Every year, we get something like closure by racking our brains over, what else, the Revolution Awards. To grease our ruminations, this year we have also created a few categories to be decided by the public. We’ve unveiled a series of timepieces on our prize list; now as we continue our countdown to the end of 2019, it’s time to honour the individuals behind these stellar creations.
Lifetime Achievement Award
In 1947, some 45,000 feet above the Mojave Desert, the world’s first sonic boom split the sky apart, signaling Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier by achieving the speed of Mach 1.05. The world would never be the same again.
Similarly, some 18 years ago, in the first year of the new millennium, the same year Stanley Kubrick foresaw man’s first interaction with alien intelligence, a different barrier was being smashed. That was the birth of an all-new vision for high watchmaking, which would prove to be the greatest and most seminal genre-changing act of the new era, the creation of the very first Richard Mille watch. And the world would never be the same.
Its father, a characteristic visionary at the age of 50, would become a legend in the watch world, for creating an all-new philosophy for luxury watchmaking the world had never before witnessed.
His approach would be to push the very performance boundaries of complicated watchmaking, to reach never before heard of levels of weight reduction, ergonomics and shock resistance. He would rapidly eschew traditional luxury materials like gold and platinum for aluminum lithium, AluSic — an alloy formed of silicon and aluminum spun in a centrifuge — carbon fibre, carbon reinforced polymer and sapphire crystal.
He would suspend the delicate watch movement from arms shaped like F1 shock absorbers and isolate it from the case with systems that included skeletonised carbon arms and even a series of minute cable, inspired by suspension bridges. He would redefine every single dimension of watchmaking, from its aesthetics, to its technical performance, to its pricing structure to its symbolic representation in contemporary culture.
He would be the first to create an all-new design for watches, a signature aerodynamic tonneau that laid bare all the inner mechanics within. He would place his watches on the world’s most elite athletes such as Rafael Nadal or F1 driver Felipe Massa, who would wear them in the heat of competition and in Massa’s case even survive a catastrophic crash with said watch still on his wrist.
He would — because of the immense technical ambition of his watches — be the first to attain an average price point in the half million dollar mark. And he would be the first to create a cultural relevance to his watches that made them more than just timepieces but truly the modern day equivalent to the billionaire’s masonic handshake. A community symbol beyond all community symbols. Sitting in the majestic 57th Street and Park Avenue New York flagship — possibly the most stunning watch shop I’ve ever visited — I am reminded of how two decades ago, with no booth Mille would go to Baselworld and demonstrate the shock resistance of his tourbillon by casually tossing it to the ground.
He and his partners Dominique Guenat, Dave Tan, Keita Kawasaki, John Simonian and Peter Harrison have since built a flourishing empire. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect about Richard Mille beyond his game-changing genius in every dimension of watchmaking, beyond being the true one and only horological sonic boom and father of modern watchmaking, is that he has never lost his kindness, warmth, loyalty and genuineness as a human being. He is not just a great leader and a great visionary. He is a great man.