Enhance forms, combine materials and play with finishes and contrasts
June 12th, 2018
That said, we needed a modern, creative and talented young woman to inject new energy into the status quo and take the women’s collection to new heights. It was Cécile Guenat, the daughter of my friend and business partner Dominique, who met this challenge by overcoming technical obstacles, freeing herself from consensus and establishing a unique and resolutely contemporary style. The result is this ultra-exclusive series of 10 models, each ofwhich is a genuine work of art. Cécile has been able to distil different cultures and codes wonderfully, and her expertise in fine jewellery has enabled her to enhance forms, combine materials and play with finishes and contrasts. She has created tension between the polished gleam of gold and the brilliance of diamonds, mastering complex and varied geometric lines to create a harmonious whole.
Yet to truly put the launch in a class of its own, we needed to combine the exceptional design with technical prowess, hence the brand’s very first automatic tourbillon movement! While certainly important, this specificity simply adds to these watches’ extraordinary technical characteristics—performance, reliability and breathtaking finishes. A remarkable movement, it is the fruit of many years of research, development, testing and validation.
This launch represents a significant step in the brand’s history and one which begins an exciting and highly promising new phase.
Cécile Guenat Interview
Ladies’ Collection Director
Genesis of the project
How did you come to be entrusted with this collection?
When my father, Dominique Guenat, Co-President and Richard came to me now, three years ago, because the brand was looking for a new inspiration for women’s watches, I was working in London with jewellery designer Scott Wilson. It is a small business, in which I was involved at every stage of designing collections for various fashion houses and branded creations. Previously, after a highly instructive four-year technical apprentice ship with a jeweller in Lausanne, I had turned to a more theoretical course at the Geneva School of Art and Design (HEAD).
After making it very clear that my background was not in watchmaking, something new to the world of watchmaking, I was highly enthusiastic about trying to bring something new to the world of watchmaking...
What were your sources of inspiration for these creations?
There were many, starting with Art Deco, as well as some more subtle touches of Bauhaus. Both styles have been major influences for me, as well as important references in design. I like Art Deco because it encourages the transfer of skills from one craft to another while toying with differences in scale, resulting in a mixture of genres that nonetheless has a strong identity of its own.
I also appreciate the Art and Crafts movement, and its ‘total art’ philosophy, which is perfectly captured by the German word Gesamkunstwerk.
My work is nourished by a range of very different influences, sometimes unexpected or improbable: when I designed this collection, it was the summer of Pokemon Go, and the notion of ‘morphing’ that underlies its creatures’ evolution inspired certain aspects of the collection. I also drew on what are now known as Tribal arts—masks, African sculptures and so on—whose impact on all great modern and contemporary artists has been enormous.
The contrasts, geometry, and sacred character of these objects fascinate me all the more because they prefigure elements of today’s design through their fusion of content and form. I like the fact that everyday things, including watches, are perceived as objets d’art worthy of being exalted.
Nowadays, jewellery and watches can also be talismans. I had an idea of what I wanted from the start and I designed a mood board from my drawings and image searches, because anything that pops into my head can be of interest.
What sort of atmosphere do you like to work in?
Generally speaking, I work to music and, in an ideal world I would have to be able to sing while I design! > On this project, I listened to a lot of Frank Ocean and Sinatra, among other artists. I particularly enjoy this kind of music for the rhythm, the universe it conjures: I find it conducive to creation. I’d like to be able to plan my creative periods but the truth is that sometimes I need to procrastinate for several hours: it’s not something you can control.
Sometimes I might watch a film, thinking it will resonate with the work I have to do that day, and then I put on music and start drawing. Like any creative process, it’s difficult to describe in any meaningful way.
What was your initial design brief for the RM 71-01 automatic tourbillon talisman?
When I first arrived at Richard Mille, I was initially encouraged to reflect on designs with fine jewellery in mind. The request then evolved over the course of our development sessions. One day, our Technical Director for Movements, Salvador Arbona, showed us the automatic in-house tourbillon which had been in the works for quite a while. I was immediately smitten. When they invited me to work on it and asked if I would design its casing, I got a little carried away, and rather than sticking to a single idea, I found myself drawing several different versions.
Did you suggest the idea of a collection?
It’s fairly standard in the world of watchmaking to design a single casing that is then produced using different stones, such that only the colour changes.
But as I began drawing, I quickly became convinced that the idea of a collection, in the sense of haute couture or fine jewellery, was both more exclusive and more likely to interest customers.
