Amanda Mille embodies pure Parisian chic. Tousled dark hair cuts a stark contrast to her all-white ensemble of shirt, jeans and sneakers, while a pop of colour comes from perfectly applied siren-red lipstick and a slash of red on her elegant wrist — the leather strap for her white gold RM033. The daughter of famously audacious watchmaker Richard Mille, Amanda has inherited much of her father’s looks, but even more of his charisma. “We are quite similar, and we definitely have the same personality,” she agrees with a laugh.
The senior Mille founded his eponymous watch brand relatively recently, in 1999, and its first watch, the RM001, was launched just two years later. Since then, the company has made a mark for itself in haute horlogerie circles with its brash approach to design and inimitable technical flair. The watches also found their way to the wrists of some of the world’s most well-loved athletes across a variety of sports.
The eldest of seven, Amanda never assumed that she would join her father on his journey in the world of watches, even though she had witnessed his passion from afar. “My father started the business quite late in his life, so as children, we never grew up thinking that we would have a role in the company,” she says. “Also, for me, it made no sense to join the company purely because I have the Mille name — what value could I add, as against the many people who have worked with the company for so much longer?”
As it turned out, quite a bit. Amanda was eager to experience life in another country together with her family — she and her husband have four children — and her father recommended moving to Dubai. At that point, Richard Mille was struggling to engage the female consumers in this extremely conservative market, and looked to Amanda for help. “Honestly, when they made the offer, it wasn’t difficult to agree — it was just talking to women about the brand, and sharing with them my father’s passion. If not for this role, I would never have joined the company at all,” she quips.
Her genuine passion for her father’s brand and her engaging personality served her well, and the Middle Eastern market grew rapidly during her three-year tenure in Dubai. Soon enough, her father asked her to return to Paris to take on a more substantial role — managing the maison’s enviable stable of partners, including Spanish tennis icon Rafael Nadal, American golfer Bubba Watson, Jamaican sprinter Yohan Blake and a whole slew of Formula One Grand Prix drivers. In the entertainment sphere, this list also boasts names such as Hong Kong-born Jackie Chan and Hollywood stalwarts Sylvester Stallone, Natalie Portman and Margot Robbie.
“It was nice to be close to him again, as I feel like I’ve so much more to learn from him,” Amanda comments on her move home. “Now, I’m handling all the friends of the brand, so we can find better ways to work with them. We have a really special relationship with our partners, and this is how we have managed to create some beautiful watches with them also. They are part of the development of the watches, and not just a face.”
Indeed, Richard Mille’s list of partners piques the interest not just because of its quantity, but range — former F1 racer turned cyclist Alain Prost, for example, worked with Richard to create a truly unusual cycling watch while the latter’s love for aviation led to a collaboration with Airbus Corporate Jets in 2016. Although seemingly random, each partner does in fact complement the brand’s ethos perfectly.
“If you look at the way that our partners joined the Richard Mille family, it’s through people who we know — often dad meets them at different events, and then it is the beginning of a beautiful story,” Amanda shares. “We don’t just need a face — it’s not in our DNA to need one as our watches speak for themselves. Our partners are actually the best possible testers of our watches. They push back the boundaries and do things our clients would never do! We just signed another 10 years with Nadal, who has been with us from the beginning, and I am sure we will continue this partnership even after he stops playing.
“And of course, the more time we spend together, the better we know each other and that opens up the possibility of working together on a new watch, or a new event or some other project. For us, partners are not just to come to boutiques, shake some hands and leave. They deserve more than that, and we do too. The knowledge exchange is so important, because both parties have so much to learn from each other and I also think that they are happy to be part of the Richard Mille family,” she adds.
At present, all Richard Mille partners are her father’s selection but Amanda says the increasing number of women, especially in the sports division, is in part some of her doing. For instance, Belgian heptathlete Nafi Thiam, Ukrainian high-jumper Yuliya Levchenko and Czech snowboarder and alpine skier Ester Ledecka are recent additions to the Richard Mille family.
“Me and [director of ladies’ collections] Cécile Guenat — as well as all the girls on the team — are really pushing for more room for women in the Richard Mille universe,” she says. “They are beautiful in their own way, so competitive and ambitious, and this is a lot like our DNA as well. I brought some of them to the manufacture recently, and it was a real honour to have them. When we were talking, I realised that they actually work so much harder than the men because they have so much more to prove. That also makes them so perfect for the brand — that they never stop proving their worth to themselves and to the world.”
Although the family does feel rather full right now, there is no saying what tomorrow will bring. “So far, we are quite pleased with who we have, and we still have so much to do with them. Having too many people is also not necessarily a good idea. But you never know — if we meet someone and if there is chemistry, then a new story will start,” says Amanda.
What she is sure of, though, is that the company will remain in the hands of the family for the foreseeable future. It is the only way, she says, that their customers will get the kind of personalised service and attention that they deserve, which has always been something her father insists on.
“What my dad does, and who he is … that’s very special. I’m really honoured when I hear people talk about my dad — few people talk about anyone in the watch industry quite like that,” she says, her voice filling with pride. “His independence, I think, is key. By keeping the business in the family, we can really make sure that we do things our way.”
This article first appeared on Apr 1, 2019 in The Edge Malaysia.