Richard Mille doesn’t so much say his name to you when you’re introduced to him. He exclaims it as a statement of fact. “Bonjour! Ri-chard-Mille!” A great five-syllable cosmic sonic boom that careens through canyons, reverberates off the concrete edifices of the urban metropolis that populate the planet and that, combined, comprise the mystically seductive siren call to all those devotees of high performance; all those who worship at the altar of ultimate lightness, comfort, shock-resistance and technological ambition — because in just one and a half decades, Richard Mille has totally and irrevocably changed the face of watchmaking.

In an industry largely comprised of complacent products, born out of decisions made by staid committees, Richard has created a vision for watchmaking that even he believed would be profoundly polarizing. This is because in the process of product development, each time he reached a crossroads and was faced with the decision to either take the more financially conservative decision, or push his R&D team to the extreme, he chose the later path; the road less travelled. And in the words of American poet Robert Frost, “That has made all the difference.”

With his first watch the incredible RM 001, he unveiled a vision for watchmaking that invoked all the ethos of the modern world, the language of engines and horsepower, a shimmering vision of modern watchmaking — and with a staggering price tag attached to it due to all the technical innovation it represented. But his ultimate achievement has to be the RM 027 — a watch with an 18-gram tourbillon, which Rafael Nadal strapped onto his wrist and then created history by becoming the first competitive athlete to totally dominate on the tennis court while wearing a tourbillon.

In this one act, Richard also proved the irrefutable veracity of his vision: that watches created at the highest level of watchmaking craft can also be capable of withstanding the most brutal punishment. In doing so, he has solidly defined two eras in modern watchmaking: the era before Richard Mille and the era that has come after him, and in which he is the most definitive of pioneers.

In 2016, when the majority of watch brands are suffering as a result of having created irrelevant soulless mass products, Richard has increased his production 30 percent to satisfy an ever-increasing demand — which is particularly extraordinary, considering that his aggregate watch price, at well over a hundred thousand US dollars, is also the highest in the industry. For this, as well as the fact that despite all his incredible success, he has stayed one of the kindest, most generous, friendliest and most sincere human beings not just in the watch industry but on the planet Earth, we award Richard Mille with the Man of the Year Award.

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