The Robb Reader: Richard Mille
A conversation with the watchmaker and car collector.
Known for his high-profile timepieces, Richard Mille is also a force in the automotive world, with a personal collection that includes everything from a Formula 1 V-16-powered BRM to a Porsche 917 endurance racer and a Lancia Stratos rally car. Last year, the French watchmaker took his passion public with the launch of the Chantilly Arts & Elegance Richard Mille outside Paris. Arguably the most elegant and authentic concours in the world, the Chantilly event celebrates not just the art of the automobile but fine and applied arts of every kind. Robb Report spent a memorable two days this September at the second annual Chantilly Arts & Elegance, where the affable host—whose eponymous watch brand has become the secret handshake of connoisseurs—discussed what drives his passions.
What is your ultimate vision for the Chantilly Arts & Elegance?
The power and beauty of the Chantilly event is that it covers fascinating cars and a myriad of other aspects that one would classify as an appreciation of fine living and luxury. Although cars are indeed my private passion, I enjoy the inclusiveness of an event that can offer everyone something to delight and interest the senses on several levels.
You are a serious collector of sports and racing cars. What is the overarching theme guiding your collection, and is there an end goal?
The end goal in collecting cars, or perhaps anything for that matter, can seem clear when you start off, but as you go along, you learn historical information that you perhaps never knew about beforehand and then your collection’s direction changes slightly, or branches out in a certain way. The sudden availability or private offering of a particular model may also influence your collection’s path. The beauty of collecting is that you are constantly learning and there are unknown factors that deepen one’s knowledge.
You are passionate about machines for the track and machines for the wrist. Do your historic competition cars influence your watch creations?
Yes, that would not be incorrect. However, there is much more that interests me, such as my fascination with the Concorde’s design and development, industrial design concepts, art and architecture, technological developments in new materials, the aerospace industry, and so much else. After all, my watch collections cover a broad spectrum of design and technique, of which cars form an important yet not solitary point of interest. Think about the RM 19-02 Tourbillon Fleur or the just-presented RM 69 Erotic Tourbillon, both examples of watches not directly inspired by car sports. Having just said that, however, I have to add that there is always a lot of car-inspired technology embedded in all of our watches, even within the ladies’ collections, although many might not notice that.
Many Richard Mille watch owners are enthusiasts of modern sports cars and luxury automobiles. Do they share your love of collector cars as well?
By far not every client is a dedicated car lover, yet nearly all of my clients do enjoy seeing a beautiful car, much the same way they might look at a piece of art or any well-designed object. I think for that reason the appreciation of fine design coupled with excellent engineering is the real denominator of those who are attracted to my brand. I also love to bring my dear friends and clients to classic cars and contaminate them with my passion. They then discover a fantastic universe!
Imagine you could grab only one set of keys (or one portable starter motor) to a car in your collection. Which would it be?
That’s hard, because I love them all and cannot choose. . . . Perhaps the Ferrari 250 PF would be one of the first on my list if I had to make a choice within seconds as I ran out the door.