A yellow circle, two oval eyes, a wide upturned mouth … The Smiley, 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 mechanism.
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, it’s base micro-blasted to convey its chill, weigh a total of just 0.4 g. The gold flower above it 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 their 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.
The design and execution of the watch demonstrate a holistic approach to conception of the movement and the case. As a result, everything has been constructed according to extremely rigorous specifications. For example, a casing ring is no longer used, and the movement is mounted on chassis mounting rubbers (ISO SW) fixed by titanium screws.
The bezel and caseback are in ATZ white ceramic. This is made from tubes of aluminium oxide powder injected at a pressure of nearly 2,000 bars. This high-pressure injection increases rigidity by 20 to 30% and reduces the material’s porosity to an absolute minimum. ATZ is known for its high scratch resistance (1,400 Vickers) and unchanging colour. Next to diamond, it is one of the hardest materials in the world. Long and difficult machining using diamond tools is required to create a perfect example of this complex, curved bezels and satin finish.
The tripartite case is water resistant to 50 metres, ensured by 2 Nitrile O-ring seals. The case is assembled with 12 grade 5 titanium spline screws and abrasion-resistant washers in 316 L stainless steel.
Richard Mille 88 Automatic Tourbillon Smiley Features
- Limited edition of 50 pieces
- Microblasted grade 5 titanium with PVD treatment lends great rigidity to the baseplate and the bridges, as well as the precise surface flatness, essential for the perfect functioning of the gear train.
- Grade 5 titanium is a biocompatible, highly corrosion-resistant and remarkably rigid alloy, which enables the gear train to function effortlessly.
- The alloy is 90% grade 5 titanium, 6% aluminium and 4% vanadium. This combination further increases the material’s mechanical properties, which explains its frequent use in the aerospace, aeronautics and automotive industries.
- The skeletonised baseplate and bridges were subjected to intensive and complete validation tests to optimise their resistance capacities.
- The striking Smiley figure in yellow gold, micro-blasted and painted, 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.
- Movement dimensions: 32.10 x 29.00 mm
- Thickness: 4.80 mm
- Jewels: 23
- Balance: CuBe, 4 arms, 4 setting weights, a moment of inertia 7.5 mg•cm2, angle of lift 50°
- Frequency: 28,800 vph (4 Hz)
- Balance spring: AK3
- Shock protection: INCABLOC 908.22.211.100 (transparent)