Richard Mille RM 88 Automatic Tourbillon Smiley
A yellow circle, two oval eyes, a wide upturned mouth…
- New in-house CRMT7 automatic tourbillon calibre
- A watch inspired by the Smiley world and its values
- Limited edition of 50 pieces
The smile, universal and multivalent, is fundamental to our social interactions; an expression of our innate desire to connect with others. Like the little yellow face that appeared in 1972 in the pages of the French newspaper, France Soir
which rapidly went viral, the Smiley conveys positive energy. It is a symbol of communication that comes to life today in the effervescent world of the RM 88 Automatic Tourbillon Smiley.
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. A festive cocktail to be savoured drop by drop, as the drinking glass in this neon pop scene suggests.
The RM 88 Smiley bears witness to a succession of technical and aesthetic challenges that were successfully overcome. 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. The solution 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.
The second challenge faced 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 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 hand-applied varnishes, contrasting with its anthracite-coloured rhodium plating.
No effort has been spared in the finishing, down to the tiniest detail of each element in this display. The cocktail glass is an assembly of four parts, all in gold. The umbrella, the olive (1.7 mm in height), the 0.4 mm-diameter grooved straw – all polished – and the glass itself, its base micro-blasted to create the chilled glass, weigh a total of just 0.4 g. The gold flower above is mirror-polished, its petals brushed and rhodium-plated. The pink flamingo, 0.2 g of red gold, also undergoes multiple processes: its wings are polished and its feathers traced with the tip of a Dégussit 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.
The quest for perfection is ever-present, 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. In keeping with watchmaking tradition, all finishing operations on the RM 88 Smiley are carried out by hand.
Such splendour of colour and scenography, both front and back, deserved a setting that would do justice to the composition. 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. The crown bears the precious Smiley sculpted in yellow gold.
The RM 88 Automatic Tourbillon Smiley, with its three-dimensional aesthetics and splendid colours, takes on the vivid quality of a waking dream. A playfully colourful, poetic and lively creation limited to 50 watches. An enchanting masterpiece whose positive vibrations convey a universal language, that of the smile.
drawn by Franklin Loufrani just over 50 years ago, has become an established symbol
in the collective consciousness. It serves as the embodiment of 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 the creation of an emotion-driven watch
emphasising all these values.
Around the Smiley’s radiant face, an array of miniature sculptures takes possession of the RM 88 Automatic Tourbillon Smiley’s
movement, forming and reforming a surreal scene, brimming with fun and enthusiasm and demonstrating true mastery of the infinitely small.
Light as it may seem, the creation of this ballet was a technical challenge of the highest order. But the dream has now become reality, with attention to detail and perfection taken to the utmost, breathing life into a veritable smile.
The smile, universal and multivalent, is fundamental to our social relations; an expression of our innate desire to connect with others.
of the smile
Like the little yellow face, that appeared in 1972 in the pages of the French newspaper France Soir, which rapidly went viral, the Smiley conveys positive energy. It is a symbol of interaction that comes to life today in the effervescent world of the RM 88 Automatic Tourbillon Smiley.
First appearance of Smiley in 1972 in the pages of the French newspaper France Soir
The smile has always featured in visual arts. In fact, it has been discovered on objects as old as 9,000-year-old Neolithic stone masks, possibly associated with funeral rituals or veneration of the dead.
One of the first smiles in history that we still possess today was Sumerian — the statue of a governor of Mesopotamia dating from 2,400 B.C.E. (on display at the Louvre). The symbolism of the smile has subsequently varied over centuries and with civilizations. Barely outlined and with evident reserve, the smiles depicted on sculptures of Egyptian pharaohs appear to evoke the restraint and self-control required of the highest rulers. The smiles to be seen on statues of the Buddha symbolise luck, prosperity and joy. Greek and Etruscan statues of the Archaic Period (650 to 480 B.C.E.) reveal smiles that appear to express a certain equanimity.
In the West, from the fifth century C.E., Christian art dispensed with the smile, deemed synonymous with carnal and Epicurean pleasures. The expression featured only on the faces of beings exempt from sin, such as saints, angels, Madonnas and children. The smile discreetly resurfaced during the Renaissance, as in Leonardo de Vinci’s famous portrait, the Mona Lisa, before becoming the norm during the Age of Enlightenment, notably via the work of Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, a painter at the French court, whose works unabashedly depicted broad smiles at a time when it was still scandalous to show one’s emotions.
The smile is a mark of humanity. It is universal to our species and found across the world. Equivocal, it can be many things — contented, discreet, tight-lipped, innocent or disarming. Conveying emotions, it prompts dialogue and trust, expressing joy and sincerity. It is a vital gesture, liberating the endorphins that are sources of well-being and pleasure with healing properties.
