Richard Mille RM 47 Tourbillon
Richard Mille RM 47 Tourbillon
- Tourbillon movement produced in a limited edition of 75 watches
- Inspired by the spirituality and values of the bushido code
- Sixteen hours of engraving and nine hours of painting for the Samurai’s armour in 3N yellow gold
Associating art and spirituality. Creating a new masterpiece designed as an aesthetic tribute to Japanese culture. Richard Mille presents the RM 47 Tourbillon, the fruit of intense reflection and nearly four years of design work. This is an artful watch of a new kind, incorporating an extremely compact calibre, specifically designed to make room for a stylised Samurai suit of armour entirely crafted by hand. The model was born of a friendly conversation between Richard Mille and the twice Formula 1 world champion and brand partner Fernando Alonso, a passionate enthusiast of Japanese traditional arts and the Samurai principles.
This new model transcends creative limits and takes its place in the prestigious lineage of ‘ornamental’ watches typical of the brand. Entirely hand-carved by the engraver Pierre-Alain Lozeron and painted by his wife Valérie Lozeron, the Samurai armour illustrates the different aspects of ancestral Japanese culture. Evoking the spirit of bushido, the Samurai code of ethics whose values still prevail in Japanese society, the armour comes to life in 3N yellow gold, recalling the gold leaf used in ancient Japan to embellish the country’s finest shrines and also certain works of traditional craftsmanship.
Many details make reference to the Asano clan, a family that symbolises the bushido spirit. The chief of the family domain in the 18th century, Asano Naganori, was also the lord of the 47 rōnin who avenged his death before following him into the afterworld. Their Kamon, or clan heraldic sign – each Samurai clan has one – is proudly featured on the tourbillon, at six o’clock. Representing two crossed falcon feathers, expressing strength in war and the authority of the suzerain, this emblem is also very finely engraved on the warriors’ helmet winglets. The crown, crafted in titanium, Carbon TPT® and polished 3N yellow gold, bears the motif of a Japanese maple leaf, a symbol of the seasons as well as of grace, beauty and the brevity of life. Finally, at the bottom, the two swords, sheathed in their scabbards, point the cutting edges of their blades upwards to be drawn rapidly in the event of danger.
This decoration, which is a work of sculpture as much as a piece of engraving, demanded patience, meticulousness, dexterity and passion. “Between sword and chisel, between the cutting edge of the blade and the incisions defined by the precision of the engraver’s technique, there are many parallels to evoke the similarities between the qualities of these warriors and those demanded by our artistic crafts,” explains Pierre-Alain Lozeron. In total, it takes no less than 16 hours of engraving and 9 hours of painting – in all, more than a whole day – to obtain the 11 components that make up the Samurai, perfectly integrated, front and back, around the movement of the RM 47 Tourbillon.
Like a guardian, the armour provides precious protection for the manual-winding calibre RM47 with hours and minutes. To ensure optimal functioning of the movement, the baseplate and skeletonised bridges are made of grade 5 titanium, a biocompatible alloy often used in the aerospace industry, with a black PVD treatment. This combination offers high corrosion-resistance, remarkable rigidity and perfectly flat surfaces.
The RM 47’s movement, case and decoration all bear witness to a design approach intended to guarantee the harmonious and effective integration of all the various elements. The barrel-shaped case comprises three parts with a caseband in 3N yellow gold receiving a bezel and a caseback in black TZP ceramic. With their exceptional aesthetics, the 75 RM 47 Tourbillon watches evoke the spirituality and values of the bushido, while embodying a determined quest for perfection and respect for tradition.
At the origins
For more than a thousand years, carpenters have been identically rebuilding the famous shrines of Ise, sacred sanctuaries of the Shinto religion, every twenty years. In the same manner, men and women throughout the Japanese archipelago pass on the secular traditions of working wood, steel and glass from generation to generation. It is understandable that unique works, born of a melding between technical excellence, the patience of the craftsman and his quest for beauty arouse passionate interest today.
In the course of a friendly conversation with the twice Formula 1 world champion and brand partner, Fernando Alonso, also passionate about Japanese traditional arts and samurai philosophy, Richard Mille decided to launch an artistic watch project of a new kind.
The team has once again demonstrated its mastery of haute horlogerie
techniques and surpassing excellence in working materials while proving capable of collaborating with talented craftsmen. This has made possible an exceptional timepiece, the fruit of intense reflection and nearly four years of design work.