I realise that I myself, as a woman, like being offered a choice. To make my case, I showed the teams a series of variations on the traditional dial. Very quickly, it became fairly obvious to everyone that we would be offering separate versions. It was at this point that I really began to champion the idea of a collection as understood in couture or fine jewellery.
What were the guiding principles you adopted for this collection?
The first thing I did was to pick out the elaborate lines of the skeleton movement, which I wanted to preserve. While my first proposals tended to favour colour, however, consensus quickly foregrounded the options of diamond, black sapphire, mother-of-pearl and onyx, which are in the black and white range.
It was important to maintain the brand’s codes so as not to confuse our extremely loyal customers. In terms of codes, actually the design, volume and construction of the dials themselves were quite foreign to the traditional codes of watchmaking, and we had to overcome a number of technical challenges. It was truly a team effort, with much toing and froing over modifications and solutions.
The shape of the dials, already defined by the decision to crown the tourbillon based on the design of the baseplate, nevertheless left many options for setting and engraving the case. It seemed essential to me to introduce a range of tones, which is why the dials evoke two deliberately distinct universes: one more organic and plant-based and the other more urban, suggestive of Russian Constructivism. I succeeded in my aim of introducing a formal play that extends the lines of the dial to the bezel, the case and the caseback.
While it is rather difficult for me to precisely pinpoint my influences because they are both so varied and so interwoven, the approach is nonetheless highly structured! Things have moved on a great deal from the gouache stage, but the end result remains very close to the initial ideas I sketched.
An artisan’s Signature
For this collection of ladies’ tourbillon watches, Cécile Guenat, Ladies’ Collection Director, had her heart set on proposing a jewelled fittings that would match the mechanical sophistication of the brand. The assignment was entrusted and Head of the Fine Jewellery division. The 50 dials and the gem-set cases were designed in their workshops, where traditional expertise and new technologies perfectly complement one another, combining virtuoso manual dexterity with extreme precision.
The head of the Geneva workshop was, filled with enthusiasm when he saw the original sketches: “I recognised sheer genius. Why has this not been done before? Anything is possible in art, once an idea is there! While the custom in traditional watch-making is to avoid mixing settings, in this collection they are assembled to respect a completely innovative design, and it is great to be able to play with the various diameters and angles of the gemstones.”
At this Genevan workshop created in the late 1980s, the gem-setters, eyes glued to their binocular microscopes, still use traditional tools. Before the setting stage, the surfaces are marked out mechanically using the ‘épargne’ technique, to prepare for the machining or ‘mitraillage’. Next, the gem-setters dip into their allocated gemstones—whose traceability is guaranteed by an independant laboratory and whose weight in carats is verified by the stone cutters—to carry out the decisive work of assembling and adjusting the gems by hand. No two gemstones are identical, yet the setters are able to align the diamonds, correcting the shape of the areas previously machined to hold the stones in order to obtain an even sparkle and ensure the maximum reflection of light. For this task, they have multiple tools at their disposal, such as tiny milling drills, chisels, etc. Each grain of metal is then split around the gemstone to ensure that the stone is protected and held securely. Each finished piece is engraved discreetly with the signature of the artisan where it cannot be seen.
The RM 71-01 model that spins in virtual reality on the developer’s screen enables him to observe the placement of each stone on the bezel according to the various settings—snow and/or grain on the initial design. This task is made all the more complex by Cécile Guenat’s desire to cover the entire surface of the case, while incorporating visible titanium spline screws in the bezel, a hallmark of the Richard Mille style, and including the indispensable safety seals at the interior and exterior edges, which guarantee that the model is watertight without weakening the watch. The polishing stage enhances the desired result of the different gem settings, and brings out the contrasts. It took 9 months for a team working full-time to complete full five pieces for each one of the ten variations.
Juggling the extreme complexity of the dial and the special requirements of the case decorations made it necessary to call upon specialist dial-makers. Only they possessed the savoir-faire needed to combine a selection of very different jewellery techniques to high-light the multiple planes envisaged by the creator while leaving adequate space for the hands to move on a very small surface and within an extremely confined space.
