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Richard Mille RM UP-01: marketing analysis of a €1.86m watch

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Richard Mille has just released the RM UP-01, a watch designed in partnership with Ferrari. This ultra-thin watch (1.75 mm) has an unprecedented selling price: 1.86 million Euros. Beyond the technological prowess (see video below), this watch marks a marketing turning point. This is the opportunity for us to analyze in this article the marketing of the RM UP-01 and the place of this object in a luxury watch market that has exploded in the last 2 years.


The Richard Mille RM UP-01 breaks the record for fineness by 0.05mm

First of all, it is worth mentioning that Richard Mille has pushed back a record of fineness that belonged to Bulgari until now. At 1.75mm thick, the Richard Mille RM UP-01 is 0.05mm thinner than the Bulgari Octo Finissimo (1.8mm).

With a catalog price of 1.86 million Euros, the Richard Mille UP-01 is 4 times more expensive than the Bulgari (400,000€). At such levels, does the price still matter?


Marketing that emphasizes technological prowess… and respect for tradition

The official video of the Richard Mille RM UP-01 is an ode to technology and luxury codes. It shows in a very romantic way the assembly of the watch by a craftsman working on a table covered with black leather (which, of course, does not correspond to reality).

The chosen semantics focus entirely on the technological prowess that “dictates the design.” The RM UP-01 watch is, therefore, an “object” that wants to be different but that nevertheless respects tradition (mounting the movement in a “box,” for example). The marketing message has been calibrated to be perfectly parallel to that of Scuderia Ferrari. The latter is at the cutting edge of technology, the design of its cars is unique, but the tradition and the filiation with the mythical models are still present.

Finally, we note that the very process of engraving the Ferrari logo is a summary of this value proposition. The collaboration is engraved in titanium thanks to a laser. We are far from the classic watchmaking craft and much closer to the aerospace industry.


The RM UP-01 is a positional asset par excellence

Luxury watches are positional goods by definition. They aim to affirm the social status of their owner and to send a signal to others. Unlike other positional goods (cars, leather goods), watches remain a discreet luxury that signals itself to connoisseurs. It is difficult to recognize a luxury watch without being a connoisseur.

A significant difference

In this respect, the Richard Mille UP-01 seems to have several characteristics that distinguish it. First of all, it will not have escaped you that the format of the RM UP-01 is quite singular. It is more like a bracelet than a watch. Some will say that the thickness reduction was accompanied by a necessary “spreading” of the components in length. This would be forgetting that the Bulgari Octo Finissimo, despite its 1.8 mm thickness, had kept the size of a classic watch (40 mm diameter).

So, there is a real reflection on what this object, which breaks the aesthetic codes, sends as a central message. By making the UP-01 so “visible,” Richard Mille changes the paradigm of luxury watches. They are no longer just contemplated by their owners but must be ultra-visible expressions of their owners’ wealth in the public space.

A hierarchy of values is thus observed on the watch, where the reading of time becomes secondary.

A highly visible partnership with Ferrari

The other visual feature of the RM UP-01 is, of course, the Ferrari logo. This is not the first time a watch collaboration has been set up with Scuderia Ferrari (Girard Perregaux did it in its time), but this is probably the first time the logo is displayed in such an obvious way. The Ferrari logo is becoming an attribute of the RM UP-01, especially in the space reserved for it. It is also symptomatic to note that the Ferrari logo occupies a more important place than the dial that allows the reading of the time. A hierarchy of values is thus observed on the watch, where the reading of time becomes secondary.

The Ferrari logo occupies a more important place than the dial, which allows the reading of the time.


What place for the Richard Mille RM UP-01 on the luxury watch market?

It is a fact that the luxury watch market has grown dramatically since 2020. Rolex, Audemars Piguet, and Patek Philippe model’s prices have soared. More detailed research of the different versions of the Patek Philippe Nautilus shows that the steel models are the ones that have increased the most. The object’s value is no longer measured by the precious materials used.

A purely technological marketing niche

The desirability of luxury watches is now dictated less by considerations related to watchmaking tradition than by the brand’s marketing. Richard Mille is perhaps the paragon of this new dynamic. Its recent history, differentiation efforts, and marketing excellence have led to a price surge. The RM UP-01 is part of this dynamic. It is no longer a watch in the strict sense of the word, but a unique technological bracelet co-branded with Ferrari that also tells the time. It is placed in a niche where no competitor is present.

The price is the main marketing element

The RM UP-01 will remain in the annals of history but will it keep its value? At 1.86 million Euros, the price only makes sense in terms of marketing. At 100.000€, nobody would have been interested except collectors. At 1.86 million Euros, the world’s media flock to Richard Mille. This stroke of genius was only possible by breaking all the codes, which Richard Mille has once again managed to do.

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Author: Pierre-Nicolas Schwab

Pierre-Nicolas est Docteur en Marketing et dirige l'agence d'études de marché IntoTheMinds. Ses domaines de prédilection sont le BigData l'e-commerce, le commerce de proximité, l'HoReCa et la logistique. Il est également chercheur en marketing à l'Université Libre de Bruxelles et sert de coach et formateur à plusieurs organisations et institutions publiques. Il peut être contacté par email, Linkedin ou par téléphone (+32 486 42 79 42)

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