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Luxury watch king Richard Mille says the growth of the Apple Watch is no threat to his business.
"I'm not really worried," he said. "It's under the segment. I don't work in their segment of price."
Indeed, while the growth of smartwatches and the Apple Watch may be hurting the mid to lower end of the Swiss watch market, Richard Mille and a few other ultrahigh-end watchmakers are seeing record sales and continued growth.
Richard Mille, which makes the most expensive watches in the world, with an average sales price of around $185,000, continues to turn away customers because of its limited production.
The biggest challenge, he said, is appeasing customers who are upset after being told the watches are sold out.
The company just launched its $1 million McLaren-Honda watch — the lightest mechanical chronograph ever made — and sold out of all 70 pieces upon its release.
It also launched a new $750,000 watch for tennis great Rafael Nadal – which he wore to win the French Open and U.S. Open this year and reach No. 1 in the world — and it also instantly sold out.
"Unfortunately, I make some enemies," he joked. "But I have no choice because the watch is complex. It's a long development. Each niche I enter with a watch, I want to be the best."
This year the company will produce around 4,000 watches, up from around 3,600 last year, Mille said. In 2018, he expects to produce around 4,600 watches.
The retail value of the watches that Mille will export this year will be around $700 million, he said.
Swiss watch sales have been in decline for more than two years, weighed down mainly by slowing demand from China. But while the industry has largely paid lip service to the threats from Apple and other smartwatches, there are growing concerns that the decline may be more secular than cyclical, as younger consumers opt for smartphones or smartwatches to tell the time.
Mille said his company has become the favorite "dream watch" for younger consumers because he's revolutionized the mechanical watch. Rather than using gold or diamonds to make a watch valuable, he uses space-age materials, like TPT carbon, TPT titanium and graphene, to make watches lighter, more beautiful and able to withstand shocks during sports or regular use.
The age of buying a big gold watch to pass to your children, he said, is quickly becoming passe.
"My clients want very light pieces, easy to wear, you can play golf, you can do anything. I hate the idea that you put it in a safe waiting for the next generation."
Mille said he generally allocates a third of his watches to the Americas, a third to Europe and the Middle East and a third to Asia. But this spring, the company plans to open its largest boutique in the world in Manhattan.
"It's going to be something special," Mille said.