Hues of joy

This article first appeared in Options, The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on August 30, 2021 - September 05, 2021.
Hues of joy
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Richard Mille’s graphic and colourful new RM 07-01 Coloured Ceramics capsule collection may wear style on its sleeve, but it has tradition at its heart

The undisputed feminine icon of Richard Mille, the RM 07-01 collection, continues to cause a sensation with its new iteration that celebrates both a series of pastel hues and the use of matte-finish ceramic. The RM 07-01 Coloured Ceramics capsule collection is stylish and youthful, yet retains the technical complexity of this iconic line.

There are three colour variations for the rubber straps in the RM 07-01 Coloured Ceramics collection — pink with cerulean-lilac; lavender with coral-tangerine; and blue with olive-aqua. In deciding on the colours and textures of these new models, Richard Mille’s director of creation and development Cécile Guenat and her team worked through multiple versions before arriving at these final configurations.

“The movement of a watch and the case enclosing are, for me, like a canvas for a painter. In this case, however, imagine for a moment that you are a painter working on canvases of several different shapes,” Guenat says. “Naturally, a watch is very small; nonetheless, its shape and depth, the space it encloses becomes for me part of the ‘sculptural canvas’ that I must work within. After that decision, the first real challenges are the creative process: Find an original inspiration, a thematic element behind a collection; after that, think about the combinations of materials, colours, settings … I also remain very aware of what is going on in the worlds of art, architecture and fashion, bringing all these impulses together.”

With regard to RM 07-01 Coloured Ceramics, Guenat looked to an iconic city famous for these very aspects. “I was inspired by the Art Deco architecture you see in Miami, these pastel colours and bold patterns that are so distinctive and convey such an amazing vibe and attitude,” she says.

It is not just the colour palette that is new, but the case material as well — the three models feature technically advanced ceramic with radiant, multi-material guilloché dials, beneath which ticks the in-house automatic CRMA-2 movement. As is the case with all Richard Mille watches, particularly its women’s models, the RM 07-01 Coloured Ceramics series embodies the manufacture’s no-compromise approach to aesthetics and performance, combining the very highest levels of mechanical watchmaking, movement engineering and decorative finish.

Innovations in material research is something Richard Mille has long been known for, especially the manner in which it often turns for inspiration to industries not often associated with watchmaking — for example, aeronautics and motorsports. Although ceramics are frequently used in watchmaking, the type Richard Mille uses is unique: Tetragonal Zirconia Polycrystal (TZP). A biocompatible ceramic comprising more than 95% zirconia (zirconium dioxide), TZP’s properties include remarkable corrosion resistance, a hardness providing scratch resistance (1,400 Vickers) and toughness superior to that of sapphire, associated with a desirably low density of 6g per cu m.

The material plays a part in its silken matte finish — the submicron grain size allows for an excellent surface finish. Not that this look comes easy, though, as a long and difficult machining and grinding process using diamond tools is required to create the complex forms of the bezels. It is as hardy as it is beautiful, as the three-part case is water-resistant to 50m and assembled with 12 Grade-5 titanium spline screws, while the casebands are made of microblasted white gold with hand-polished pillars.

Also newly introduced in the RM 07-01 Pastel Blue, RM 07-01 Pastel Pink and RM 07-01 Pastel Lavender models are segmented central dial plates assembled from ceramic inserts, geometrically patterned rubber and a unique craftsmanship technique called hand-crafted guillochage. A decorative craft that has its origins in the 16th century, dial guillochage in its most authentic form consists of individual repeating lines, cut by a hand-turned lathe, that intersect and overlap to create a graphic motif. Practitioners of this art, known as guillocheurs, can train for decades before they are considered masters.

Seen today in classical watches — a label that is not usually associated with anything Richard Mille produces — guillochage was incorporated by Guenat in the RM 07-01 Coloured Ceramics series for a fresh pop of energy. As is typical of it, Richard Mille has applied a centuries-old technique in creative ways that demonstrate the brand’s ability to subvert established ideas.

The rhodium-plated red-gold dial element at the centre of each RM 07-01 is a segment of a larger pattern, a motif that is part botanical, part sunburst, part Art Deco and all Richard Mille. Their lines subtly align with the floating hour markers on the microblasted titanium flange. Surrounding the guilloché dial segment and reinforcing the theme of modernity blended with tradition, are geometrically shaped elements of ceramic and rubber, in perfect complement with the ceramic case and bi-colour rubber straps. The watches are available in limited editions of 50 in each colourway.

The use of new coloured ceramic in the larger family of RM 07-01 watches is above all playful and energetic but is anchored by its exceptional performance as a case material. TZP ceramic is light, hypoallergenic, durable and virtually scratch-proof, thanks to its zirconium dioxide composition and sintering manufacture process. This level of performance is perfectly matched with the automatic in-house calibre CRMA2, made of microblasted and electroplasma-treated titanium and capturing its power from a 5N red-gold variable-geometry rotor that keeps the watch optimally wound at all times.

Together with the bright energy of the bi-colour rubber straps and the hand-finished sheen of the gold guilloché dial, the ceramic cases of the new RM 07-01 make for three of the most enjoyable, playful and fun Richard Mille watches.