Mr. Richard Mille, together with his close friend and business partner, Mr. Dominique Guénat, established a small industrial empire composed of four companies and 150 employees in LesBreuleux. The brand timepieces were born from such a beautiful Swiss countryside. Raw.
ProART in Les Breuleux is the largest production unit of RICHARD MILLE, and the current 3,000 square meters production space will be doubled in the near future
‘It’s the easiest way to explore the tradition of fine watchmaking in Switzerland. But I never considered this option. Instead, I explored another way and constantly conceived new ideas.’ Mr. Richard Mille has been outspoken for 17 years in the watchmaking industry. Since its establishment in 2001, RICHARDMILLE has quickly won the favor of followers around the world with its novel materials, technology and movement architecture, as if suddenly a new window has been opened. Without the solid industrial foundation laid by the companies located in LesBreuleux and La Chaux-de-Fonds, success will be unsustainable. These companies are MontresValgine (assembly), ProART (parts), Horométrie (distribution) and VMDH (retouch), and of course don’t forget NorthThinPlyTechnology, which produces the famous NTPT® carbon fiber material. RICHARDMILLE is a small but technologically advanced team with an annual output of about 4,600 watches.
RICHARD MILLE uses a new generation of CNC machine tools to produce conventional series and prototype watches
From private label to RICHARDMILLE
In 1951, Richard Mille was born in Draguignan, a town in southern France. If Mr. Richard Mille did not leave his hometown to study marketing in Besançon, the birthplace of French watchmaking, who would have thought of what career he would pursue? In 1974, Mr. Richard Mille, who had just graduated, became Finhor’s export manager. Later, Matra acquired Finhor, and he was appointed head of MatraHorlogerie. In 1994, Mr. Richard Mille moved to Paris to join the Mauboussin Luxury Group and became President of the Watch Division, Managing Director of the Jewellery Division, and eventually CEO. There he met Mr. Dominique Guénat, the head of MontresValgine, who was founded by Dominique Guénat’s grandfather in the early 1900s. For many years, this company has assembled Valjoux movements for Longines, hence the name. After taking over in 1986 by Mr. Dominique Guénat, the company began to operate as a private label manufacturer, and Mauboussin was one of the company’s largest customers. So when Mr. Richard Mille decided to start an independent adventure, Mr. Dominique Guénat was the first aid.
Although the equipment is very modern, the retouching is still done by hand
Together the two men steadily established a small industrial empire. In addition to Montres Valgine, which focused on the new brand, they also founded Horométrie in 2001 and VMDH and ProART in 2013. This year, ProART’s 3,000 square meters of production space will double. 150 employees perform their duties in different positions. Investment, a large investment, involves not only infrastructure but also the ‘self-contained’ machines described by ProART engineering managers. RICHARDMILLE requires state-of-the-art equipment to process non-traditional materials (such as carbon and titanium) and build a very unique movement architecture.
From prototype to production
Although thousands of watches are produced each year, work is by no means routine. ‘Our production resources are not aimed at profitability, but instead focus on ensuring the highest quality and overall flexibility,’ explains Richard Mille. For example, there is no need to create a special production line for a prototype watch, and a machine that produces conventional parts is sufficient. ‘We make prototypes during the day and watches at night,’ said the engineering manager. ‘It’s a different aspect of the job, but equally interesting.’
Processing an NTPT carbon fiber watch ring requires 46 tools and 493 steps
The first trials of NTPT® carbon fiber date back to 2013. This extremely wear-resistant composite material consists of multiple layers of parallel filaments, which are separated from carbon fibers. Thin layers up to 30 microns thick are first dipped in a resin and woven using a special machine. In 2003 and 2007, the Swiss Alinghi sailing team won the America’s Cup. In fact, the earliest prototype bezel was cut from the mast of a winning sailing boat. ‘This material is a complex and expensive process, and no second brand in the industry uses it to make watches,’ concludes Richard Mille. ‘We may be the youngest brand, but we have extensive experience. Regardless of material mechanics, ergonomics , Or a mechanical solution, we are all familiar with it. ‘(Photo / text watch home compiled by Xu Chaoyang)