Richard Mille: ‘Everything must be possible!’

In an exclusive interview to CPP-LUXURY.COM, Mr Richard Mille, owner of the eponymous luxury watch brand, shares his insights on the continued success of his company.

How did your company perform in 2013 and what are your expectations for 2014?

We have been doing well every year since the company’s founding, with increasing sales even under globally adverse conditions and already now halfway through 2014 we see again increasing turnover above expectations.

Considering your price range, you are targeting a very specific consumer base. Tell us more about the profile of your loyal consumers.

They come from every walk of life actually, what connects them is an intense fascination with cutting edge watchmaking that accepts no compromise and fits in with 21st century expectations of mechanical design and technology.

What is your approach to retail development? Will you pursue development of boutiques through JV or your envisage direct operations?

The world’s markets are diverse and cannot all be treated in the same manner everywhere, so I never say never. I believe a mixture of boutiques and JV is the way to go on a case to case basis, although so far some form of JV is the most applied in our situation.

Which are the key elements you consider when developing a specific product?

If I like the timepiece when it is finished, If I have confidence in the substance of the project, If I have any personal doubts about it, then it is a no-go.

Your marketing is centered around celebrities and VIPs from the most diverse walks of life. Tell us more about your approach and your choice for this type of endorsements.

In fact, I always thought that the very high end of the horological universe had to be opened to the world of sport, art, lifestyle, women, with always as a common denomination extreme performance. I feel the brand has to reflect many different viewpoints and aspects, and be open to all kinds of new impulses, which is why I do not want to be identified as only a golf, tennis or Hollywood fed brand. Everything must be possible. Furthermore, I really want to enjoy being with the people we work with in a relaxed and inspiring manner. The scale of contact has to remain human so to speak.

In many emerging markets, the success of luxury watches is driven by the notoriety of the brand and how recognizable is design for show off purposes. What is your view?

Every person has their own way of feeling and or experiencing attraction to a design or an object; it would be wrong for me to quantify, qualify or judge that. It often happens that people are attracted to something even though they are not experts or serious collectors, others make judgments based on more intellectual models or extensive knowledge of the market. If someone loves my watches, it gives me an intense pleasure, and I am sure my timepieces are worth everyone’s attention! what I can say is that the Mille watch is everything except a bling bling or a show off piece.

In the past years, you have gradually made strategic investments in manufacturing, drawing closer to developing a great part of your watches in-house. Why was this a priority for the company?

Simply to guarantee development times for new creations and to stabilize delivery schedules. There are many small and complex pieces in any watch, and therefore a lot of potential for problems if just one small part is not available at the right moment. The tiniest thing can upset the entire production process so the more you have in hand the better it is in the long run.

Which are the most effective communications channels for your brand? What is your view of the internet and social media?

Internet, social media and digital communication remain very important for us of course, but for high end luxury they highly valued additional tools, and not the sole factor for creating interest. Many people forget that without backup by printed media, multiple events, VIPS and celebrities and high quality editorial work, social media have nothing to ‘feed on’ except copy/pasting each other. As a luxury brand, if you concentrate solely on social media, as if you were selling basket ball shoes or cola, then you might easily hit an unforeseen bump in the road. All communications rather need be cohesive and interlocking in my view, at least if it concerns high-end luxury products like mine.

Mr Richard Mille