No wonder Rafael Nadal was so sad about losing his watch this week: the company that makes it is totally sold out of the product.
Richard Mille, of watchmaker Richard Mille, said in an interview that the company quickly sold out of the RM027, the watch worn and promoted by Nadal since 2010. Mille made and sold only 50 of the watches – as promised when it launched – even though it had orders for more than 150 pieces.
The watch sold in the United States in 2010 for $500,000. (The recent fall in the euro makes the watch worth less in dollars, hence reports in recent days of the watch being worth $370,000).
Mr. Mille said the ROM027 was so difficult to make that the company refused to make more than promised. “When we launched this series, I was afraid we would not sell all of them,” Mr. Mille said. “But we got orders for 150. There were a lot of people screaming because not everybody could get a watch. Demand is higher than what we can produce.”
It’s not just Nadal’s RM027 that’s doing well. Mr. Mille said the company is now selling out its entire production of 2,800 to 2,900 watches a year. The cheapest one sells for $50,000. He said the fact that Nadal wears the watch on the court during matches has been a big draw for wealthy watch collectors.
“They see that this is a watch that can go into battle,” Mr. Mille said.
Nadal has been such a big driver of sales that Mille is now secretly working on the next Nadal watch. While he won’t disclose many details, Mr. Mille said it will be even lighter than the 20-ounce RM027, which is a tourbillon watch was made from a high-tech carbon composite. He said he hopes to launch the watch – on Nadal’s wrist -- sometime next year.
It will also have a price tag of more than $500,000.
Mr. Mille said Nadal contacted him immediately after his RM027 was stolen from the hotel. Nadal had gone to dinner after winning his French Open final and had changed into one of his other Mille watches, leaving his RM027 in his hotel room. Although the watch was given to Nadal, Nadal promised to pay for it.
“He was devasted,” Mr. Mille said. “He told me, ‘Ricardo it’s all my fault, I am so sorry.’ I told him, ‘Don’t worry it’s only a material thing. Don’t spoil your victory.’ But Nadal is so responsible and sensitive that he felt terrible.”
Mille keeps a back-up watch for Nadal in case one is lost or undergoing work. So Nadal would have gotten a replacement for free. Still, Mr. Mille said everyone was happy to get the watch back.
After the watch was retrieved, Nadal “texted me and said ‘I’m so happy, I’m so relieved!’ ”
-By CNBC's Robert Frank
Follow Robert Frank on Twitter: @robtfrank