How does one market some of the world’s priciest watches? For Tim Malachard, the marketing director of Richard Mille, maker of cutting-edge timepieces with price tags averaging six digits, the answer is authenticity. This might sound trite, but for the brand, authenticity is anything but a cliche, if only because of its larger-than-life quality. For instance, hard-hitting tennis superstar Rafael Nadal has won several tournaments while wearing an ultra-light Richard Mille tourbillon timepiece costing more than half a million dollars. Talk about a convincing demonstration of the durability of a watch’s mechanisms.
Here, the fast-talking executive shares more about the brand’s high-profile partnerships, advertising in a digital age, and why equipping a watch with a G-force sensor is not gimmicky.
Richard Mille has many famous ambassadors and friends. Who’s your favourite?
When we signed on golfer Bubba Watson in 2011, he was ranked 28th in the world. He had only ever won one PGA tournament in the US. Then he won the Masters in 2012, which was crazy. And he won it again a second time in 2014. It’s great when you do a contract with someone and he or she exceeds your expectations.
Why would a top watch brand sign on an athlete who wasn’t yet at the top of his game?
We felt that Watson is interesting. He’s self-taught, and he doesn’t have a coach, he’s got only a manager. He’s left-handed and a very big hitter. He’s hitting balls 400 yards (366m), which is huge. It was a challenge making a watch that would survive the shocks of a golfer of that calibre. This also made it interesting for him to have a watch with a G-force sensor (the RM 38-01 Bubba Watson has a “G-sensor” that can record the force generated by a golfer’s swing) – we want to make watches that are authentic, not gimmicks.
Your watches are very technical pieces. How do you communicate this?
More and more, our customers, male or female, are asking technical questions. It’s important that our sales staff can answer them. We’re also lucky that our staff are loyal, because it’s important for our clients to see familiar faces when they come back. We do a lot of advertising, but it’s very focused – we’re not interested in having print ads all over airports.
What is your strategy on the digital front?
Two and a half years ago, we redesigned our website to be more interactive, faster, and to be mobile-compatible. People come to our website and go straight to the information they want. We see this also on our Instagram account. We post only things we feel are important and interesting, which could be information about products or specific know-how. We might post three things in one week, then go two weeks without posting anything.
What’s next for Richard Mille?
We recently entered a collaboration with McLaren Formula 1, and we’re going to design a watch with them. The constant expansion of our ladies’ collection is important to us as well. Now, women’s watches account for 20 per cent of our sales. We’re aiming to raise this number to 30 per cent in the next few years. We also have a collaboration under way with (musician) Pharrell Williams – but that will come in the future.