Collecting History: Richard Mille RM002

The Richard Mille RM002 is the watch that got me hooked on “exotic” watches.  In the early 2000′s, like most other people, I had no idea that $100,000+ watches existed.  The idea was simply absurd.  Why would anyone spend that much on a watch?  How could it possibly be worth it?

Sure I had seen some watches that I considered incredibly expensive.  I recall seeing a Patek perpetual calendar chronograph (3970) which at the time, I believe, was about $40,000.  A watch exists that is 4 times that price?  Unimaginable.

I vividly remember seeing the watch for the first time.  A friend had just bought it, and I asked to see it out of sheer amazement at the price.  Of course it looked cool, but still I did not fully understand.

And then I put it on my wrist.

Really, it all changed for me right then.  The watch was SO comfortable – both ergonomically, and psychologically.  It wasn’t ostentatious, or old and stuffy.  It was me.  I could see myself wearing it every day.  And so I decided right then, that some day I would buy one.  A year later I saved up enough to write the check, and I wore that watch nearly every day for the next 18 months.

So that is my very personal story with this watch, but why does it mean the watch is historically important?  Richard Mille was able to influence an entire market of people just like me.

He blew the lid off pricing, somehow making people comfortable paying many times what they had ever paid for a watch.  You may think this is a negative for consumers, but actually it has been perhaps the single biggest driving force towards all of the incredible watches we see now.  If no one was comfortable paying $188,000 for a watch, something like an MB&F HM4 could never exist.  There is simply no way to make some of these amazing sculptures with pre-Richard Mille pricing.

I’ve also heard Richard Mille being described as a “gateway drug”.  It is an exotic watch that Patek and Vacheron guys still often feel comfortable wearing.  In a pre-exotic world, it was a great first step to getting people used to the crazier things to come.

And so, just as this watch started my fascination with Contemporary Horology, in many ways it paved the way for much of what was to come.  No discussion of this period of watchmaking would be complete without Richard Mille.

Tomorrow I will take a look at another pioneer in the history of Contemporary Horology, and a very important stop in my collecting history, FP Journe.

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  • http://twitter.com/Rusdude Ivan Yagolnikov

    This is a very nice model. But, as a consumer, I’m a little puzzled by RM’s pricing chasm in between “regular” and tourbillon watches. Regular watches are already expensive — are tourbillon models really worth many times more? Feels a bit arbitrary. MB&F is doing a better job of explaining the value & pricing.

    Do you still feel that RM is a good entry point into exotic world? Even lower level RM is mid-five figures, so I’d think that Devon Tread 1 would be better. It’s still $15K, but not sure if there’s anything cheaper than can be considered exotic.

    • http://www.ticktocking.com Steve Hallock

      Hi Ivan,

      Thanks for the comment and thanks for the compliment to MB&F. We certainly try very hard to provide value and price our watches fairly.

      I’m not as familiar with RM now as I was back then. When I was interested, they were producing three models, RM002, RM003 and RM005. Remember, the complicated movements are made by Renaud and Papi and the simple are Vaucher. MAJOR difference.

      As for the Devon. Very cool watch, but not being mechanical I’m not sure it really enters the discussion. For me, unfortunately, there isn’t much in that price range I would consider exotic. Best to go with a good solid watch in that price range, a Royal Oak or a vintage Speedmaster or something, IMHO.

      Hope you enjoy the rest of the series. Keep commenting!

      Best,
      Steve

  • Ariel Adams

    Steve,

    Interesting that you focus on comfort of both wearing it and spending money on it. I agree, I think that Richard Mille offers a very smooth experience to the $100,000 watch buying experience. That brand feels “worth it” because of their total confidence in the brand and the people that they have wearing the watch. Not like you are going to buy it and leave the store with the sales people giggling. Mille focuses a lot of the tactile and visual experience with his pieces. Making sure the strap and care fit nicely and the that surfaces of the watch and materials feel futuristic and unseen elsewhere. If there was ever to be a “gateway exotic watch,” these make for a good choice. Nice post buddy.

    • http://www.ticktocking.com Steve Hallock

      Hi Ariel,

      Thanks for your comment. I buy watches to wear them first and foremost. The only way I can justify having so much cash tied up in these things is to get the enjoyment of wear instead of interest. So it is incredibly important to me that they be comfortable to wear.

      That is one thing that is often overlooked with MB&F as most people never get a chance to see the pieces in person. It’s easy to design something beautiful and crazy, but very difficult to do that while still making it wearable. I think Max has done a fantastic job with that aspect. I, with very average sized wrists, feel comfortable wearing any of the Machines.

      Best,
      Steve

      • Ariel Adams

        Steve,

        I totally agree. The machines are highly wearable – but you wouldn’t know that from a first glance. Do you recall all of those hands-on MB&F articles where I make it a point to say that you can actually wear the watches? lol. The HM4 Thunderbolt is something I’d wear daily given the comfort, certainly. What are some “comfort mistakes” you see some other brands making?

        • http://www.ticktocking.com Steve Hallock

          I’m not going there! If I’m talking specific watches/companies, I’m going to talk only things I like. I could go on forever about things I don’t like, but I think it would bring the whole tone of the site down (not to mention get me in trouble!).

          • Ariel Adams

            Steve – I didn’t mean to have you name brands, but just a few design elements that are good and bad. For example, I really like the tension springs in the strap deployments that both MB&F and Richard Mille use – these are a great feature and help watches be snug but not too tight. I sometimes get disappointed when brands make a strap or bracelet look beautiful, but don’t give it enough adjustment options. I also love it when lugs articulate or are designed to wrap around a wrist nicely.

    • http://www.ticktocking.com Steve Hallock

      Hi Ariel,

      Thanks for your comment. I buy watches to wear them first and foremost. The only way I can justify having so much cash tied up in these things is to get the enjoyment of wear instead of interest. So it is incredibly important to me that they be comfortable to wear.

      That is one thing that is often overlooked with MB&F as most people never get a chance to see the pieces in person. It’s easy to design something beautiful and crazy, but very difficult to do that while still making it wearable. I think Max has done a fantastic job with that aspect. I, with very average sized wrists, feel comfortable wearing any of the Machines.

      Best,
      Steve

  • Rob K

    Hi Steve,
    Great post…You’re so right about the ‘comfort’ of RM watches, on many different levels. And your comment about ‘blowing the lid off pricing’ is spot on, too. I remember the first RM ads 10yrs or so ago, the 1st to prominently display the (huge) prices, how ballsy everyone thought it was. But nobody was mocking him, it was more a respect thing. I now work for RM Europe, and the personal satisfaction I get from strapping on my RM10 every morning is huge. But I’m a big fan of a few other independent brands too, including MB&F, Urwerk, and FPJourne…or should I say, the people behind these brands…
    I look fwd to your other ‘Collecting History’ posts.
    Will drop by to see you at Basel.

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  • http://www.playmobilzoo.co.uk playmobil zoo

    The watch he’s wearing is undeniably high in quality. It set a new standard.

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