Richard Mille's latest watch pays tribute to the iconic smiley

Richard Mille's latest creation, the RM 88 Automatic Tourbillon Smiley, pays tribute to an icon. photos: Richard Mille

The smile, a universal expression of our innate desire to connect with others, is fundamental to our social interactions.

Richard Mille draws inspiration for its RM 88 Automatic Tourbillon Smiley from this very expression, depicted playfully in the Smiley, a little yellow face that appeared in 1972 in the pages of the French newspaper, France Soir which rapidly went viral.

This new in-house automatic tourbillon calibre took three years to develop.This new in-house automatic tourbillon calibre took three years to develop.Replacing words with pictures, the little yellow face gradually established itself as a truly universal and intergenerational language.

In the 1990s, Nicolas Loufrani, son of the Smiley’s creator and managing director of The Smiley Company, produced all sorts of 3D variants of the face, together with a connected world of symbols, seeking particularly to replace the text symbols based on punctuation marks such as:-) ;-):-(etc. that were proliferating at the time.

This was the birth of emoticons (“emotion” and “icon”), colourful and non-conformist, combining imagination and fantasy.

Today, more than 3,000 such graphic representations are protected by The Smiley Company.

This new in-house automatic tourbillon calibre 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 delicious pineapple, a blooming cactus, a pink flamingo and a brightly-coloured rainbow.

Combining aesthetics with a highly technical watchmaking creationA succession of technical and aesthetic challenges were successfully overcome with the creation of the RM 88 Smiley.

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 maximise their effect but also to facilitate their insertion by the watchmaker.

Each of the watch’s decorative elements are cheerful emanations of the Smiley worldEach of the watch’s decorative elements are cheerful emanations of the Smiley world

The solution for this, 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.

Next, the challenge 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 RM 88 Automatic Tourbillon Smiley pays tribute to a universal facial expression.The RM 88 Automatic Tourbillon Smiley pays tribute to a universal facial expression.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 handapplied varnishes, contrasting with its anthracite-coloured rhodium plating.

An enchanting masterpiece with positive vibrations

Down to the tiniest detail of each element in this display, the effort put into this piece is no small feat.

The cocktail glass is an assembly of four parts, all in gold. The umbrella, the olive (1.7mm in height), the 0.4mm-diameter grooved straw – all polished – and the glass itself, its base micro-blasted to create the chilled glass, weigh a total of just 0.4g.

The gold flower above is mirror-polished, its petals brushed and rhodium-plated.

Also undergoing multiple processes is the pink flamingo, 0.2g of red gold: its wings are polished and its feathers traced with the tip of a Degussit 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.

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, the quest for perfection is ever present.

In keeping with watchmaking tradition, all finishing operations on the RM 88 Smiley are carried out by hand.

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 and the crown bears the Smiley sculpted in yellow gold.

The playfully colourful, poetic and lively RM 88 Automatic Tourbillon Smiley, with its three-dimensional aesthetics and splendid colours, is produced in a limited edition of 50 watches.

Subscribe now to our Premium Plan for an ad-free and unlimited reading experience!

Next In Style

How characters from film, television and manga serve as fashion inspiration
After success abroad, Saudi designers hit the fashion runways at home
Lace embrace: The delicate fabric is becoming fashionable again
China’s A-listers flock to Hong Kong for Pharrell Williams' fashion show
Designer Iris Van Herpen believes fashion goes 'beyond beauty'
Ask The Expert: How can microcurrent beauty devices help firm up skin?
Princess Diana's 'revenge' dress and other 'The Crown' fashion props up for sale
Don't fear having grey hair, try the blending method to enhance its look
Guinness World Records names 100-year-old Japanese woman 'oldest beauty adviser'
Luxury fashion house heir becomes Switzerland's wealthiest with RM223bil

Others Also Read