FOMO For POMO: Richard Mille’s New RM 07-01 Coloured Ceramics Collection
Celebrate the spirit of an endless summer with a trio of timepieces inspired by the 1980s Memphis movement.
The new Coloured Ceramics collection from Richard Mille has been out for just over a week now, and so far the response to these candy-colored ceramic timepieces has been pure across-the-board joy!
The pastel colorways are reminiscent of the Les Breuleux, Switzerland-based brand’s Bon Bon collection from 2019 – a limited edition group of timepieces with displays designed to look like lollipops and licorice that I still think about almost every day.
The emotional impact of these three new watches, however, comes from an unexpected place – the post-modern architecture and design movement known collectively as Memphis.
The Italian Job
If you were a child of the 1980s, and ’90s you will be familiar with the bold colors and eccentric shapes of Memphis design. Writer Bertrand Pellegrin once described it as “a shotgun wedding between Bauhaus and Fisher-Price.”
The Italian design and architecture collective was founded by architect Ettore Sottsass and was active from 1980 to 1987. It was named after the Bob Dylan song "Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again." The group designed furniture, lighting, fabrics, carpets, ceramics, glass, and metal objects.
Its influence continued to permeate pop culture for a while after its demise (think of the diner from “Saved By The Bell” and you’ll get the picture). Even the original 1995 Apple Watch, with its geometric shapes, bold colors, and an erratic doodle of a second-hand, is an homage to the spirit of Sottsass.
While Memphis eventually disappeared from the collective consciousness (sometimes the look can trigger memories of one’s own awkward teen years), it has always had its champions. David Bowie was a collector. Christian Dior sent a collection of Memphis-inspired prints down the runway in 2014. Supreme made a set of skateboard decks created by Memphis alumni Alessandro Mendini in 2016.
The Richard Mille Coloured Ceramics collection is the most interesting of these Memphis revivals because they take the ideas of the collective seriously.
But Not Too Seriously
The brand’s original intention for the RM 07-01 Coloured Ceramics collection was to create a feeling of an endless summer vibe. Designers found that the signature bold shapes, shiny surfaces and bright colors of the 1980s Italian art and architecture movement Memphis Design, meshed well with the fundamental Richard Mille trademarks of performance, technicity, and innovation.
“I find Memphis Design particularly fascinating in its diversity and freedom,” says Cécile Guenat, Creative and Development Director at Richard Mille. “The creator’s goal at the time was to escape the strictures of Modernist aesthetics and they were pioneers in the use of all types of materials through their designs.”
She continues: “At the heart of the design process for this collection was the idea of juxtaposing colors in materials. Then we enriched this work by weaving inside the ancient craft of guillochage. This creates a symbiosis of the ultra-modern and the traditional in watchmaking.”
Squiggly lines are another trademark of the Memphis school. Richard Mille has decided to reinterpret this motif with guillochage – a decorative technique that consists of repeating individually applied lines on the grey PVD-treated, partially skeletonized red gold dial.
These lines combine and intersect, forming geometric patterns that impart texture to a plain surface, playing with shadow and light in subtle ways. Other decorative details include laser-cut rubber appliques and diamond-set elements.
Just as Memphis furniture embraced unconventional surfaces such as plastic laminates and terrazzo, the most interesting aspect of these watches is the use of lightweight Tetragonal Zirconia Polycrystal (TZP) ceramic for the bezel and case back. The watches are available in three pastel hues: blush pink, lavender, and powder blue.
Because the material is renowned for its strength and color-retention properties the goal is that these summery shades will never fade. A special sintering process also gives the ceramic a desirable matte effect.
Each of the tonneau-shaped RM 07-01 Coloured Ceramics editions comes in a relatively compact 31.40mm in diameter by 11.85mm thick size with an overall lug-to-lug profile of 45.23mm.
The ceramic bezels protect the in-house CRMA2 caliber, an automatic winding movement created from skeletonized, micro-blasted and electro-plasma-treated Grade 5 titanium. This mechanism features a variable-inertia balance maintaining perfect long-term performance, and a rotor in 5N 18K red gold with variable geometry which adapts the winding of the watch to the movements of the wearer.
For a fun, final touch, the watches are fitted with Velcro-style straps, each in a contrasting color to the case. But because it's Mille, the strap is made of varnished calfskin.
And this brings us back to joy. These watches are built to be enjoyed every day of the year. They embody the impish spirit of the ’80s while projecting one’s unique (and equally chaotic) personality.
Even the mechanics of the timepieces adapt to the variables in the wearer’s life. Carefree as a summer’s breeze all year round… who doesn’t want that feeling to last forever?