Richard Mille Watch Prices: Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds

A Satire of Tulip Mania by Jan Brueghel the Younger (ca. 1640) depicts speculators as brainless monkeys in contemporary upper-class dress. In a commentary on the economic folly, one monkey urinates on the previously valuable plants, others appear in debtor’s court and one is carried to the grave.

For the uninitiated, Richard Mille watches, or RMs as they are affectionately called by grey market watch dealers, are goofy-looking clown-like watches peddled by one smart marketing cat named Richard Mille for extraordinarily high prices.

On a side note: I highly recommend NOT using the RM website as it is an EU + French product which means it loads slow and is prone to spouting ultra-rich solidarity slogans behind one’s back.

Richard Mille and business partner Dominique Guenat, veteran French watch industry gurus, launched their brand in 2001 and priced their original RM002 watches on what was thought to be on the high end of the luxury watch market pricing spectrum at the time for around $30,000.00 per watch.

Seeing how well they sold they doubled the price the next year, cut production to create scarcity and wa-la, the $60,000.00 watch was born.  Limited Editions followed and the prices soared.  How does $1,250,000.00 plus grab ya?

The first production model watches now trade among greater fools at silly prices.

Our estimation for what the RM buyer is actually getting is a watch costing about $3-5,000.00 to manufacture, with $50,000.00 plus worth of marketing hype priced in which is required to enable Richard Mille team members the necessary funds to jet-set around the world schmoozing with high-profile sports champions.

Richard Mille et Dominique Guenat au Le Mans Classic 20018

History and Demystification of the Richard Mille brand:

Richard Mille’s business partner Dominique Guenat managed Montres Valgine, a company set up by his grandfather during the early 20th Century.  Montres Valgine assembled the Valjoux 7750 mechanical movements for Longines.  Guenat grew the company into a private label manufacturer.

The Vlajoux 7750 movement and derivatives thereof are used in dozens of famous watch brands. The Rolex Daytona 6232 used the movement.   Valjoux is the Swiss company behind this movement and are a subsidiary of ETA and the Swatch Watch Group.  ETA wields monopoly power in the world of Swiss watch movements.

The mainstay of the Swiss watch industry, the Valjoux7750 mechanical movement.

Richard Mille met Guenat in Paris in the early 1990s when he was heading up Mauboussin’s watch division.  Mille eventually became CEO of the Mauboussin group.  Mauboussin engaged the private label manufacturing services of Guenat’s Montres Valgine to produce its own line of watches.  Click on the link above to see what is on offer today.

Mille and Guenat set up their RM watch making operations in Les Breuleux, a municipality in the district of Franches-Montagnes in the canton of Jura in Switzerland.  Guenat’s company Montres Valgine assembles Richard Milles watches.   Components for the watches are manufactured by ProART.  VMDH SA contributes the design and Horométrie distributes the brand.  ProART directors Marie-France Aubry-Baume and Yves Mathy serve on the board of directors of the Richard Mille Group.  The companies are closely linked.  both Marie-France Aubry-Baumena dn Yves Mathy also serve as board members of VMDH.   Hormétrie is run by Mille and Guenat family members to include Cécile Guenat, and Alexandre Mille. Dominique Guenat serves as Managing Director.  Cécile is Dominique’s daughter.  Alexandre Mille is the son of Richard Mille.  Hormétrie SA’s  website is listed on Dunn & Bradstreet as

So basically, the Richard Mille group has pulled off the ultimate coupe when it comes to private label watch production.   The key elements to their success thus far is a combination of design, intentional scarcity of product, and marketing strategy which includes recruiting sports figures from around the world to serve as brand representatives.

According to an article in in April of 2020:

Beyond pure and uninteresting figures that include microns and other technical details I think it is more important to emphasize that a Richard Mille watch is not a Swiss Made timepiece in the common sense of the word (a term that is often clichéd, been emptied of its original meaning as some larger groups have unfortunately accustomed us to), but it is 99.6% Swiss Made instead. The remaining 0.4% (the crown and, in some cases, the chrono buttons too) comes from nearby suppliers located on the French border. This is the measure of the authentic Swiss Made and of what we could define as a “zero km” watch-making factory.

In fact, most parts for the watches are made on CNC machines, the same process used for the manufacture of thousands of other brands.  Of course, I am quite certain they would tell you their machines are far superior than those owned by other watch manufacturers.  Mythology is often borne from the braying mule, what?

Click here to read more on Montres Valgine: 

In 1999, Dominique Guenat joined forces with industrialist Richard Mille to launch their project for a new watch brand . The two men met in 1988 when Richard Mille was working for the Compagnie Générale Horlogère (CGH) in Besançon , then with whom Valgine Watches participated in the production of watches for Mauboussin where he was Managing Director of the “Joaillerie” division. Although professional, the relationship between the two men will quickly lead to a great friendship, nourished in particular by their common passion for the automobile, aeronautics and mechanics. In 2001, they founded “Horométrie SA” 5, the operating company of the Richard Mille watch brand , of which Richard Mille was appointed chairman. Since then, Montres Valgines has managed the development, design and assembly of movements for Richard Mille 6 watches .

At the Salon international de la haute horlogerie (SIHH) 2012, Richard Mille presents the RM 037 equipped with the new CRMA1 self-winding automatic caliber , the first movement manufactured in-house, which required 2,500 hours of development from Guenat SA Montres Valgines engineers.

Following the sale of case supplier Donzé-Baume to the Swiss luxury group Richemont in 2007 7 , the watch manufacturer undertook to invest in machining its own cases and some of the components of its watches. Thus in 2013, Guenat SA – Montres Valgine and Horométrie SA bought 90% of the shares of “Prototypes Artisanales SA” located in Saignelégier next to Breuleux, the founder Alain Varrin retaining 10% 6 . The group decides to build a third building of 3,000  m2 in the Breuleux industrial zone, to house its new sister company 2. The company founded by Marco Poluzzi became “ProArt” and worked as the brand’s exclusive subcontractor for the production of cases and prototypes. This strategic takeover allows Guenat SA – Montres Valgine to become more independent and better meet its needs in terms of responsiveness and productivity for its group’s brand, Richard Mille.

In 2014, Guenat SA – Montres Valgine acquired VMDH (Vital Morel Décalque Horlogère), a historical supplier based in La Chaux-de-Fonds and specializing in decals and watch decoration. VMDH produces all of the brand’s dials and flanges as well as some of the hands, and manages the application of “SuperLuminova” phosphorescent pigments 8 . VMDH is chaired by Yves Mathys 9 .

At the end of 2017, work to expand the ProArt site began with the construction of a second building to house research and development offices, a test laboratory and new machining workshops.

The mythological North Thin Ply Technology use in Richard Milles watches. 

From the North Thin Ply Technology Website we learn the following from a company incorporating NTPT into its products:

New materials, structural concepts and manufacturing using sensors for composites that resist fire, temperature and loads while providing weight and cost savings versus metals.

Cost savings?  Really?  Seems the Richard Mille group didn’t get the memo.

For fools willing to part with their money, one may buy a Girard-Perregaux Neo-Tourbillon with Three Bridges for much less than the million dollar RMs and own a watch basically made by the same watch-maker.  Jérémy Brechbühl is the man behind Girard-Perregaux’s high end Tourbillons. He now works for Richard Mille as the Constructeur mouvements – chef de projets chez Guenat S.A. Montres Valgine.

What say ye? Are you willing to shell out the price of house for a watch that looks like it was manufactured for Barnum and Bailey Circus clowns.  To read more about the madness of crowds and the watch collecting circus click here.




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