The RM 47 Tourbillon, its interior housing a samurai’s armour, crafted entirely by hand, is a work of art aesthetically conceived as a tribute to Japanese culture. A combination of art and spirituality, a new way of transcending the limits of creation.
The ethics and symbolism of the samurai
The RM 47 Tourbillon harks back to the sources of Japanese crafting tradition in proposing an allegory of bushido, the samurai code of ethics whose values still prevail in Japanese society
A work of art of impressive realism, the RM 47 Tourbillon incorporates an extremely compact calibre, specially designed to make room for a stylised samurai suit of armour that recalls the bushido spirit. The boldness of its volumes gives this decoration such presence that it offers the impression of sculpture almost as much as of engraving.
This armour comes to life in 3N yellow gold, recalling the leaves of shining gold used in ancient Japan to embellish the country’s finest shrines, such as Kinkaku-ji in Kyoto, as well as certain works of traditional craftsmanship like Wajima-nuri lacquerware.
It is not without reason that the samurai armour at the heart of the RM 47 Tourbillon sports the crest of the Asano clan. Originating from Hiroshima, this family is without doubt the finest embodiment of the bushido spirit. Asano Naganori, the daimyo, or chief of the family fiefdom at the turn of the eighteenth century was the lord of the 47 rōnin who avenged his death before following him into the afterworld. The Asano family’s kamon is featured on the tourbillon at 6 o’clock. Each samurai clan had its own kamon, a heraldic sign borne on their clothes, their swords and the banners carried into battle fields. Representing two crossed falcon feathers, this emblem was also very finely engraved on the warriors’ helmet winglets. In Japanese feudal iconography, the falcon expressed strength in war and the authority of the sovereign. Indeed, the practice of falconry by local lords was subjected to authorisation by Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Edo shogunate, and it was perceived as a great privilege.
The crown, crafted of titanium, Carbon TPT® and polished 3N yellow gold, has a Japanese maple leaf for its motif. An allegory of beauty, grace and the brevity of life, it is the autumnal equivalent of the cherry blossom, symbol of rebirth during spring. Every year in November, the maple leaves take on flamboyant colours before detaching from the boughs to fall in a tourbillon-like movement. As early as the Heian period, over a thousand years ago, the aristocracy already perceived this spectacle – later popularised under the name momijigari
– as a significant motif of Japanese aesthetics.
Patience, meticulousness, dexterity and passion
Finally, at the bottom, two swords, housed in their scabbards, point the sharpened edges of their blades upwards. This was so as to be drawn rapidly in the event of danger. Etiquette required a samurai to wear his weapon on his belt at all times, even if, to prevent any accident, he drew it only exceptionally and only to engage in combat.
Entirely hand-carved by the engraver Pierre-Alain Lozeron and painted by his wife, Valérie, the samurai armour of the RM 47 Tourbillon thus illustrates the various aspects of ancestral Japanese culture. Produced in an edition of 75 watches, this exceptional creation that demanded such patience, meticulousness, dexterity and passion embodies a determined quest for perfection.
Partner of the brand since 2017 Fernando Alonso is a born leader, with extraordinary drive and determination. Insisting on his right to make up his own mind, he demands freedom of thought and action.
An unbreakable bond tied the samurai to his master, to whom he owed obedience and loyalty to his very death. In return, the lord granted him his protection and beneficence. When his lord died, the samurai became a rōnin, a wandering warrior without a master. Alone, despised and outcast, he could nevertheless still continue to cultivate the only essential value in his eyes: keeping faith with his oath and the path of bushido.
According to a bushido legend passed down over more than three centuries, the tale of the revenge of the 47 rōnin started in 1701 with a conflict between the daimy Asano Naganori and Kira Yoshinaka, a high court official of the shogun and a military chief wielding considerable power in feudal Japan. Insulted by Kira, Asano drew his sword and caused him slight wounds.
as popular heroes
However, the use of a weapon within the precincts of Edo Castle was considered a capital crime, and Asano was immediately condemned to death by the suicide ritual known as seppuku,
disembowelling himself with a short sabre before someone close to him cut short his suffering by beheading him. His domain was confiscated and his servants, having lost their status of samurai to become rōnin, could only patiently await their revenge. Oishi Yoshio, the chief of those rōnin who chose to lie low for nearly two years, conspicuously took up a life of debauchery and depravity to throw off any suspicions that might weigh on him.
