The new Richard Mille RM 88 Automatic Tourbillon Smiley, with its three-dimensional aesthetics and splendid colors, takes on the vivid quality of a waking dream. A yellow circle, two oval eyes, and a wide upturned mouth, The Smiley, drawn by Franklin Loufrani just over 50 years ago, has become an established symbol in the collective consciousness. It embodies positivity, joy, and sharing and has played a major role at the heart of pop culture across several creative generations.
This leading role was enough for the teams at Richard Mille to launch into creating an emotion-driven watch emphasizing all these values, the Richard Mille RM 88 Automatic Tourbillon Smiley. The highly technical and creative timepiece that took three years to develop use decorative elements that are a cheerful emanation of the Smiley world: a blossoming flower, the warm rays of the sun, a delicious pineapple, a blooming cactus, a pink flamingo, and a brightly-coloured rainbow. A festive cocktail to be savored drop by drop, as the drinking glass in this neon pop scene suggests.
The RM 88 Tourbillon Smiley bears witness to a succession of technical and aesthetic challenges that were successfully overcome. Cased in ATZ white ceramic and red gold, the watch measures 48.15 x 39.74 x 13.30 mm. This creation features two baseplates: one technical, to support the CRMT7 in-house calibre, a skeletonized automatic tourbillon movement with hour, minute, and function displays, and the other auxiliary to secure the ornamentation on the left-hand side of the dial. Subsequently mounted onto the movement, this second baseplate presents the objects on an inclined plane for added volumetric effect.
The dimensions and weight of the gold micro-sculptures created by the engraver Olivier Kuhn required 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 maximize their effect but also to facilitate their insertion by the watchmaker.
No effort has been spared in the finishing, down to the tiniest detail of each element in this display. The quest for perfection is ever-present, as demonstrated by the green PVD-coated leaves, the micro-blasted and polished surface of the pineapple, the micro-blasted spines of the cactus in yellow gold, polished one by one to remove the PVD coating, and the sun, in micro-blasted gold with polished rays. In keeping with watchmaking tradition, all finishing operations on the RM 88 Smiley are carried out by hand.
The bezel and case back are in ATZ white ceramic. This is made from tubes of aluminum oxide powder injected at a pressure of nearly 2,000 bars. This high-pressure injection increases rigidity by 20 to 30% and reduces the material’s porosity to an absolute minimum. ATZ is known for its high scratch resistance—1,400 Vickers—and unchanging color. Next to diamond, it is one of the hardest materials in the world. Long and complex machining using diamond tools is required to create a perfect example of this complex, curved bezels and satin finish.
The caseband is made of 18K 5N red gold and the tripartite case is water resistant to 50 meters, ensured by 2 Nitrile O-ring seals. The case is assembled with 12 grade 5 titanium spline screws and abrasion-resistant washers in 316L stainless steel.
Turning the watch over reveals the in-house calibre CRMT7 powering the Richard Mille RM 88 Tourbillon Smiley. The movement is in micro-blasted grade 5 titanium with PVD treatment lending great rigidity to the baseplate and the bridges, as well as the precise surface flatness, essential for the perfect functioning of the gear train. Grade 5 titanium is a biocompatible, highly corrosion-resistant, and remarkably rigid alloy, which enables the gear train to function effortlessly. The alloy is 90% grade 5 titanium, 6% aluminum, and 4% vanadium. This combination further increases the material’s mechanical properties, which explains its frequent use in the aerospace, aeronautics, and automotive industries.
Like that of a car’s gearbox, the function indicator allows one to see the winding and hand-setting positions as the crown is pulled out. The active position is indicated via a hand at 3 o’clock. The design and execution of the watch demonstrate a holistic approach to the conception of the movement, case, and dial. As a result, everything has been constructed according to extremely rigorous specifications. For example, a casing ring is no longer used, and the movement is mounted on chassis mounting rubbers fixed by titanium screws.
The Richard Mille RM 88 Tourbillon Smile is available in a limited edition of 50 pieces.