We have never seen so many professional crafts coming together to work on a single piece, insists the General Manager of the workshop located in La Chaux-de-Fonds. Different finishes may be achieved by diamond setting, the manual insertion of mother-of-pearl or onyx, and 3D micro-machining of gold , but all require separate interventions. Extreme vigilance is necessary due to the fact that at each stage there is a risk of damaging what is already in place by scratching the polished surface adjoining the one being set, or by inadvertently displacing stones when trying to protect them from other procedures. ‘In any case, adds the business manager, you have to start again from the beginning,’ adds the business manager, so it is easy to understand how each dial takes five days to complete. The challenge for the workshop lies in overcoming the many technical constraints while remaining faithful to the original design. For example, a ‘path’, or groove, needs to be forged in gold to guarantee a crisp neat finish between a polished surface and an adjoining sandblasted surface. Likewise, on one particular model, the Tahitian mother-of-pearl originally called for was replaced with onyx to solve the problem of a cut that was not deemed neat enough. “Adaptations such as these do not prevent us from remaining faithful to the motifs and aesthetics of the dials,” insists the dial-maker.
confirms this: “Despite certain concessions required by the techniques, relief and perspectives, the different levels in the decoration, and the Art Deco and Tribal art influences have been perfectly rendered. While the drawing is the starting point, the work of the artisans is what really brings the watch to life.”
Visual and technical magic
The ten variations on the new RM 71-01 Automatic Tourbillon Talisman weave together the supreme technicity specific to Richard Mille and the sculptural universe of fine jewellery. All grace and sophistication, this women’s watch inaugurates the first ever tourbillon movement developed in-house by Richard Mille, the Calibre CRMT1, and incorporates a new automatic mechanism, that is slim, ultra-light, ultra-high performance and brings together sparkling diamonds, mother-of-pearl, onyx and black sapphires.
The RM 71-01 Automatic Tourbillon abolishes the distinction between jewellery and its case. The movement, dials and cases maintain an aesthetic, technical and visual dialogue that exalts substance and form, united in an explosion of light.
The automatic tourbillon calibre, finely drawn, skeletonised and light, thanks to the use of grade 5 titanium, is sheltered by a tonneau case in white or red gold that goes beyond mere protection to affirm a true aesthetic choice.
The combination of precious stones with titanium and gold embodies the logic of this limited edition and its innovative styling, which is a testament to structure while radiating joyous inspiration.
As always with a Richard Mille piece, for each of the 10 variations, the initial impetus comes from the movement, in this case the Calibre CRMT1, making its world premiere.
With skeletonised bridges and deliberately emphatic lines in perspective, the genius of the RM 71-01 lies in the way it filters graphic energy through artistic interpretation. Cécile Guenat, Ladies’ Collection Director and designer of the RM 71-01 series took her first cue from the lines of the base-plate. Channelling the geometry and precision of Art Deco, rich with architectural references, she has succeeded in adapting both the spirit and forms of this style in a precious ornament. And it must be said that the tonneau shape, a hallmark of the brand, is in perfect harmony with creations from the 1920s and 1930s, as attest the lines of the calibre, extended by engraving to the dials and cases, whose execution is a visual delight as well as a technical tour de force.
In their shape and placement, the gem-set dials mounted at the centre of the movement suggest masks, tiaras, even ritual artefacts.
Each of the glorious variations evoking the manifold permutations of the organic serves, above all, to showcase the tourbillon of the Calibre CRMT1. The baseplate protecting the movement’s rotation remains open so that the beating heart of the watch is always visible.
In entrusting creative direction of the ten elements that sit atop the central part of the movement to Cécile Guenat, Richard Mille left her absolutely free to explore, be it the forms and volumes of Art Deco or the Tribal Art which so clearly inspired many of the geometric and organic shapes her creations exhibit. Lastly, in its long, slender lines it is not without recalling the longitudinal tautness of New York’s architecture—much loved by the designer—but never at the expense of the mechanistic elements inseparable from the brand’s identity, and whose subtle presence resonates at a deeper level.
The sheets of gold, machined and curved, yet just 0,9 mm thick, do nothing to dispel the volumetric effect, and these surfaces in onyx, diamond and mother-of-pearl are, of course, fully integrated within the patterned lines established by the setting and movement.
The tripartite case of the RM 71-01 Automatic Tourbillon Talisman is all taut curves, designed to perfectly embrace a female wrist. The case, set with gems arranged in a banded spray, refracts the light of its stones from unusual angles. The bezel is adorned with diamonds in permutations that vary in the number, shape and size of the stones according to the version. The caseback is engraved with matt bands that contrast strikingly with the brilliance of the stones and the high polishing of all the other surfaces.
