Have you ever been in such a cheerful mood that nothing could ruin your day? Or maybe you just need a happy reminder that it isn’t all bad? Look no further than the RM 88 Automatic Tourbillon Smiley, the happiest watch around.
The Smiley, designed by Franklin Loufani 50 years ago, is the jolly centrepiece of this watch. Loufrani created The Smiley in 1971 and was the first documented person to use the term “smiley.” Originally it was created for the newspaper Loufrani worked at, France-Soir, as a way to indicate to readers which stories were good news. Now you don’t need to pick up the paper to find out the good news, you just have to look at your wrist.
The Smiley isn’t alone on the dial, he brought some friends. An array of miniature sculptures keep The Smiley company and he seems happy they’re there. However, it wasn’t easy to create such a jovial scene as this was described by Richard Mille themselves as a “technical challenge of the highest order.”
All the miniatures were hand-crafted by engraver Olivier Kuhn and no effort was spared on the details. Going into each and every sculpture would be tedious to read so just to give you an idea of the effort on display, here are some examples. The cocktail glass at the 2 o’clock position looks fairly simple right? Wrong, it is an assembly of four parts, all in gold – the umbrella, the olive (only 1.7mm in height), the grooved straw (at just 0.4mm in diameter), and the glass which has been micro-blasted to make it look like it’s cold. All in all, the sculpture weighs just 0.4 grams.
Let’s look at that pink flamingo at the 7 o’clock position. Made from just 0.2g of red gold, it underwent multiple processes. Its wings are polished, and their feathers were traced with the tip of a Dégussit grinding stone. The was made using “the smallest beading tool in existence.” The pedestal was then micro-blasted and the parts depicting water and grass were polished. Finally, they gave it a metallic pink PVD coating before the beak is painted black (the simplest part of all this).
That kind of effort and dedication has to be applauded even if you don’t like the end product. That’s the best part of Richard Mille, they are always willing to go above and beyond what is expected of them. You have only to look at Audemars Piguet and their constant regurgitation of Royal Oaks to see that just because it is expensive, doesn’t make it interesting. This watch is interesting.
Naturally, the movement has been treated with the same kind of care the sculptures have. Powering the Smiley is the CRMT7 Calibre, a skeletonised automatic tourbillon movement with hour, minute, and function displays. The bridges are made from grade 5 titanium and coated with a complex double PVD coating in black and gold.
Keeping that movement safe is an ATZ white ceramic and red gold case. This includes the bezel and caseback which have been made from tubes of aluminium oxide injected at high pressure which increase rigidity by 20 to 30 per cent and removes as many pores as possible form the material. ATZ is highly scratch resistant too at 1,400 Vickers, and the colour doesn’t change. Next to diamond, ATZ is one of the hardest materials in the world, so all your happy little sculptures are as safe as can be.
This is a highly technical watch that took three years to develop, and the results speak for themselves. While it may not be the style for everyone, the effort is plain to see and should be appreciated. The RM 88 Automatic Tourbillon Smiley is currently retailing for $1,220,000 USD (approx. $1,877,718 AUD).
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