Richard Mille and John Simonian walk like good friends with arms around one another. They are smiling as though reminiscing about fond memories. Richard Mille is the man behind the phenomenally successful ultra high-end, technically sophisticated sports watch brand, while John Simonian has long been known as the most important name in Independent watch brands in the United States. In addition to being friends, these men are helping to redefine the face of contemporary luxury watches in America.
Mr. Simonian is also the Richard Mille brand distributor in the Americas. A few years ago he not only recognized the potential in the brand, but also was a driving force in making it the strong brand it is today in the United States. Now, the Simonian/Mille duo work together to open the first dedicated Richard Mille brand boutique in the United States, located in Beverly Hills.
The question is asked of Richard Mille, “Why Los Angeles? Why not New York.” The answer is simple, but addresses a more interesting battle going on between New York and Los Angeles vying for a top spot as the King of Luxury watch markets in the U.S. The simple answer to the Beverly Hills question is because John Simonian is located in Los Angeles. This allows him to command a more direct oversight of the new and important store for his favorite brand. In fact, the new Richard Mille boutique is located across the way from his popular watch store – Westime. With his influence ever growing, Simonian is the figurehead of the strength of the Los Angeles market.
Richard Mille and John Simonian make a good team. Simonian is known to be able to accomplish success for high-end watch brands in ways others could not, and Richard Mille developed a watch brand that could charge prices that others could not. Attending the opening event of the boutique, I mention to a Los Angeles Times journalist how “Richard Mille can do things other watch brands can’t.” The inquisitive reporter dutifully asked me to explain. I mentioned how Richard Mille is neither the first high-end sports watch brand, or the first brand to charge what it does. But it is the first brand that is able to charge what it does for high-end sport watches. A beautiful example is the RM027 timepiece. The watch was made especially for world champion tennis player Rafael Nadal, to be worn while playing. It is the lightest and most complicated watch of its kind. A limited edition of a few dozen pieces will be made for “normal consumption,” at the price of $525,000 each. An amount Richard Mille – and its fans – can mention with a straight face. Even in the world of luxury watches – this figure is almost unheard of.
Another important question is “Why open up a dedicated store?” when Westime already carries Richard Mille timepieces. Richard Mille is no longer just a timepiece, it is a lifestyle; and this lifestyle needs a shrine. U.S. fans are lucky enough to receive a regular array of North America only limited edition Richard Mille watches – which will be prominently featured in the boutique. In fact, Westime will not stop carrying Richard Mille pieces —though they will likely direct interested customers a few feet away to the boutique to truly experience the entire collection.
The boutique does an excellent job of visually promoting the watches. Gallery-like in its layout, the boutique serves to frame the timepiece without taking visually attention away from them. The front area standing space gives way to the back where clients can sit comfortably to examine watches in more detail or discuss the technical and construction merits of the pieces. It is not uncommon for clients to examine Richard Mille watches with magnifying glasses to assist with appreciation of the many mechanical details that each watch offers.
Like a high-end toy store for big kids, the Richard Mille boutique in Beverly Hills is a great place to visit, and serves to solidify the brand’s command over the American market. It is located at 222 Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, California. www.richardmille.com.
Ariel Adams is the Haute Living Watch Editor and also publishes the luxury watch review site aBlogtoRead.com.