Not long after leaving the IUT Besançon, Mille was hired as an export manager at Finhor, a French watch company headquartered in Villers-le-Lac. In 1981, French conglomerate Matra purchased Finhor, after which he rose through the ranks to become the export director for all the watch brands of the group, including Yema and Cupillard Rième.
Sometime after Matra sold all its watchmaking activities to the Japanese brand Seiko, Mille joined jewellery firm Mauboussin to set up a watchmaking business for them.
When he departed from the company, he had become one of its shareholders. He has also served as the general manager of the watchmaking division of the Place Vendôme jeweller.
The Eponymous Watch Brand
Richard Mille has stated that he quit Mauboussin for two reasons: he had disagreements with several members of the Mauboussin family about their commercial strategy and he wanted to establish his own watch brand.
Mille has known Dominique Guenat, the owner of «Montres Valgine» (Guenat SA - Montres Valgine), since 1988. In late 1998, Mille showed Guenat his plans. Both men are equally interested in fast cars, aeronautics, and mechanics. They agreed to collaborate on the venture.
Lucien Tissot, a lawyer specialised in the watchmaking industry, later joined the venture. In the next two years, they developed their brand concept, melding worlds of cars, aeronautics, and sailing with the state-of-the-art features of innovation, resistant materials, and accuracy. They then began designing their watches and putting them through rigorous tests.
Mille and Guenat set up Horométrie SA, the parental company for the Richard Mille watch brand, as equal partners and listed it in the Swiss registry of commerce (wholesale of watch and jewellery items) on October 23, 2001.
They subsequently established Richard Mille watchmaking brand in partnership with the Swiss watchmaking manufacturer Audemars Piguet, which has been a shareholder in the company since 2007.
Their first timepiece, the RM 001 Tourbillon, was launched at Baselworld in 2001. In the following year, they introduced the RM 002, an updated version of the first model. It has a titanium baseplate, the first watch to do so in the history of watchmaking. The RM 003, a dual time zone tourbillon, came out later that year. In 2003, the RM 004 flyback chronograph was released.
The head office of Richard Mille is located in the Swiss town of Les Breuleux. The Richard Mille Group runs several companies, including Horométrie SA (distribution), Guenat SA Montres Valgine (conception and assembly), ProArt (components), VMDH (decoration), and Cercle d'Art (publishing). As of 2018, the group had 148 employees.
One of Mille’s watches, the RM 031, was the most accurate watch at the time of its release. In 2011, they released the RM 037, their first watch with an in-house movement (CRMA1).
They currently make watches for both men and women. Most of their watches are tonneau-shaped, but they make round watches as well. The movement is visible on every Richard Mille timepiece.
Mille’s brand heavily utilizes sports events and sports personalities for marketing its products. They have sponsored the likes of racing driver Fernando Alonso, tennis player Rafael Nadal, and snowboarder and alpine skier Ester Ledecká. The brand has served as the official timekeeper the Perini Navi Cup, the Italian sailing tournament.
Besides high-end watches, Richard Mille is passionate about luxury cars, aeronautics and mechanics. He does not consider himself a watchmaker. According to him, Enzo Ferrari was not a car technician either, but he understood what constituted a high-performance car.
Mille believes that he knows what a high-performance watch should be like. He credits himself for going “deeper into technique than many others” while developing his watches.