It was in this well-meaning spirit, looking towards a better future, that the French journalist Franklin Loufrani published his Smiley on 1 January 1972, in the newspaper France Soir. Paired with the slogan “Take the time to smile,”
it was intended to highlight good news, full of optimistic appeal.
The adventure was launched. 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 (a contraction of the words “emotion”
), colourful and non-conformist, combining imagination and fantasy. Today, more than 3,000 such graphic representations are protected by The Smiley Company.
A dazzling smile whose strength lies in the fact that it can be found... everywhere! On paintings, signs, comic strips, album covers and films, the Smiley rapidly became a symbol of resistance in the face of adversity (sometimes even associated with social, political and musical movements). It could be adapted to any context and adjusted as desired.
For example, the Smiley appeared on the face of the Mona Lisa
as depicted by the street artist Banksy, symbolising our simplification of language as emoticons and images increasingly take the place of words. We also find it in Robert Zemeckis’ famous film Forrest Gump
and in several episodes of The Simpsons. The Smiley can also express irony and amplify a message’s sarcastic effect, whether positive or negative, as on the cover of the comic book Watchmen,
which bears a bloodied smiley, symbolising a jest in deadly earnest with the appearance of levity but an obscure and violent character deep down.
The Smiley also propagates its universal values through a number of collaborations, inspiring designers and stylists from all over the world.
It’s a stunning watch. A unique and surprising creation. Like the first act of a play, with the calibre as the stage where the figurines appear to be jostling to play the leading role. The Smiley’s radiant face stands out from this dream-like scene, watching over the world armed with its eternal smile.
RM 88 Automatic Tourbillon Smiley
Like The Smiley Company, Richard Mille — a family business if ever there was one — innovates to develop provocative watches that are extreme in their production demands. Through these atypical models, the brand seeks to generate new emotions, opening up a physical connection to stimulate sensation. Far from neglecting this rule, the RM 88 takes it to new heights.
Have you ever been at the exact spot where reality yields to dreams? The place where all that is tangible fades and becomes frayed at the edges, where straight lines become curves, where colours clash, and materials blend together? It is this elusive, almost magical and hypnotic moment that Richard Mille has managed to capture with the creation of the RM 88 Automatic Tourbillon Smiley. The timepiece serves as a gateway to a dream-like world, where the metallic sheen of a pink flamingo and a parasol converse with the seven colours of the rainbow and the brilliance of a golden sun, as the radiance of a Smiley gleams over the crown of a pineapple and the jutting spines of a cactus.
A highly technical and creative object born of three years of development, the CRMT7 in-house automatic tourbillon calibre and each of the decorative elements that it incorporates are joyous emanations of the Smiley world: a blooming flower, a hot sun, a delicious pineapple, a burgeoning cactus, a pink flamingo and a vivid rainbow... All this makes for a festive cocktail to be tasted drop by drop, as the glass present in the scene suggests.
The words of Cécile Guenat,
Creative and Development Director, come to mind, evoking “the decorative elements are spontaneously placed in the watch, following an explosion around the tourbillon carriage”.
Such was the creative spark, the starting point of intensely original work on a colourful movement. Even the figural small-seconds hand plays its part, attached to a cloud, carrying a sun and a golden lightning bolt at its extremities on its rotational round.
An enchanting masterpiece
No effort has been spared in the finishing of the tiniest detail of each element in this display, dominated by the shining face of the Smiley in microblasted and hand-painted 3N yellow gold. The cocktail glass consists of a four-part assembly in 3N and 5N gold. The parasol, the olive (1.7 mm in height), the 0.4 mm diameter grooved straw – all polished – and the glass, whose base is microblasted to convey the chilled effect, weigh a total of just 0.4 g! The gold flower above is made of 5N gold, its heart mirror-polished and its petals brushed and rhodium-plated.
The quest for meticulous perfection is ever-present and taken to extremes, be it in the green PVD-coated leaves, the pineapple’s microblasted and polished surface, the spines of the microblasted cactus in 2N yellow gold, hand-polished one by one to remove the PVD coating, or the sun, made of microblasted 2N gold with polished rays.
The pink flamingo, consisting of 0.2 g of 6N red gold, also undergoes multiple operations: its pedestal is microblasted, its eye positioned using the smallest beading tool in existance and its wings are polished and their feathers redrawn with the tip of a Dégussit grinding stone. The component is then given a metallic pink PVD coating before the beak is painted black with a brush.
The wearers of this watch can cast their gaze into every nook and cranny of the skeletonised movement to peer all around each figurine — on both the dial and caseback.
Indeed, the back has some further surprises in store: the oscillating weight in 3N yellow gold represents the radiant sun, which links the worlds of Smiley and Richard Mille.
