How in the world is the Richard Mille RM 27-04 worth $1,050,000? Resisting the urge to draw a parallel between Mssr. Mille’s business model and the plot of The Emperor’s New Clothes, let’s look at the come-on for a watch with a price tag equivalent to eating at the world’s most expensive restaurant with 459 of your closest friends . . .
The big play here is the big player – Spanish tennis ace Rafael Nadal. Ten years ago, Mille cut a sponsorship deal with Raffy. The exact terms of that deal are unknown, but the Swiss watchmaker sure as Hell picked a winner. Make that the winner. wikipedia.com:
Nadal has won 19 Grand Slam singles titles, the second-most in history for a male player, as well as 35 ATP Tour Masters 1000 titles, 21 ATP Tour 500 titles and the 2008 Olympic gold medal in singles and the 2016 Olympic gold medal in doubles.
In majors, Nadal has won a record twelve French Open titles, four US Open titles, two Wimbledon titles and one Australian Open title, and won at least one Grand Slam every year for a record ten consecutive years (2005–2014). Nadal has won 85 career titles overall, including the most outdoor titles in the Open Era (83) and a record 59 titles on clay.
How much would you pay to wear the watch worn by the Spanish tennis legend? Before now, you had to stump up $775k for the RM 27-02 (above). Before that, $725k for the RM 27-03. That’s assuming you paid full retail and aren’t Rafael Nadal – who paid nada for the privilege of helping Mssr. Mille keep pace with his income.
To level-up the Nadal watch racket, Mille’s minions mastered the art of turning a watch into a tennis racquet.
Forgoing the less PC but more nostalgic option of using catgut, the Richard Mille RM 27-04 relies on a 0.27mm steel cable to hold the movement in place. The tourbillon-powered engine’s connected to the cable by five gold-colored titanium hooks. The hand-woven mesh machine can withstand impacts of over 12,000 Gs. (Tennis math here.)
As with all his watches, the RM 27-04 has more tricks up its sleeve than a Transformer, including a TitaCarb® case (high tensile strength), fast rotating barrel (ideal power reserve/performance and regularity ratio), tourbillon vibration dampeners (dampens tourbillon vibrations), a Nitrile O-ring (stops the Space Shuttle from exploding) and a barrel pawl with progressive recoil (to appeal to well-heeled Bernie Bros.).
Legibility isn’t much of a factor, what with those fire engine red Wankel engine rotors competing with equally hued hands and tiny triangular indices for attention.
Never mind. Mille made his bones creating watches that are to a Patek Philippe what a Formula One car is to an Auburn Boattail Speedster.
That said, a F1 car needs all that tech to go faster. Mille’s club sandwich-thick technological farragos end up doing nothing better than a quartz Seiko – never mind a Citizen Satellite Wave GPS or Apple Watch.
And? The Richard Mille RM 27-04 runs a different race than such low-brow horological fare. Like a Patek, a Mille stakes its claim on its customers’ cash by virtue of its complexity, build quality and, above and beyond all else, exclusivity.
The real question about the RM 27-04: can Mssr. Mille sell fifty of them? Should he?
chrono24.com currently offers 766 Richard Milles for sale (roughly 15 percent of the watchmaker’s 5k annual output). As the watches average well over $100k a pop, sellers are looking to unload some $100m worth of RM’s. Adding $50m worth of RM 27-04’s to the mix certainly won’t help residuals.
I [still] reckon there’s a Richard Mille bubble about to burst. If there is and it does, neither Mr. Nadal or Mssr. Mille will be living on the street. Equally, they’ve both assured their place in history. One as one of the world’s greatest tennis player, the other as one of the world’s greatest watch salesman.
The salesperson part is definitely true. Mille realized that at a certain wealth threshold watches are a veblen good, and went hard on that opportunity. Why sell 50 watches for $5,000 when you can sell one for $250,000 and take the same revenue. It is shocking how successful the brand has become within the watch world. On revenue it outsells every brand except Apple, Rolex, Omega, Cartier, Longines, Patek, Audemars, and Tissot. No LVMH brands, and only one outlier Richemont brand outsell Mille.
Mille likely holds a lot of the blame for watch brands in the $1,000 – $10,000 range making arbitrary price increases. The problem for brands in that range is that the buyers care about their money. Sure they may choose a more expensive watch as a status marker, but it better have the specs and history to back up that price.
The challenge Mille is going to face is what you flag. There are only so many ultra rich people that even with his limited production Mille is going to hit a wall. Only so many people have the money or lack of respect for it to drop six figures+ on a watch with questionable long term value. In a certain respect Mille is the new Franck Muller, although with a bigger peak, which means he will eventually end up like the old one.
I really don’t like brands that hype their finishing, but the problem with advanced materials is that that quickly become regularly available. “My Richard Mille has a carbon fiber reinforced plastic case (TitaCarb® to make that sound fancy).” “Sweet, so does my G-Shock.”
And Mille’s designs are nothing special. I look at a regular Hublot compared to the Royal Oak that almost certainly influenced it and I see a vulgar, less attractive in every way knock-off. I look at a Hublot Spirit of Big Bang compared to a Richard Mille and I’m not sure which is the better design.
I think it was an economics professor that explained economies of scale by claiming that if you built the basest Chevy in your garage (this was back when there was way less tech in cars), it would cost at least a million dollars. Richard Mille, who admittedly is doing substantial design work, not fashion design but real clean sheet engineering stuff, is rather an example of this. In mass quantities, the decimal on the MSRP would shift how many spaces to the left?
How many spaces indeed Oscar. Still RM is a brilliant salesman and a storyteller on par with Hans Christian Andersen. While ‘we’ may not ever chose to showoff in this manner we can spot the vulgarity or arrogance or playfulness of those that do. In fact what his customers spend on one of his watches may well be the same % of income that the average person spends. Or maybe not.
His design language breaks all the moulds of what a watch should look like; well all the moulds except for Swatch, which answers your question of just where the decimal point should be if this was manufactured en masse. Not fair? Hmm, the movements are always interestingly complex so move that decimal to the right two spaces. Done.
I love the “racquet racket” though, reminds me of the trench watch case protectors. What are they called? Some kind of cage?
Does Rob just not understand the point of luxury products in general, or RM in particular? Why does he write for a watch blog? Does he just hate people with money because he himself doesn’t have any? So. Many. Questions.
Hiya Ralf – what do you think of RM? Always interested in the comments and differing opinions. I like the irreverent style of Rob as opposed to the breathless kowtowing to a watch that you read on so many other sites which bore me with what is effectively brand PR.
Anyway, you joined this discussion, welcome and let’s hear your thoughts on RM or the high horology market.
The point of luxury products? For whom? For the maker, it’s about making money (as it is for mass market products). For the buyer it’s about quality and exclusivity, and not necessarily in that order. Right?
I write for a watch blog because I love writing and I love watches.
I don’t hate people who have money. I respect the hard work and ingenuity required to generate wealth. Or maintain it.
I do have some money. What else would you like to know?