Signé had the opportunity to meet with Peter Harrison, CEO, Richard Mille EMEA, during the SIHH 2018 in Geneva and discuss what makes Richard Mille so uniqueAs the CEO for Richard Mille EMEA, Mr. Peter Harrison brings with him 25 years of luxury goods sales and marketing experience. His years of experience led him to the creation of Redgrave Limited in 2006. Redgrave Luxury Ltd is a UK-based distribution company specializing in prestige luxury products internationally, particularly across Europe Middle East and Africa (EMEA).
One of the stars of Redgrave Luxury’s portfolio is Swiss watch brand Richard Mille for which Redgrave is joint shareholder and sole distributor for EMEA. Unusually for this industry Richard Mille EMEA Ltd is in a joint venture (JV) between Redgrave Luxury and mother company HOROMETRIE SA in Switzerland.
‘’Richard and I have been friends for almost 20 years. When he started his watch brand in 2001 we discussed various opportunities on how to combine our experience and eventually settled on the concept of JV distribution. This enables the manufacturer to hold an investment in the distribution while the company grows and in the meantime day to day issues are being managed by my team in London. We have always agreed on the direction the JV has taken and we are delighted to have contributed so strongly to the brand’s international expansion’’ says Peter.
R&D plays an important role at Richard Mille and you are known for being an innovative brand. Isn’t it a challenge when the brand identity is of one that is constantly innovating?
“We rather start with a concept, and we work towards it”
Yes its challenge, but that is the way we do watches at Richard Mille! A company that has been doing watches in a certain way for 100 years cannot start doing them like we do, they would be copying and would be followers rather than leaders. We have a very personal way of producing watches, and that is the reason why our prices are what they are. We don’t start our creation process by thinking we need to do a watch in that particular price range. We rather start with a concept, and we work towards it.
Could you tell us what are the main innovations in this year’s novelties and what were the main challenges?
We presented a second watch for our ambassador Pablo Mac Donough. The interesting thing about Richard [Mille] is that he wants to have ambassadors that are not just good looking, but also active. He needs them to wear the watch and give feedbacks in order to develop new solutions. The first Pablo watch was made of Titanium Carbite (TiC), which was very scratch resistant, very hard, but it was covering most of the watch, and the watch resisted a lot of shocks. After that trial we figured out that this material was very durable, and we used it to build other cases for other watches.
This year we wanted to build a very resistant watch that would showcase the beautiful movements on the inside. So we developed a very new system with sapphire glass, almost unbreakable. There are basically two glasses combined, and in between a thin “plastic layer” to keep them together and to avoid the glass going into the movement in case it breaks.The main challenge was to create an almost unbreakable Sapphire glass, in such a small size, and with a perfect transparency.
“Nadal didn’t want to wear a watch while playing tennis, because they were all too heavy and could play a role in equilibrium, and that is why we produced a watch that weighted only 20 grams without the bracelet”
This is the reason we are very close to our brand ambassador, because they live test the watches in very tough conditions. Take Nadal as an example; he didn’t want to wear a watch while playing tennis, because they were all too heavy and could play a role in equilibrium, and that is why we produced a watch that weighted only 20 grams without the bracelet.
I feel that Richard Mille owners are part of a community, is that correct? Being a very niche brand, how do you reach your audience? Are you targeting a particular type of customer profile?
Yes absolutely, when you spot someone on the plane wearing a Richard Mille like you, there is definitely something special happening, you feel you are part of a group, that you are different from everybody else.Our communication style has evolved with the modern media. A lot of our consumers are taking information from digital media. We don’t really have a customer profile, what we do have is a very young clientele, and one that is very interesting.
How important is the Middle East market for Richard Mille? What are your next big plans for the region? Any limited editions for the region?
Well it is still a developing market, we have a plan for a new boutique in Kuwait later this summer, we still have a lot of work to do connecting to other clients. The lady segment is our strongest segment in the middle east. 2017 was a great year. I am always surprised about the continuous growth. We haven’t had a year since the beginning in which we haven’t grown, and last year was particularly good with an increase in 43% in EMEA, with a solid contribution from the Middle East. We will have a few events in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and we might move the location of the store in the Dubai Mall to a bigger one. We used to make regional limited edition, but we don’t do that anymore.
What do you think will be the next biggest challenges for the brand in the near future?
How we will expand our retail network, how many new stores, where we will build those stores. We are opening a new store in Istanbul this year, another one in Moscow in June. It will be very interesting for us to reconnect locally with those clients who usually buy Richard Mille in other countries.