Behind its rays, a star appears. The rotor bridge in grade 5 titanium with gold PVD plating shines as if in the heavens. The dial’s three-dimensional and coloured elements can be made out from the back, where they leave the main attraction to play a new tune backstage. Given the elaborate scenography and colourful splendour, both front and back, the housing needed to be plain. The case is made of white ATZ ceramic – well known for its resistance to scratches, shocks and wear, as well as for its eternal whiteness – while 5N gold was chosen for the caseband. The crown bears yet another precious Smiley in yellow gold.
The RM 88 Automatic Tourbillon Smiley, with its three-dimensional aesthetics and splendid colours, is the veritable embodiment of a waking dream. The result is a playfully colourful, poetic and lively creation, an enchanting masterpiece whose positive vibrations give voice to a universal language, that of the smile.
What does it take to bring the outlines of a dream to life and materialise the smile in all its forms? The technical adventure of animating the mechanical smile of the RM 88 Automatic Tourbillon Smiley was innovative in several respects. In this project, every aspect represented a new challenge. Each problem became an opportunity to find a solution, an occasion to learn and grow.
with a highly technical watchmaking creation
The project involved tackling a succession of challenges. First among them was calibrating the dimensions and respective weights of the gold micro-sculptures produced by engraver Olivier Kuhn. The assembled elements, each weighing less than a gram, needed to withstand every type of shock. Then came deciding on how to position the miniature sculptures occupying the space around the central feature, namely the Smiley. Right from the design stage, it was a question of how to display each object to best effect. But it was also vital to consider how the watchmaker was going to handle the delicate insertion of these miniature figures.
The idea was to equip the RM 88 with two baseplates: one technical, on which the movement was mounted, and a second one for the ornamental objects on the left-hand side of the dial. This auxiliary baseplate was then assembled onto the movement.
This means that the objects are presented in three-dimensional space and at an angle, requiring several different types of attachment. The pink flamingo, for instance, is fastened using a blom stud. Some are affixed with the aid of screws – like the sun, the flower, the cocktail glass and the gradient gold rainbow. Others, like the pineapple and the cactus, are pierced by two pins in polished Phynox. The Smiley itself is assembled on a decorative bridge, lending the impression that it floats above the movement.
The other great challenge lay in designing a movement that left enough free space to display the multiple protagonists of this scene with the greatest possible impact. To achieve this, a new in-house calibre, the CRMT7, came into being. This skeletonised automatic tourbillon movement with hours, minutes and a function indicator oscillates at 4 Hz (28,000 vibrations/h) and is provided with a power reserve of 50 hours.
The additional motion-work bridge to which the Smiley is affixed takes the form and colours of a rainbow. This bridge, in microblasted ARCAP® with polished angles and drawn-out edges, gleams with faint reflections thanks to hand-applied varnishes, contrasting with its anthracite-coloured rhodium plating. The small-seconds hand, decorated with a sun at one end and a lightning bolt at the other, makes one rotation per minute. It glides over the tourbillon’s ARCAP® cloud and under a smaller nimbus made of microblasted and satin-finished white gold. This cloud lies at the foot of a rainbow that was highly complex to produce, made of white gold and 2N, 4N and 6N gold, alternating between microblasted and drawn finishes.
To achieve such a production feat, a mindboggling number of calculations were required for positioning, then the mechanism underwent a number of tests once all the elements were in place. The titanium tourbillon bridge alone represented a first in terms of both design and production. The multi-directional curves of its form, representing an explosion, are an innovation in their own right. Its finishes, particularly delicate to achieve on a circular component, completely breaks new ground: microblasted, bevelled and drawn out, it possesses a double PVD coating, which also constituted a technical challenge. The titanium component is first given a black PVD coating, which is partially hollowed out with extreme precision using a laser and then given its gold PVD coating.
The back of the RM 88 Automatic Tourbillon Smiley reveals the grade 5 titanium baseplate and bridges, a choice of material that guarantees corrosion-resistance and remarkable rigidity for excellent functioning of the gear-train. The rear bridge, in the form of a lightning bolt, receives a double PVD coating, like the tourbillon bridge. The involuted-profile gears generate a uniform pressure angle of 20°. These gear-trains ensure excellent torque transmission and thus optimal efficiency of energy transfers between the rapid-rotation barrel and the tourbillon’s variable-inertia balance-wheel. The 3N yellow gold rotor, equipped with a OneWay® winding system and ceramic ball bearings, is hand decorated including the bevelling, circular-graining and microblasting. In its centre, the heart of the weight reveals a black PVD coating.
The creation of the CRMT7 calibre and its integration into the watch required three years of development. Its existence attests a process of collective creation combining the inspiration and expertise of Richard Mille’s creative and technical teams with the mastery of engraver Olivier Kuhn. The result is a bespoke composition that orchestrates the symphony of positivity and pays hommage to Swiss watchmaking finishes.
