Richard Mille: RM 88 Automatic Tourbillon Smiley30 September 2022
The new Richard Mille RM 88 Automatic Torubillon Smiley is highly technical and creative and took three years to develop. Each of its decorative elements are cheerful emanations of the Smiley world: a blossoming flower, the warm rays of the sun, a pineapple, a blooming cactus, a pink flamingo and a brightly-coloured rainbow. A festive cocktail to be savoured drop by drop, as the drinking glass in this neon pop scene suggests.
The RM 88 Smiley bears witness to a succession of technical and aesthetic challenges that were successfully overcome. The dimensions and weight of the gold micro-sculptures created by the engraver Olivier Kuhnrequired particular care, as the assembled parts, each weighing less than a gram, must withstand every type of shock. It was then necessary to determine how to arrange the objects in the three-dimensional space around the central motif, the Smiley, not only to maximise their effect but also to facilitate their insertion by the watchmaker. The solution was to equip the RM 88 with two baseplates: one technical, to support the movement, and the other auxiliary, to secure the ornamentation on the left-hand side of the dial. This second baseplate was subsequently mounted onto the movement and serves to present the objects on an inclined plane for added volumetric effect.
The second challenge faced was the conception of a movement that allowed enough free space to display the multiple protagonists of this scene with optimum impact, as befits the level of finishing bestowed on them. The new CRMT7 calibre, a skeletonised automatic tourbillon movement with hour, minute and function displays, was developed in house. Its bridges and micro-blasted baseplate are made of grade 5 titanium, to ensure rigidity and flatness. The bridge of the explosive micro-blasted, bevelled and drawn-out tourbillon is graced with a complex double PVD coating in black and gold, a finish that is replicated on the bridge at the back of the baseplate, accentuating its lightning bolt form. With every minute, the figurative small-seconds hand alternates between rain and fine weather. It glides its way over the ARCAP cloud affixed to the tourbillon and then hides beneath a small cloud in microblasted and satin-finished white gold. It re-emerges once again at the foot of a cheerful rainbow designed in four different types of gold. The rainbow itself has an alternated microblasted and drawn-out finish and represents 25 hours of craftmanship.
The striking Smiley figure in micro-blasted and painted yellow gold, presides over this landscape
from atop the additional motion-work bridge in microblasted ARCAP® with polished anglage and drawn edges. Featuring a larger echo of the rainbow motif, it gleams with faint reflections thanks to hand- applied varnishes, contrasting with its anthracite-coloured rhodium plating.
No effort has been spared in the finishing, down to the tiniest detail of each element in this display. The cocktail glass is an assembly of four parts, all in gold. The umbrella, the olive (1.7 mm in height), the 0.4 mm-diameter grooved straw – all polished – and the glass itself, its base micro-blasted to create the chilled glass, weigh a total of just 0.4 g. The gold flower above is mirror-polished, its petals brushed and rhodium-plated. The pink flamingo, 0.2 g of red gold, also undergoes multiple processes: its wings are polished and its feathers traced with the tip of a Dégussit grinding stone; its eye is made using the smallest beading tool in existence; its pedestal is micro-blasted and the part that depicts the grass and water is polished. The component is given a metallic pink PVD coating before the beak is painted black using a brush.
The quest for perfection is ever-present, as demonstrated by the green PVD-coated leaves, the microblasted and polished surface of the pineapple, the microblasted spines of the cactus in yellow gold, polished one by one to remove the PVD coating, and the sun, in microblasted gold with polished rays. In keeping with watchmaking tradition, all finishing operations on the RM 88 Smiley are carried out by hand. Such splendour of colour and scenography, both front and back, deserved a setting that would do justice to the composition. The case is made of white ATZ ceramic – well known for its resistance to scratches, shocks and abrasion, as well as for its eternal whiteness – whilst red gold was employed for the caseband. The crown bears the precious Smiley sculpted in yellow gold.
The RM 88 Automatic Tourbillon Smiley, with its three-dimensional aesthetics and splendid colours, takes on the vivid quality of a waking dream. A creation limited to 50 watches available at the price of 1.1 mln.