe in your ideas and…learn to defend them independently of what others say or think about them.”

Worst advice: When a person says something is impossible.

First job ever: I used to wash the neighbors’ cars to earn extra pocket money when I was a child.

If you weren’t making watches, what would you be doing? I would work in the aircraft or automobile industry. I love everything that is about technicity and design.

airplaneWatch you’re wearing right now: The RM 60-01 regatta watch on a yellow strap.

On your desk right now: Model cars, plane and car ­composites, an ejector seat for a fighter aircraft.

Exercise regimen: Thirty minutes of sport and stretching every morning [and] 20 minutes under the shower. I start with tepid water, then I go to very hot water, and I finish with very cold water. Always. A good combination to be in good shape.

M and MsWhat did you have for breakfast? Fruit, yogurt, and a double espresso. I love to take time to have my breakfast.

Guilty pleasure: M&M’s because they are delicious and addictive.

Drink (daytime/evening): A really great red wine, or a Negroni.

The Phantom of LibertyFirst website you check every day: Motorsport.com, to get an overview of the current racing events and results.

Scent: Habit Rouge by Guerlain.

How do you unwind? A 20-minute nap—not a minute more—every day.

Favorite movie: I like to remember the movie by Luis Buñuel, The Phantom of Liberty; it’s a rather surrealist film.

Personal motto: “If you are not 110 percent passionate about your goals, then you cannot achieve success in what you want.”

Top: RM 60-01 regatta on a black rubber strap

(Mille: Wee Khim; M&M’s: Shutterstock; Airplane: Stephan Zirwes/Getty; The Phantom of Liberty: © 20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved/Courtesy Everett Collection)