An artist driven by challenge, Olivier Kuhn derives pleasure from conceiving, developing and creating remarkable objects in the world of the infinitely small, especially in the realm of watchmaking. This master of miniatures was therefore perfectly at ease when the time came to breathe life into the various decorative elements of the RM 88 Automatic Tourbillon Smiley. How would you describe your line of work?
The art of miniature watchmaking
In a way, I invented this profession. We are at the crossroads of watchmaking, engraving, 3D design and jewellery. My original training is in customising motorcycles. I’ve always loved creating amusing and artistic objects. But I’ve also studied haute horlogerie, 3D design and jewellery making. That’s how I got into the art of watchmaking. There is no standard training when it comes to such items. It is a long learning process that can only appeal to people who are patient and meticulous. When the Richard Mille teams proposed that we work together on this project, I said ‘yes’ at once, because I knew I would derive tremendous pleasure from producing these tiny components. I have been creating miniatures for eight years and had already come a very long way in my design-work, and yet, with this project, we explored new territory. What exactly does your work involve?
My team and I were involved starting with the 3D design of components drawn by the Richard Mille teams all the way to their final assembly in the watch. Once the style had been validated and their positioning within the watch had been determined, the casting process began. We started by printing in resin on a 3D printer. We then applied plaster around this resin, melting the latter and replacing it with gold. The resulting matter was dull and porous, and so had to be completely reworked by hand to shape the details. While the graver is a classic tool in an engraver’s kit, we also trimmed some watchmaker’s tweezers to obtain points with different angles to clean the tiniest recesses and thus achieve extremely fine detail on each object. Once parts are cleaned, they are all smooth, so we gave them different textures and finishes.Which component presented the greatest challenge?
The most complex component was the combination of the cloud and a rainbow, whose bands had to be properly aligned. That alone entailed 25 hours of work. The assembly of the bands was also delicate, as some were microblasted, others drawn out. A further complication was the cloud, which is fixed to the tourbillon bridge but must not exert any pressure on the tourbillon cage. We therefore had to adjust it manually when fastening it on. Finishing was very complicated as concerns the straight-graining on the cloud, because it needed to be as flat as possible. What were the other main challenges you faced?
There were many: piercing the very fine wall of the cocktail glass, cleaning the grain to obtain a smooth surface all around the straw, which measures just 0.4 mm in diameter and 3 mm in height; applying a pink PVD coating just three microns thick to the gold of the pink flamingo and creating a groove between its eye and its beak to prevent the paint on the beak from running onto the streaks of the feathers; achieving a perfect mirror polish on the flower’s pistil; bringing out all the sun’s points with a gradient finish by rubbing the material using hand-made tweezers; finding the right size for the pineapple so that the tubes could pierce the material but would not break in the event of a shock; painting the Smiley’s mouth without making the layer too thick... Every part represented a challenge, as did the precision required in adjusting the Phynox axles, which was performed by hand. What makes this model unique?
What we have achieved is completely new in the watchmaking world. The watch is more than exceptional. Being able to carry out preparatory work in 3D on a computer made it possible to take the details to their limits while respecting watchmaking codes. The aim was not to go fast but to go further and really bring out the impressive details of the various figures. We succeeded in bringing this watch to life and infusing the movement with an organic quality, as in the case of the small-seconds hand, with its lightning bolt and sun, which passes under the cloud every minute. When I see this watch today, I just say ‘Wow’ to myself. It is a real source of pride to have worked together with a brand that has the audacity to make models like this.
In-house automatic tourbillon calibre CRMT7
Skeletonised automatic tourbillon movement with hours, minutes and a function indicator. This calibre is entirely designed, machined and assembled by Richard Mille.
Bridge in ARCAP®
The additional motion-work bridge to which the Smiley is affixed takes the form and colours of a rainbow. This bridge, in microblasted ARCAP® with polished angles and drawn-out edges, gleams with faint reflections thanks to hand-applied varnishes.
The function indicator at 3 o’clock allows one to see the winding (W) and hand-setting (H) positions as the crown is pulled out.
Free-sprung balance with variable inertia
It guarantees greater reliability when subjected to shocks and during movement assembly or disassembly, resulting in better chronometric results over time. The regulator index is eliminated and a more accurate and repeatable calibration is possible thanks to 4 small, adjustable weights located directly on the balance.
Baseplate and bridges made of grade 5 titanium
Grade 5 titanium is a biocompatible, highly corrosion-resistant and remarkably rigid alloy, which enables the gear train to function effortlessly. The rear bridge, in the form of a lightning bolt, receives a double black and gold PVD coating, like the tourbillon bridge.
Rotor in 3N yellow gold
With a OneWay® winding system and ceramic ball bearings.
Case in ATZ white ceramic and red gold
This type of ceramic is known for its high scratch resistance. Its perennial whiteness contrasts with the red gold of the caseband.