Richard Mille doesn’t just sign just any athlete as a brand ambassador; it enlists only the coolest ones. Rafael Nadal, Bubba Watson, Johan Blake and now, fencing superstar Miles Chamley-Watson.
The phrase “fencing superstar” might seem like an oxymoron: it is not the most mainstream of sports, and it doesn’t fill stadiums like grand slam tennis tournaments. Chamley-Watson, despite his elite-sounding British name and his conventional choice of sport, however, is trying to change that. He aims to transform “stuffy” fencing from niche to mainstream, and even sees it as a way to inspire children who, like he once was, are restless, bullied or misunderstood. “I want to show kids what they can do,” he said in a statement. “I’m even working on new outfits and a scoring system with flashing lights to get fencing on primetime TV.”
Chamley-Watson was the first American to medal at the World Championships, winning a bronze in 2008, and the first to win the men’s foil world championship, in 2013. (His sponsorships, aside from Richard Mille, include Nike, Red Bull and Mumm’s Champagne.) He describes himself as a half-white, half-Black kid from London, parts Jamaican, Irish, British and Malawian. He moved to New York City at the age of 10, and now competes for the USA. He first discovered fencing at Manhattan’s Dwight School, after teachers recommended sports as a way to remedy his hyperactivity. He took badminton, tennis and fencing. It was the fencing that stuck. It’s a sport that requires a huge amount of concentration, and it brought his world into focus. Like tennis, it is mano-a-mano—only one guy wins—except it’s a sword fight, and it’s fast. Paying attention is crucial. Foil tip fencing reaches speeds of up to 120kph, and you have to press hard to register a hit.
He soon developed a style that is so unique he even has his own eponymous move—the Chamley-Watson—a deft behind-the-back flick to his opponent’s side. One well-watched YouTube video shows him executing the move with one leg off the floor in a ballet-like arabesque position, while flicking the sword between his legs and turning his body into the jab. Like a pirouette with bite. The athlete, who has a strong social media following, was the first in his sport to sign with big sponsors—aside from Richard Mille, they include Nike, Red Bull and Mumm’s Champagne. He attends the Met Gala (in 2017 he sat between Madonna and Rihanna), and has a side career as a model. His upper torso and arms are completely covered in tattoos, and his hair is bleached blonde.
“I didn’t want to be just average or normal,” he said, which makes him the perfect fit for Richard Mille. “We’re both unconventional. It’s a brand that’s all about taking risks. I have ‘Risk’ tattooed on my hand, and I look at it for inspiration each time I compete.” Miles wears a diamond-set RM 67-01 Extra Thin Automatic in white gold. “I love seeing the movement, the dials. It’s so much like what fencing is all about – precision, timing and style. Above all, Richard Mille is a brand that refuses to do things like everyone else.”
Chamley-Watson’s workouts involve intensive brain training and yoga with his coach, often using virtual games to focus his brain patterns. “Obviously I go to the gym every day, but the mind is my weapon,” he said. “It alone is in charge of guiding my foil. And time is my sport. You can train your whole life, but the merest millisecond means the difference between gold and nothing. I train myself mentally in slow motion. I need to get in touch with my neural system, unblock my mind and establish a flow state.”
The RM 67-01 Extra Thin Automatic in white gold has a skeletonized movement, caliber CRMA6, taking the watch down to a thickness of 7.75mm, which is slim for a Richard Mille piece. It has an Incabloc shock absorber, a baseplate and bridges made of grade 5 titanium, which means this is one tough watch. It can absorb the shock of even the most aggressive fending hits. It has a 50-hour power reserve, and with a full setting of diamonds is priced at $249,000.