” NONew rich”, “vulgar”, “criminalized” and at the same time “avant-garde”, “daring”, “elusive”… To say that the models produced by the factory cause controversy is to say nothing. With all due respect to the discontented minds, Richard Mille shook up the aesthetic codes and proposed a new technological grammar. “This is the success story of the watch industry over the past twenty years. A unicorn that combines modernity and collection,” confirms Romain Rea, CEO of Antiquorum, who is happy to sell his 100e shows Richard Mille in Monaco, 19 July. And for good reason, the master of independent watchmakers, Richard Mille constantly challenges the “Big Three” – Rolex, Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet. So much so that in 2021 it became the third most traded brand in auctions, becoming the independent watch manufacturer with the highest sales volume. Impressive.
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Dot : Richard Mille is a relatively young manufactory. What makes it special in auctions and since when have you noticed the Antiquorum craze?
Romain Rea: Richard Mille is the success story of the watch industry over the past twenty years. A brand that has tried everything and succeeded in everything, be it shapes, complexity or materials. Since 2001, Richard Mille has combined boldness and technical prowess, as evidenced by the collection we are presenting at the Monaco Sale on July 19th.
Since the days of Rolex and the “commercial” genius Hans Wilsdorf, no one has known better than Richard Mill how to revive watch marketing, in particular through collaborations with Felipe Massa, Rafael Nadal, Mutaz Barshim, Charles Leclerc or even Ferrari, McLaren… Thus, Richard Mille associated himself with the world of sports and cars, creating an image of self-transcendence and technology.
Antiquorum has always believed in this incredible brand and has done so since 2004, releasing several nuggets such as the RM 005-1, a one-of-a-kind piece created by Starck that sold in September 2005 for €285,000 during the Only Watch sale in Monaco. . With five watches that we will present in our next sale in Monaco on July 19, we will reach 100e Richard Mill sold at Antiquorum auction. We became the first auction house to auction 100 RM watches: a real anniversary!
What are average selling prices and how do you explain their importance?
Combining beauty, technical skill and rarity, Richard Mille combines all the criteria that collectors are looking for. In the secondary market today, almost no link sells below the indicative recommended public price, and most of these links trade based on breathtaking multiples. The results of all auction houses are unanimous, Richard Mille are sold for several hundred thousand euros, mainly due to their rarity. These excellent results can be explained by the huge gap between supply and demand. You might think that Richard Mille’s success at auction is just beginning. Indeed, the production is extremely limited (between 3000 and 4000 pieces per year), with a completely vertical distribution today and above all, as I said before, exemplary marketing. Finally, it should be noted that this is one of the first major brands to show real interest in its aftermarket with dedicated sales points around the world, in London, Los Angeles and Tokyo.
Are they overpriced or, on the contrary, is there room to grow?
It is by far the ‘star’ brand in the aftermarket and the one with the most resilient ratings to the current market turmoil, which is important in times like the ones we live in. For five years in the used watch market, Richard Mille, the master of independent watchmakers, has constantly challenged the Big Three – Rolex, Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet. Although independent, the brand became institutionalized and in 2021 became the third brand in terms of turnover at auctions, becoming the independent watch manufacturer with the highest sales volume. Richard Mille is becoming one of the giants in watchmaking history and Antiquorum is proud to be part of that journey.
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By his own admission, Mr. Millet admits that his most difficult watches are the ones that are hard to sell. What references are the most popular at auctions?
Those that combine rarity and “storytelling” (the same reference worn by Rafael Nadal, for example). But, indeed, the most complex pieces can sometimes find a buyer with great difficulty, so at the initial stage it is necessary to do the work of explaining and presenting the watch. We like what we understand. This is exactly what watch enthusiasts are waiting for: to understand watches. In this context, auctions should play the educational role that Antiquorum has been playing since 1974.
What are the features of the models that you propose in the next session?
In this case, on July 19th we are presenting a magnificent unique model RM 52-01 “Skull Tourbillon”, known as “The Vanitas Vanitatum” (lot 373). Creating a sapphire case of this quality is an unprecedented technical feat. In addition, lot 260 ref. RM053 DLC repeats the codes of the so-called “driver’s” watch: a closed case with two portholes demonstrates the ability to design originality.
Are RM buyers the same as Patek Philippe collectors, or do you see a new clientele coming along with them?
After all, these are the same customers as Rolex, Patek Philippe and Audemars Piguet. But there are also collectors exclusive to the brand, no doubt thanks to the work of Richard Mill both in marketing and for his involvement in the secondary market.
The Richard Mille brand is very famous, but also divisive with the public. What to say to those who still see behind RM watches “ostentatious objects with low intrinsic value and no hourly guarantee”?
We cannot rewrite history, the first RMs were not as good as today’s ones. On the other hand, the marketing was overwhelming and that is what contributed a lot to the brand’s success. Finally, it should not be forgotten that this quality has improved considerably with time and experience, which, combined with technical audacity, makes these watches fascinating collectibles.
On the other hand, would you go so far as to say that RM is the most important watchmaking phenomenon of the first quarter of the 21st century?e century?
Yes, without a doubt, and without forgetting the FPJourne with Résonance, a copy of which we have in our next sale in Monaco on July 19 (Lot 370), and the Tourbillon à remontoir d’alité, similar to those we offered at auction. in Geneva in May 2021.
Are recession and inflation, combined with falling markets, positive (safe haven) or negative (party over) for collectible watch prices? The collapse of the crypto market seems to have already affected the price of the most popular models.
For half a year, the “party” has clearly slowed down for modern new watches. However, when it comes to collectible watches, they are still very active in the market. They are out of touch with this new market, which is more like the speculative world of cryptocurrencies than the world of collectible watches. The latter has existed for several centuries, has stood the test of time and overcome many economic crises. Richard Mille, although modern, has already established itself with its more than twenty years of existence. Like FP Journe, it is a rare unicorn that combines modernity and collectibility… For me, there is no doubt that these brands are an integral part of the history of watchmaking and will remain unchanged through time.