One snowy night in December 1702, the warriors, 47 of them, embarked on a punitive expedition to Kira’s mansion at Edo. They massacred his guards and cut off his head as a trophy, which they carried through the streets and placed along with incense on their lord’s sepulchre in the Sengaku temple, as an offering. Their disinterested loyalty immediately earned them a reputation as national heroes. The shogun decided to allow them to expiate their crime honourably, permitting them to choose ritual suicide, when such crimes were generally punished with death by decapitation. The bodies of the 47 rōnin were buried alongside their master in the Sengaku temple.
The omnipresent samurai spirit
The memory of this political incident, deeply ingrained in the Japanese mindset, continues to inspire works of literature and cinema, three centuries after the event. It has been perpetuated in popular culture, in the Bunraku puppet theatre work, Kanadehon Chushingura, performed for the first time in 1748, as well as Japanese and Hollywood productions and numerous manga series and cartoons. Located in the Shinagawa district of Tokyo, the Sengaku temple, with its 48 tombs, was accorded national cultural heritage status in 1922. It still welcomes many visitors today, and a festival is organised there every 14th
of December to honour the memory of the 47 rōnin on the anniversary of their revenge.
It is because it so perfectly embodies the bushido values that the legend of the 47 rōnin still occupies such an important place in Japanese society. The samurai spirit is omnipresent in contemporary Japan, where individual action remains guided by self-sacrifice and prioritising social harmony, including in work and business environments, where a sense of commitment must be combined with composure and sobriety.
But the influence of the bushido spirit extends well beyond the Japanese archipelago; it motivates craftsmen across the world when they seek perfection in practising their craft and creating works of remarkable quality. With its extraordinary aesthetics, the RM 47 Tourbillon evokes this spirituality and its values as well as the ethics that guide the samurai.
at the service of bushido
It was in the tranquillity of the Jura foothills that the bushido code found an original form of expression in the creation of an engraved and painted samurai suit of armour, totally integrated on both front and back into the movement of the RM 47 Tourbillon.
A true masterpiece of artistic workmanship, painstakingly engraved by Pierre-Alain Lozeron and painted just as meticulously by Valérie Lozeron.
How did the RM 47 Tourbillon project start? Pierre-Alain Lozeron:
We have worked on several projects with Richard Mille over the last twenty years. We were contacted for this one in 2019. It involved creating a samurai suit of armour completely built into the tourbillon movement. The initial idea struck us at once as “mission impossible”.
Then we set about reflecting, looking up information in the literature and sharing our ideas with the Richard Mille teams. The result was that after the initial shock had passed, we found some solutions. The work was progressively refined, with the first samples made using modelling putty, followed by brass prototypes. Many attempts were needed to arrive at a definitive design. This long and drawn-out work, essential for the project’s maturation, also allowed us to test techniques and tools to find the most suitable. In the end, there is always an element of improvisation compared with the initial idea.
What was the main challenge with respect to the engraving? Pierre-Alain Lozeron:
It was essential for the work to provide volume, sculpting in trompe-l’œil
to give the required depth to the effigy of the samurai equipped with his two swords. To that you can add the wealth of details, such as the helmet ribbon, the sword’s attachments, the crest representing two crossed falcon feathers positioned on the tourbillon and the expression of the mask which had to convey the samurai’s warrior spirit. I required 20 different chisels to develop the structures and textures of the armour. In total, it takes no less than 16 hours of engraving to create the eleven elements that results in this extraordinary decoration.
So then began the miniature painting work... Valérie Lozeron:
It was when coloured with translucent enamel that the extraordinary engraving work really came to life. Our research began with defining the right shades of the colours that had been chosen, in this case, blue and brown. The brown, for example, is obtained by mixing red, black, yellow and blue. Then it was necessary to ensure proper adhesion when applied to the structures of yellow gold, bearing in mind that one can opt for one or two coats and to play with the oven temperatures during the baking stage. The challenge lies in ensuring that the painting and the engraving mutually enhance one another. Insufficiently translucent for example, the colour would mask the subtlety of the detail obtained by engraving. Too light, on the other hand, and it would reduce the effect of depth that it is supposed to accentuate. So, the test phases on prototypes were crucial for obtaining the right dosage and determining which parts of the armour to paint and which ones, in gold, to leave unpainted. Adding to the engraving time the nine hours per piece required for painting, more than twenty-four hours in total are needed for a single suit of armour. A monumental task!
