Time to Put on Your Happy Face: The Richard Mille RM88 Automatic Tourbillon Smiley
No one does watchmaking mechanics quite like Richard Mille. After all, this is the brand that broke the record for the world’s thinnest watch earlier this year with the launch of the 1.75mm-thick RM UP-01 Ferrari, developed in collaboration with the Italian carmaker and Audemars Piguet Renaud & Papi.
At the same time, no one does watchmaking whimsy quite like Richard Mille either: You only have to think of the Les Breuleux-based outfit’s Bonbon collection of cupcake-, lollipop-, liquorice-, marshmallow, and fruit candy-inspired limited editions whose sugary-sweet aesthetic had watch fans drooling when they were unveiled three years ago.
If those colorful confections took us back to our happy place by reviving fond memories of our favorite childhood treats, then Richard Mille’s latest foray into the pop-arty and the playful invites us, quite literally, to put on our happy face. Step forward and meet the RM88 Automatic Tourbillon Smiley.
Brightly Colored Micro-Sculptures
Like those Bonbon wrist candies, the RM88 Automatic Tourbillon Smiley’s primary role is not to tell the time, though it does manage that thanks to a state-of-the-art skeletonized, automatic tourbillon movement. Rather, it is a portable personal credo, a three-dimensional aphorism on the wrist, a horological ode to joy.
That’s because under the central hour-minute hands is a resplendent mise-en-scène comprising brightly colored, gold micro-sculptures – each weighing less than a gram – hand-crafted by Swiss engraver Olivier Kuhn.
There’s a miniature blossoming flower, radiant sun, juicy pineapple, plump cactus, pink flamingo, hopeful rainbow, and mouth-watering cocktail, complete with its own purple mini-umbrella. But at the heart of it all is a beaming, smiling face. And not just any smiling face, but the smiley face. You know, the yellow round ideogram we’ve all seen on t-shirts and record sleeves, in comic books and movies, and in the emoticon menu of our smartphones.
Enjoy Life and Make Merry
Created by French journalist Franklin Loufrani in 1972 to signify upbeat news in the newspaper France Soir, the iconic smiley face has, over the decades, been adopted by various cultural movements to mean different things. But Richard Mille’s appropriation of it here, in micro-blasted yellow gold, seems pretty clear: Forget the bad times, celebrate the good. Don’t worry, be happy. Enjoy life and make merry.
I say “forget the bad times” because there are reminders here that life can be bitter-sweet: Covered by an ARCAP cloud, the 60-second tourbillon’s presence is signaled by the turning of a hand bearing a miniature sun and lightning bolt. Next to that, there’s another, darker cloud in white gold, but from it emanates a gilded and silvered rainbow, hitting a joyful, upbeat tone that characterizes the rest of the dial and then some.
And adding a touch of sparkle to the rich hues at play are diamond and sapphire hour markers on the dial periphery.
Behind all the color and fun, there are, of course, some serious mechanics and architectural engineering. In fact, according to the watchmaker, the brand-new, in-house Calibre CRMT7 took all of three years to develop.
Its skeletonized bridges and plates are in micro-blasted Grade 5 titanium. And in addition to the primary mainplate for the movement, a secondary mainplate is deployed to accommodate the constellation of micro-sculptures as part of a shock-resistant set-up.
On the back of the watch, meanwhile, there is more life-affirming symbolism: The energy-giving 3N yellow-gold winding rotor – which winds the fast-rotating barrel to offer 50 hours of power reserve – is in the shape of an energy-giving sun.
To maximize the visual impact of the RM88’s spirited dial, Richard Mille has ensured the case is a starker affair, opting for the brand’s signature tonneau housing. Just shy of 40mm in diameter, it features a scratch-resistant ATZ white ceramic bezel and caseback, which sandwich an 18k red-gold mid-section, are paired with a yellow Velcro strap.
The crown is also adorned with a smiley face, with winding and time-setting modes signaled by the function indicator on the dial.
Price & Availability
Listed at $1,200,000, the Richard Mille RM88 Automatic Tourbillon Smiley Is limited to just 50 pieces. To find out more about it, including the insane craftsmanship behind its micro-sculptures and the finer details of its Calibre CRMT7, please visit the dedicated page on the Richard Mille website.
(Images © Fabien Nissels/Richard Mille)