In my interview with him last year, Richard Mille, founder of the eponymous haute horlogerie watch brand, made clear that despite his watches’ reputation for high-tech masculinity, he was committed to developing a distinctive identity for his ladies’ models as well — one that did not sacrifice horological excellence for jewel-bedecked beauty but elegantly combined the two. With the recent introduction of the new RM 71-01 Automatic Tourbillon Talisman — his brand’s first watch with a self-winding tourbillon movement, and one definitively designed for the fairer sex — Mille proves to the watch world that he’s serious.
The RM 71-01 Automatic Tourbillon Talisman — the brainchild of Cécile Guernat, a seasoned veteran of the fine jewelry design world brought on board to be Richard Mille’s Ladies Collection Director — is offered in 10 variations of its slim, curvilinear tonneau case and openworked dial, all equipped with the in-house-made automatic tourbillon and luxuriously glazed with an array of diamonds, mother-of-pearl, onyx, and black sapphires. The model derives the name “Talisman” from the African sculptures and tribal art masks that served, along with Art Deco influences, as Guernat’s primary influences on its case and dial designs. Fashioning the three-part cases, which measure 52.2 mm by 34.4 mm in diameter and 12.5 mm thick, required 44 different stamping operations, 255 tooling operations, two days of adjustment for each component (bezel, caseband, and caseback) and more than five hours for the final glazing and polishing processes. The result is a very versatile case aesthetic, allowing for different textures, settings, and faceting on each.
Such a revolutionary case design called for a truly noteworthy movement, and Richard Mille delivers that with the new Caliber CRMT1, its eight in-house movement and, as mentioned, its first equipped with both a tourbillon and automatic winding. Skeletonized like all of the watchmaker’s in-house movements, it has an openworked baseplate, made of microblasted, PVD-treated grade 5 titanium, protecting the rotating tourbillon cage, and a gem-set rotor combining 5N rose gold with heavy metal and set on ceramic ball bearings. The bridges, also in microblasted titanium and skeletonized down to their most essential parts, help the movement maintain its impressive thinness (just 6.2 mm) and low weight (8 grams), making for a lighter, more elegant watch despite its large case size and copious amounts of set stones. Elements found traditionally in Richard Mille movements are also present here, including a free-sprung balance with variable inertia, a fast-rotating bezel for enhanced mainspring performance, and spline screws in grade 5 titanium — which are also used in the case assembly — for better torque control. The frequency is 28,800 vph and the power reserve is 50 hours.
Each of the 10 dials on the Richard Mille RM 71-01 is hand-set, designed to optimally frame the large tourbillon aperture, and measures just .9 mm thick, making the sandlblasting, polishing, and other operations extremely challenging. The different permutations of the jewel-set bezels vary in the number, shape and size of stones used depending on the variation, while the contrasting matte bands used for the casebacks are consistent throughout the models. The watches are offered in both rose gold and white gold cases, and delivered on white or black leather straps. Each of the 10 versions is limited to only five pieces worldwide, all priced at $425,000 and available exclusively at Richard Mille boutiques.