Adding to the engraving time the nine hours per piece required for painting, more than twenty-four hours in total are needed for a single suit of armour. A monumental task!
Producing 75 pieces makes for a very long job... Valérie Lozeron:
With Richard Mille, there is no question of cutting corners: no deadlines are imposed, there is no pressure on deliveries, we work with all the serenity we need because it is the quality of the project (and the result) that counts. Our shared objective is to conceive and produce a watch capable of inspiring dreams, with each model, engraved and painted by hand, pretty much unique. It is imperative that we keep a free spirit so that we can devote body and soul to this work that requires the utmost concentration and precision.
The virtues of the samurai... in a way Pierre-Alain Lozeron:
Spirituality and the values associated with the samurai world are not totally new to us. When at work on my workbench, it is as though I am in suspended animation, it’s almost a meditative state. Between the sword and the chisel, between the cutting edge of the blade and the incisions defined by the precision of the engraver’s technique, there are many parallels to evoke similarities between the qualities shown by these warriors and those demanded by our artistic crafts. It is vital that we keep this idea in mind when we work the material to transcribe in the highest degree, the particular world of the samurai. Until now, no-one had undertaken such a project, bringing together three-dimensional engraving and micro-painting. The courage, loyalty, perseverance and kindness of the Richard Mille teams... so many virtues of the bushido code were present... Amazing.
The kamon of the Asano clan
The Asano clan is emblematic of the bushido spirit, as related in the legend of the 47 rōnin and their lord, Asano Naganori (1667-1701). The clan’s emblem, the kamon
of the Asano family, consisted of two crossed falcon feathers, a warrior symbol par excellence.
s the traditional helmet of a Samurai’s armour. Comprising various plates in forged, riveted metal, complete with supple panels for the back of the neck, it is decorated at the forehead and bears the crest of the clan to which the samurai belongs on the winglets. A grimacing protective mask completes the array.
Japanese swords, here in their scabbards, are represented with the cutting edge upwards. The samurai wore their swords in their obi (belts) so that in the event of danger they could rapidly draw their weapons and at once deliver a cutting blow or adopt a defensive position.
The titanium crown is decorated with a leaf of the palmate maple, or smooth Japanese maple, in gold. A symbol of the seasons as well as of grace, beauty and the brevity of life, the maple leaf in the flamboyant colours of autumn (momiji)
gyrates in the wind like the rotating crown.
L’or pare depuis des siècles de nombreux objets d’art japonais dont les peintures et For centuries, gold has been used to decorate any number of Japanese artistic objects, including paintings and sculptures as well as textiles and calligraphic paper. Among the various techniques used, gold-leaf artwork (kinpaku)
occupied an extremely important place in Japanese tradition, especially during the feudal period.
The tourbillon movement of the RM 47 is very compact in profile to include the eleven components of the samurai armour on both faces without adversely affecting the shape of the watch.
Like a guard, the samurai of the RM 47 Tourbillon comprises various elements that provide precious protection for the manually wound Calibre RM47. From either side of the case, the tourbillon carriage is discreetly visible, along with certain components of the gear train, giving substance to this remarkable warrior. With its engraved and painted decoration, the movement acquires a rare depth, a clear indication of the attention paid to details and finishes. To ensure optimal functioning of the movement, the base-plate and skeletonised bridges are made of grade 5 titanium, a biocompatible alloy often used in the aerospace sector, with a black PVD coating. This combination offers high corrosion resistance, and yields remarkable rigidity and perfectly flat surfaces. While deliberately discreet, the workmanship on the bridges and baseplate is nonetheless exceptional. Their complex lines and the effect of the hand-finishing are truly representative of Richard Mille’s technical demands.
The movement’s chronometric precision, over the full 72 hours of power reserve, is ensured by a tourbillon regulator. Guaranteeing optimal regulating precision, the balance-wheel is of a variable inertia type, equipped with four inertia-blocks. Energy performance is optimised by means of a fast-rotating barrel (completing a full rotation in 6 hours instead of 7.5 hours), favoured for its excellent running rate regularity, largely due to reductions in the internal adhesion of the main-spring. And to limit torque losses, the barrel and centre pinion have teeth exhibiting a central involute profile, with an elliptical curvature that compensates for any variations in engagement and improves the efficiency of the gear train. To forestall any problem during winding, facilitated by a progressive-recoil barrel click, the dynamometric crown protects the assembly, uncoupling as soon as the watch is fully wound to avoid over-tensioning the main spring or breaking the winding stem.
