The Horologist: Peter Harrison
Richard Mille Europe, Middle East and Africa CEO Peter Harrison talks about catering to the haute horology market.
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"Our clients on a global scale appreciate our standing as one of the most daring watch brands with a penchant for luxury, innovation and absolute quality."
"The Middle East is an expanding market for haute horology and we have witnessed that first-hand. There are an increasing number of collectors and watch enthusiasts, and understanding is growing at a rapid pace. There isn't a typical stereotype of a MENA client for us; they come from all walks of life and what connects them is an intense fascination with cutting-edge watchmaking and our "no compromise' approach to mechanical design and technology," says Peter Harrison, CEO Richard Mille Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA). Harrison can attest to a quarter century of background in the spheres of luxury sales and luxury marketing, so it seems only fitting that he launched Redgrave Luxury just under 10 years ago to act as an international luxury prestige product distributor.
Based in the United Kingdom, Redgrave Luxury's portfolio can boast having Swiss watch brand Richard Mille under their umbrella; the company is both the joint shareholder and the sole distributor for Richard Mille across EMEA. Referring to Richard Mille as a personal friend, Harrison is big on relationships both with internal and external entities in relation to the brand. "As a business we are very close to our clients, they are passionate about the brand and the watches, and [they] tend to be eager to share this through word of mouth and increasingly online. Some of our key partners have also been brought to the brand by referrals- this trust is key in building lasting relationships," he says, stressing the significance of customer referrals not only to the watchmaking industry, but to all sectors of commercial activity.
There is one area of client management that is specific to horlogerie -the haute timepiece collector- and how brands interact with those consumers whose repeat-purchase determines turning a loyal client into an avid brand fan prepared to devote significant resources to expanding a private collection. "Richard Mille collectors are very important to us and it speaks volumes of not only the quality of the watches, but also the close relationships the brand has built with our clients in a relatively short time. Our collectors are very selective; they do not buy a piece unless they truly love it. This gives us the motivation to create new concepts and designs that are interesting to potential clients old and new."
Richard Mille EMEA Ltd, a joint venture between Redgrave Luxury and mother company HOROMETRIE SA in Switzerland, calls their clients "daring and forward-looking. They appreciate what we do and they are willing to experiment and experience new directions in watchmaking. It really is a mindset rather than a simple demographic." The allure of owning one of few finely crafted limited edition timepieces, like the RM 19- 02 Tourbillon Fleur, only enhances the feeling of a special circle of watch aficionados- they are repeat clients and self-appointed influential friends of the brand.
"Richard Mille is a dynamic brand that produces watches in very limited numbers which has made it both aspirational and very rare. It is the thirst of clients for something new and different that fuels our markets, and the power of word of mouth should never be underestimated. Nor indeed should true exclusivity." Harrison himself wears the RM 011 Black Night, "a limited edition of 100 pieces, available only in the EMEA region. It is our first limited edition watch with a case made entirely of NTPT® Carbon. Brand partners Felipe Massa, Martin Brundle and Sebastien Loeb will all be wearing the RM 011 Black Night during this year's motor racing season," adds the CEO. Brazilian Massa, English Brundle, and French Loeb are all widely-known motorsport figures and Formula 1 racecar drivers, and do reflect the brand's penchant for teaming up with opinion leaders who are both adventurous and a bit on the slicker side of style.
"Our brand partners all serve a purpose far greater than as marketing tools; they are the ultimate real-life testing ground for our watches. Largely the strategy has been the same in all regions," says Harrison, noting that visibility is strategic to continue to position of Richard Mille as a global timepiece manufacturer, and that participation in annual events like Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) and other horlogerie luxury events is essential for both consumer and industry contacts. "It is important that we remain close to our clients, partners and friends in the region and these shows can be a great way of doing this."
The realm of haute horlogerie dictates that brands looking to recruit (and keep) their clients need to source interesting, ergonomic, and durable materials. In addition, they also need to take into account the obvious factor of whether or not the production and craftsmanship standards can be adhered to, while remaining innovative in a hyper competitive industry.
"All of our pieces require varying levels of research, development, tooling and finishing and this is reflected in the amount we can produce of each model. We have pieces with different complications; automatic, manual, chronographs, tourbillons and now with the RM 19-02 Tourbillon Fleur, an automaton. We also use a variety of cutting edge materials; from titanium, carbon and ceramics to precious metals and some with a variety of settings. What unites all the pieces is that they are extremely high performance."