Produced thanks to high-precision milling, the piece reveals this sculptural work from every angle. The RM 71-01 radiates in all directions, but by no means any which way. Each and every segment of stones systematically extends or echoes one of the movement’s internal vectors.
By thus eliminating the distinction between interior and exterior, Richard Mille plays up the decorative quality of this watch, whose every surface is now a canvas for a truly artistic expression.
This is also why the brand has chosen this moment to launch a new line of straps, with a black Velcro® closure on ostrich leather or on embossed grained leather. These options complement the initially proposed version, a buckle closure strap set with precious stones, in black or white alligator.
While the skeletonisation, gem-setting and dial-making all embody a union of the artistic and artisanal approaches, the mechanics, themselves a form of sculpture, constitute an exercise in the expression of ideal proportion.
Here, Richard Mille asserts with power and grace that technicity is a resolutely universal language. The RM 71-01 Tourbillon Automatic Talisman thus opens the door to a new era in exceptional watchmaking and jewellery creation, one in which the brand’s technical and aesthetic idiom is affirmed with ever greater force.
The RM 71-01 Automatic Tourbillon Talisman captures the vibrant energy in Richard Mille’s embrace of the feminine. By allowing the talents of his team free rein in terms of development and creative energy all the better to encourage them, Richard Mille has reached a new level of autonomy, a sure sign of well-earned maturity.
The tourbillon: precious technicity
Richard Mille is now launching an automatic tourbillon calibre entirely developed by its own team. This 8th
movement to be produced in-house is equipped with Richard Mille’s flagship complication and every hallmark feature of the brand. The tonneau-shaped skeletonised Calibre CRMT1 is predominately made of titanium, just 6.2 millimetres thick and only 8 grams.
Never before has a variable-geometry rotor been placed at the heart of a tourbillon calibre. Oscillating with the momentum caused by wrist movements, it can be adjusted by a jeweller to the activity of its wearer, freeing her from the burden of rewinding her watch. Other than the barrel and winding mechanism, which are identical to those on previously produced calibres, the CRMT1 is entirely new.
‘The first challenge was to produce an automatic tourbillon movement that could be housed in the narrow, curved case of an RM 037,’ explains Salvador Arbona, Technical Director for Movements. ‘The second was to meet our standards in terms of performance, whether chronometric results, automatic winding or shock resistance.’
Richard Mille has repeatedly demonstrated under real-world conditions that the tourbillon, if well designed, need not be a fragile complication. “We focused particularly on the shock resistance of the tourbillon cage and bridges,”
continues Arbona. “This was a more difficult ambition to achieve than one might imagine, because we were committed to making the cage appear as though it were floating independent of the baseplate and bridges. Optimisation was crucial to ensuring resistance to impact during testing.”
A pinnacle of performance
The perpetual quest for performance explains the presence of profiled gear teeth enabling optimal transmission at the centre of the base-plate in black PVD-treated grade 5 titanium, as well as a fast-winding barrel that provides 50 hours of reserve power. Machined in-house, the baseplate, bridges, tourbillon cage and certain turned parts have all been subjected to rigorous validation tests to make certain they offer the same shock resistance as the brand’s more sporty timepieces.
Beautiful inside and out
The shape and transparency of the movement bear witness to the way aesthetics are perceived as a critical component of design. The obsession with lighter weight began with a process of skeletonisation that cut curved longitudinal openings, across the calibre, starting at six o’clock, to slim its proportions and showcase the tourbillon cage.
“To achieve the lightness we were after,”
insists Salvador Arbona, “we sought to induce trans-parency in the movement while referencing the curves of the case in a subtle and balanced way. The varying width of the contour on the bevels of the bridges helped to accentuate their visual impact.”
Despite the modern and technical nature of the innovative materials used, they nonetheless adhere to the highest quality standards and hand finishing.“The ’gradual’ bevels,”
shares Salvador Arbona “are a real headache for our decorators. We had to develop complex hand-stretching processes for curved surfaces”.
Discretion and presence
The Calibre CRMT1 is making its debut aboard the RM 71-01. Regarding this precious, feminine, bejewelled watch as a fragile object, however, is quite out of the question. ‘This is a watch designed to be worn day-in day-out, precisely because it has an automatic winding mechanism,’ points out Salvador Arbona. ‘Its architecture is unobtrusive enough to bring the dial, hands and accessories to the fore.’ What’s more, the powerful and versatile Calibre CRMT1 could accommodate further complications. Its compact size and weight, its toughness and its architecture all suggest that it is destined for further development.