Movement and case, as well as the decorative features of the samurai armour, all bear witness to a design approach intended to guarantee the harmonious and effective integration of all the various elements of the RM 47 Tourbillon. The samurai is thus an integral part of the calibre, which, in turn, fits perfectly in the case. The barrel-shaped case comprises three parts with a caseband in 3N yellow gold receiving a bezel and a caseback in black TZP ceramic. This lightweight material is particularly resistant to scratching and has a low thermal conductivity coefficient. Assembled with the aid of 20 spline screws, the case is water-resistant to 50 metres, thanks to two O-ring seals in nitrile rubber.
The case finishes, like those of the movement, reveal an approach as rigorous as that of the samurai’s armour. The calibre features drawn and satin-finished surfaces, hand-polished chamfers, microblasted milled faces and diamond-polished gear mouldings. With its matt surface and polished edges emphasising the case’s barrel shape, the black ceramic is ideal for this exceptional composition, where mechanical mastery and artistic creation are combined in perfect balance.
and ornamental watches
and the art of decoration
From the aerograph to grand feu enamelling, lasers and engine-turning... Richard Mille uses the tools and technologies of the past and the present to create unique works, thus paying tribute to watchmaking tradition. We present here some of the “ornamental”
watches that the brand is known for.
Fashioned in gold, the tiger and dragon that encircle the tourbillon of the RM 51-01 Michelle Yeoh were entirely hand-engraved by the Geneva craftsman Olivier Vaucher. Miniature tools were specially created to meet the particular requirements of producing these two symbolic figures. For even more striking realism, each one was micro-painted by hand, a long and fastidious process also applied to the invisible parts of these two creatures.
The flames and the eye that feature on the RM 26-02 Evil Eye were fashioned entirely by hand in 3N yellow gold, using chisels specifically fabricated to produce the minutest details. The vivid quality of the eye was obtained using the technique of grand feu enamelling. The motif is not simply painted on gold: the various oxides are first applied to the dial then fired several times (at between 800 and 900°C) under the watchful eye of the enameller. To enhance this model, the flames were micro-lacquered by hand – a lengthy task.
It took more than a year to develop the painting technique used by the street artist Cyril Kongo on the tourbillon calibre of the RM 68-01. An aerograph was specially developed to enable him to delicately pulverise his colours, drop by drop, until he obtained a unique palette of brightly coloured indelible paint that adhered perfectly to the titanium components.
Seen from the back of the watch, the central form of the tourbillon movement baseplate radiates towards the exterior and evokes a projection of paint. On the dial side, the bridges in titanium recall the jubilant paintbrush strokes of street art frescoes.
The RM 57-03 Tourbillon Sapphire Dragon is one of those special projects about which Richard Mille never stops enthusing. The incorporation of this dragon made of sapphire and gold into the heart of a tourbillon movement was indeed a bold first because it required combining the poetic and delicate expression of the art of engraving with the vast complexity of machining sapphire. To enhance this mythical animal, new polishing and hand-finishing techniques were developed to bring out the natural transparency of the sapphire and to create a degree of opacity. A specific laser micro-cutting machine was used to guarantee the extreme precision of the watch’s curves. The head and feet in carved red gold also serve to accentuate the crystalline texture of the sapphire and the volume of the subject. The minute details of the scales were the result of a long and delicate process of painting with gold.
The RM 52-05 Tourbillon Pharrell Williams embodies the multi-talented artist’s fascination with space and the feeling of intense spirituality and fulfilment it engenders. The astronaut’s helmet was painted white with the aid of an aerograph. To recreate this imaginary Martian scene, the convex visor in 5N red gold was engraved using specially created chisels. This was followed by the delicate work of grand feu enamelling then micro-painting by hand. The use of enamel for this decoration harmonises the shades of orange-red and the gradient of blue to virtually black for the starry sky. The engraving alone required several hours for each watch, then a full day was set aside for the grand feu enamelling. Delicate work, also signed by Pierre-Alain Lozeron’s workshops.