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Inside 90 Mount Street: Richard Mille’s pre-owned watch boutique

The boundaries of Tom Mason’s performing life may well look smaller. His normal days are expended hunched around a bench in a 12 sq ft workshop wherever he guides the surgically-honed tips of his professional resources as a result of the minuscule, higher-tech universe identified in the mechanism of each Richard Mille wristwatch.

But, when you are providing a special service to the owners of second-hand timepieces that routinely promote for far more than £1m, there has to be a glamorous aspect, far too.

“Before Covid, I made use of to go all around the globe quite a good deal, servicing and repairing watches in clients’ households,” says Mason. “I at the time travelled 9,000 miles for one individual collector since he desired to have a strap adjusted.”

The former cabinet maker and mechanical engineer switched to horology at 26, researching his craft at Birmingham’s College of Jewellery for a few several years — and then coolly landed the position with Swiss watchmaker Richard Mille that has certainly manufactured him the envy of a lot of of his peers.

“I was taken on as a extremely junior watchmaker, but was instantly sent to the Richard Mille manufacture in Switzerland for three-and-a-half months of really substantial, expert schooling,” he says. “The position arrives with big accountability and, to be frank, I was definitely terrified at initial. Even when I started 11 decades ago, the values of the numerous styles ended up previously very significant.”

Watchmaker Tom Mason services clients’ pieces at Richard Mille’s Mayfair operation
Tom Mason’s ordinary days are spent hunched in excess of a bench but there is a glamorous aspect, way too © Anna Gordon for the FT

A perfunctory trawl of pre-owned Richard Mille watches for sale confirms that even entry amount pieces are rarely shown at a lot less than £100,000, with the greater part of sellers asking many multiples of that depending on the rarity of the design.

Inevitably, acquiring this kind of watches second hand from an unknown resource is a probable minefield, which is why Peter Harrison, Richard Mille’s main executive for Emea, made the decision to open the brand’s very first authorised, pre-owned dealership in Europe and appoint Mason as its sole watchmaker.

Harrison’s daughter, Tilly, operates the discreet procedure in the coronary heart of London’s Mayfair, which is regarded simply just as Ninety Mount Avenue. Its goal is to provide potential Richard Mille homeowners with the assurance that they are buying the legitimate post and, equally importantly, that it has not in the past been butchered by a perfectly-that means repairer missing the specialist understanding and tools that these watches demand.

“The first Richard Mille prototypes were only made in 2000,” claims Harrison. “But, as the decades went by, we began to obtain additional and extra requests for pre-owned, discontinued or challenging-to-obtain styles and seen that the more historical items were growing in great importance and attracting desire from major collectors. Actually early styles, these as the RM-02 and 03, had been created in very small quantities and are now very sought-following.

“We get calls from all around the world from folks seeking for the tricky-to-uncover and unconventional parts, these types of as the carbon TPT armour-cased RM 53-01 produced with polo participant 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 considerably as $2m, but we get requested for it pretty often.”

Watchmaker Tom Mason services clients’ pieces at Richard Mille’s Mayfair operation
Mason has drawers complete of equipment of motion holders, most of which are designed for use with only just one unique design © Anna Gordon for the FT

Harrison states collectors recognize the peace of intellect that arrives with obtaining pre-owned pieces immediate from the manufacturer, not minimum simply because they can be self-assured that the check out will appear as great within just as it does on the exterior.

“The construction of a Richard Mille check out and the supplies made use of in it are compared with any other, which signifies that third-social gathering intervention by inexperienced watchmakers can be disastrous,” clarifies Mason.

“One of my great dreads is to open up up a observe that has appear in for provider or maintenance and to find that a person has brought on severe damage by taking it apart.”

Mason has drawers comprehensive of tools which involve much more than 200 motion holders, most of which are developed for use with only one particular particular model. “The spline screws that hold the watches together are exceptional, and even the tweezers I use all have to be manufactured from boxwood,” he says. “It’s common to see PVD-coated titanium foundation plates that have been weakened just as a final result of anyone choosing them up with a software designed from metal.”

The charge of a services and circumstance refurbishment of a Richard Mille design this kind of as an RM-011 chronograph comes in at about £4,000, a sum that entrepreneurs of low-cost quartz watches who balk at shelling out £5 on a new battery might find difficult to comprehend.

That, even so, can be basically the commence of things.

“I feel the most significant occupation I’ve had to deal with was placing appropriate the fallout from an Instagram photograph that went erroneous — the proprietor experienced placed their red gold RM-11 on the ledge of balcony in get to seize the scenic backdrop. A person walked earlier, knocked it off and watched in horror as it crashed to the street, a number of stories underneath.

“The owner bought it back again searching as very good as new — but the repair monthly bill was close to £35,000.”