The work undertaken by the watchmakers who repair and restore all Richard Mille watches is nothing short of extraordinary.
Diagnosis, assessment, refurbishing, repair and testing are the watchwords of this department, where mistakes are banished. If the watchmaker finds any defect in this last examination before affixing the strap, he will simply have to begin the whole process anew.
The repair, the myriad of timing, functions and power reserve controls, the aesthetics inspections and case refurbishments are really time-consuming because of the high complexity of our timepieces and the fact there are non-standard parts in our calibres. Nevertheless, they are part of Richard Mille's philosophy : no concession for the best service to our clients.
Since the beginning, over 43,000 watches have been produced. Once the watches leave the manufacture, servicing is ensured worldwide to exacting Swiss standards.
Paris, London, Singapore, Los Angeles… at any given moment, in one of the brand’s boutiques, a Richard Mille watchmaker is ready to welcome clients. The local After Sales Service workshops are able to quickly address the little knocks and bumps of daily life.
The 30 local watchmakers dedicated to staffing after sales centres have all been trained by a flying doctor from the manufacture to provide the same level of expertise. Location-based watchmakers regularly attend additional training on repairs to complicated and technical watches, constantly honing their knowledge and skillset. They are able to manage more than 80% of all problems. Diagnosis, assessment, refurbishing, repair and testing are the watchwords of this department.
'Most servicing can be performed at local boutiques and specialised outside workshops; for the 20% that cannot, I check every watch that arrives and evaluate the work it requires. We know how important After Sales Service is for our customers, and we organise updates on every level to satisfy them', explains Luc Jeannottat, Manager of the After Sales Service.
Richard Mille’s timepieces are designed and tested with a water resistance to 30, 50, 100 or 300 metres. Water resistance naturally decreases each year through the effects of daily temperature changes on the case, glass, crown and their corresponding sealants. For this reason, we strongly advise having your watch’s water resistance checked yearly for optimal security.
Richard Mille has always placed enormous importance upon straps. Comfort is one of the brand’s top priorities. A wide range is available combining hundreds of colors with several materials, including satin, alligator, rubber, leather and Velcro® in combination with a folding or a pin buckle, as well as full precious metals straps for the ladies' collection. Because of the complex spline screw fastening, straps must be changed by one of our watchmakers to ensure a perfect fit with the case and a perfect tightening torque.
Before servicing gets underway, the watch’s exterior is first given a thorough visual examination with regard to any possible damage. The buckle and strap are separately controlled for any wear and disassembled. The watch is then opened in stepwise fashion and undergoes a close inspection of every part, with special attention to any problems reported. For movements containing internal stone settings, or decorations, these parts are also checked separately to ensure they are intact and secure.
After these preliminary stages, each watch is completely dismantled. Every single part then undergoes another separate inspection to determine whether any requires replacement or special treatment. The glass is dismantled, and all case gaskets are removed. The bare front and back bezels are sent together with the watch’s caseband to another department for refinishing or replacement. The watchmaker inspects and physically cleans each of the jewels in the movement of any accumulated grit or oil one by one.
Following this, the baseplate and jewels, along with other specific parts, are chemically cleaned. The watch is then reassembled and oiled.
During the process of cleaning and dismantling the timepiece in preparation for oiling, there will be a thorough inspection of all the parts for evidence of wear and tear or any damage. If required, the part will be replaced accordingly. In addition, should there have been any upgrades to specific key movement details, these will also be implemented within the scope of the particular model. Sealants and gaskets will be renewed, followed by a 2-level water resistance test.
Oil is at the heart of every machine, and oil’s ability to lubricate is limited to a specifc period of time as well the amount of metallic particles it can absorb, exactly.
In a watch, the old oil may be removed using several possible methods depending on the part and its placement, after which parts are reassembled and oiled anew.
The amount of oil used in each watch is minuscule, and only a thimble-full of oil suffices to treat several hundreds of watches, and anywhere between 8 and 15 types of oils and lubricants are used for a single timepiece. Each oil has distinct qualities corresponding to the types and amounts of friction that must be endured, as well as the speeds of rotation or activity of motion. This is of paramount importance for the functioning and accuracy of any timepiece. Some oils are quite thin and others quite thick. All are developed to avoid oxidation, lower friction between parts and to stay in the desired position where they are expected to perform.
Once the watch has been correctly serviced and oiled, the watch still needs to be tested for its regularity at different temperatures and in positions that attempt to mimic use in daily life.
Note that a watch’s movement, when measured for timing outside its case, will keep time differently than when it is attached inside its case.
Even if a watch is sent in for a quick, basic service inspection without issues, we will still need 2 weeks in order to accurately time and adjust the watch before it can be returned. The watch’s chronometric results will be checked under various temperatures and positions using advanced, computer-controlled methods.
If the watch passes all these tests, the movement is placed back in its cleaned and refinished case, supplied with new water-resistant seals for the case body, crown and bezels. Water resistance is checked under high and low pressure, and the cased watch’s functions are subjected to another visual and physical quality control.
When a watch is brought in for servicing, the case can also be restored to as new condition. The process of refinishing at Richard Mille differs for solid metal case parts and parts that have been surface-treated or made from specialised, non-metallic materials.
It is a very complicated process that is therefore time consuming. Although a single light scratch can sometimes be easily removed without total dismantling, complete case refinishing entails removal of the movement and total disassembly of the watch into its component parts.
Cases with surface-treated parts must be inspected, and if need be, ‘stripped’ of their coating, cleaned and re-treated. However, if the scratches or dents are too deep, then these parts will need to be completely replaced.
The same applies to all of our watches created in composites or other specialised materials should they suffer deep abrasions or gouges on their surfaces.
Polishing requires even more attention on gem-set cases, due to the complicated surface area created by the settings of their precious stones. If the case is in very poor condition, our setter will have to remove the existing stones and reset them in a new gold bezel. If stones are missing, these will need to be replaced so that we can return your watch in perfect, as new condition.
The watch then undergoes a final quality control. All the information are recorded before the timepiece is sent back to its owner.