A yellow circle, two orbs for eyes, a gaping mouth…
Franklin Loufrani’s Smiley created a little over half a century ago, is now a well-known icon. It has been at the center of popular culture for a number of generations, representing positivism, joy, and the spirit of giving. This pioneering role inspired the Richard Mille team to begin work on an emotionally charged timepiece highlighting these qualities.
The RM 88 Automatic Tourbillon Smiley is a whimsical timepiece that features a bevy of tiny sculptures arranged around the watch’s cheerful face. This ballet, despite its apparent simplicity, was a formidable technical challenge to its creators. But now, with the greatest care and precision, the fantasy is a reality, giving birth to a genuine smile.
RM 88 Automatic Tourbillon Smiley, a waking dream
Absolutely beautiful timepiece. Something completely new and unexpected. As if it were the beginning of a play, with the cabinet serving as the stage, the figurines would all seem to be vying for the starring role. Out of this surreal setting, the smiling face of the Smiley emerges, ready to keep an eye on everything with its unflinching grin.
Richard Mille, like The Smiley Company, is a family firm that uses cutting-edge technology to create ostentatious timepieces that place unusual demands on the manufacturing process. The company hopes to elicit novel feelings from its target demographic by means of these unconventional models, which facilitate a more direct and immediate relationship between the brand and its consumers.
The RM 88 doesn’t just stick to this principle; it elevates it. Have you ever visited the boundary between reality and fantasy? The place where sharp distinctions between things blur and edges fray, where sharp lines become rounded, where bold colors clash with muted ones, and where seemingly incompatible materials merge with one another? With the RM 88 Automatic Tourbillon Smiley, Richard Mille has captured this ephemeral, almost magical, and captivating moment.
The watch opens a door to a fantastical realm where a golden smiley face shines over the top of a pineapple and the sharp spines of a cactus, and a pink flamingo and parasol exchange metallic gleams with the seven colors of the rainbow and the blazing sun.
Three years in the making, the CRMT7 in-house automatic tourbillon caliber is a technical marvel, while the decorative elements it features—a flower in bloom, the sun shining brightly, a juicy pineapple, a flourishing cactus, a pink flamingo, and a brilliant rainbow—are all happy outpourings from the Smiley universe. The glass in the scene implies that you should sample this merry concoction one drop at a time.
Creative and Development Director Cécile Guenat’s statements that “the decorative pieces are spontaneously placed in the watch, following an explosion around the tourbillon carriage,” come to mind here. This was the inspiration, the springboard for very original work on a vibrant dance. The small seconds hand, which is attached to a cloud and carries a sun and a golden lightning bolt at its ends, also participates in the action.
A beautiful work of art that sends out good vibes
The display is dominated by Smiley’s gleaming face, which has been micro-blasted and hand-painted 3N yellow gold for a high-quality finish. The cocktail glass is made up of four individual pieces of 3N and 5N gold. The entire set, including the polished parasol, olive (1.7 mm in height), grooved straw (0.4 mm in diameter), and glass (micro-blasted at the base to give the impression of coldness), weighs in at a mere 0.4 g! The 5N gold flower up there has a mirror-polished center and brushed, rhodium-plated petals.
This watch allows the wearer to see each figure from any angle, thanks to the skeletonized mechanism visible through both the dial and the caseback. True, there are more surprises in store under the case: the 3N yellow gold oscillating weight symbolizes the bright sun that connects the universes of Smiley and Richard Mille. A star emerges from behind its rays. Grade 5 titanium, gold PVD-plated, rotor bridge, heavenly radiance.
It is possible to make out the dial’s three-dimensional and colored elements from the caseback, where they have taken the stage while the main act is playing a different melody. The house had to be understated because of the show’s intricate set design and dazzling colors. White ATZ porcelain was used for the case because of its durability, indestructibility, and eternal whiteness, while 5N gold was used for the caseband. Another priceless Smiley, this one rendered in yellow gold, sits atop the crown.
With its three-dimensional design and vibrant colors, the RM 88 Automatic Tourbillon Smiley is the materialization of a daydream. The end product is a joyfully colorful, poetic, and dynamic creation; an exquisite masterpiece limited to 50 pieces whose pleasant vibrations give voice to a universal language, that of the smile.