The boundaries of Tom Mason’s doing work existence may well seem small. His normal times are put in hunched over a bench in a 12 sq ft workshop wherever he guides the surgically-honed recommendations of his specialist instruments through the minuscule, large-tech universe uncovered in the system of each individual Richard Mille wristwatch.
But, when you are giving a distinctive service to the homeowners of 2nd-hand timepieces that routinely provide for far more than £1m, there has to be a glamorous side, as well.
“Before Covid, I utilised to go all over the planet quite a great deal, servicing and repairing watches in clients’ homes,” says Mason. “I when travelled 9,000 miles for a single unique collector due to the fact he required to have a strap modified.”
The previous cabinet maker and mechanical engineer switched to horology at 26, learning his craft at Birmingham’s University of Jewelry for a few a long time — and then coolly landed the position with Swiss watchmaker Richard Mille that has undoubtedly created him the envy of lots of of his friends.
“I was taken on as a extremely junior watchmaker, but was right away despatched to the Richard Mille manufacture in Switzerland for three-and-a-fifty percent months of definitely considerable, professional coaching,” he states. “The task arrives with massive responsibility and, to be frank, I was definitely terrified at first. Even when I begun 11 many years back, the values of the several styles were being now amazingly large.”
A perfunctory trawl of pre-owned Richard Mille watches for sale confirms that even entry degree pieces are seldom detailed at less than £100,000, with the bulk of sellers asking lots of multiples of that depending on the rarity of the design.
Inevitably, obtaining these types of watches next hand from an mysterious resource is a potential minefield, which is why Peter Harrison, Richard Mille’s main executive for Emea, made the decision to open the brand’s 1st authorised, pre-owned dealership in Europe and appoint Mason as its sole watchmaker.
Harrison’s daughter, Tilly, runs the discreet procedure in the heart of London’s Mayfair, which is recognized just as Ninety Mount Road. Its goal is to supply prospective Richard Mille proprietors with the self esteem that they are getting the legitimate posting and, similarly importantly, that it has not in the earlier been butchered by a well-indicating repairer missing the specialist knowledge and machines that these watches need.
“The initially Richard Mille prototypes were being only created in 2000,” says Harrison. “But, as the decades went by, we started to get additional and a lot more requests for pre-owned, discontinued or difficult-to-attain products and noticed that the more historical items were escalating in significance and attracting curiosity from significant collectors. Genuinely early products, these as the RM-02 and 03, had been produced in little numbers and are now really sought-soon after.
“We get phone calls from all-around the globe from men and women looking for the difficult-to-locate and unusual pieces, these types of as the carbon TPT armour-cased RM 53-01 manufactured with polo player Pablo MacDonough, or the RM68-01 tourbillon with a movement painted by graffiti artist Cyril Kongo — it cost $685,000 new and can now fetch as a lot as $2m, but we get asked for it pretty commonly.”
Harrison says collectors value the peace of mind that will come with obtaining pre-owned parts direct from the model, not minimum because they can be confident that the observe will glimpse as great within just as it does on the exterior.
“The building of a Richard Mille look at and the products made use of in it are compared with any other, which implies that 3rd-social gathering intervention by inexperienced watchmakers can be disastrous,” describes Mason.
“One of my fantastic dreads is to open up a watch that has occur in for assistance or repair service and to learn that another person has brought on really serious harm by having it apart.”
Mason has drawers total of instruments which include far more than 200 movement holders, most of which are created for use with only one particular unique model. “The spline screws that hold the watches together are special, and even the tweezers I use all have to be manufactured from boxwood,” he suggests. “It’s prevalent to see PVD-coated titanium base plates that have been ruined only as a result of someone choosing them up with a software built from steel.”
The price of a support and case refurbishment of a Richard Mille product this kind of as an RM-011 chronograph comes in at about £4,000, a sum that proprietors of cheap quartz watches who balk at paying £5 on a new battery may possibly come across tricky to understand.
That, however, can be merely the commence of items.
“I imagine the major work I have experienced to offer with was placing ideal the fallout from an Instagram image that went completely wrong — the proprietor had positioned their pink gold RM-11 on the ledge of balcony in get to seize the scenic backdrop. Someone walked previous, knocked it off and viewed in horror as it crashed to the road, a number of stories under.
“The proprietor got it again looking as great as new — but the mend bill was all over £35,000.”