The first ladies’ watches from Richard Mille saw daylight four years after the launch of the brand in 2001, as the sector as a whole registered women’s growing interest in mechanical movements. After the automatic watches introduced in 2005 came a series of manual-wind tourbillons in 2009. Today, women’s watches account for between a quarter and a third of Richard Mille’s sales, led by the RM 07-01 Ladies (hours, minutes) and the RM 037 Ladies (hours, minutes, large date and function indicator), both with automatic winding and released in 2014 for Richard Mille’s “Year of the Woman”. Further success came in the form of the RM 19-02 Tourbillon Fleur, a limited edition of 30 pieces from 2015. Magnolia petals open to reveal the tourbillon, making this the most radically feminine style in a collection otherwise composed of designs that have been adapted to women rather than created with them in mind. Did it provide the necessary impetus for the new RM 71-01 Talisman? What a delight it is to discover.
An in-house movement
The indubitably feminine appearance doesn’t mean these RM 71-01 Talisman are any less rugged or powerful than one would expect. The movement, as delicate as it may seem, meets all the brand’s habitual standards of performance, and is Richard Mille’s first in-house automatic tourbillon; the eighth in the line-up of proprietary movements. It’s also particularly compact (30.7 x 23.7 mm), thin (6.2 mm) and light in weight (8 grams) – a prowess underscored by the choice of materials (mainly titanium) and the transparent construction. The skeletonised baseplate and bridges curve along a longitudinal line in a perfect counterpart to the tonneau shape of the case, while allowing a clear view of the fascinating tourbillon. This structure is the thread that runs through the ten dials in the Talisman collection, each different from the next.
The majority of new collections start out as a single design, offered with variations in colours and materials. It’s only over time that more noticeable distinctions work their way into the range. The RM 71-01 Talisman does different. It launches straight off the bat with ten structurally different dials, distinguished one from the other by individual compositions of shapes, volumes and finishes. “I was so enthused [by the automatic tourbillon] that rather than limit myself to one idea, I came up with several interpretations. It soon became pretty clear to all those involved that we would propose different versions,” says Cécile Guénat, who designed the collection. And it is precisely that: a collection in the sense of Haute Couture or Fine Jewellery.
As individual as they may be, these dials clearly belong to the same family. They fit perfectly within the structure of the movement whose lines and perspectives they respect, each in its own way. They crown the tourbillon cage in a style that fuses Art Deco with tribal art, through motifs that range from floral to urban, crafted using red gold, mother-of-pearl, onyx and precious stones. Each of these talismans finds an echo in the decoration of the case.
A woman at the helm
Typically of Richard Mille, the movement, dial and case form a single and in this instance particularly accomplished whole. Elements from the dial are carried onto the bezel and the case middle. Straight lines and curves divide the surface into multiple harmonised zones with – this is a Richard Mille watch – the characteristic spline screws and the safety seals that guarantee water-resistance along the inner and outer edges of the bezel. Whether in red gold or in white gold, the 52.2 x 34.4 x 12.5 mm case with sapphire back is lavishly embellished with engraving, and with diamonds or black sapphires in a grain or a snow setting, with different diameters set at different angles.
Ultimately, the RM 71-01 Talisman collection comprises ten totally individual models, limited to five of each, which associate Fine Watchmaking and Fine Jewellery like never before. We’re in noticeably different terrain to previous Richard Mille women’s watches: automatic watches whose dials are set flat on part of the movement, tourbillons whose openworked “shields” are lit with diamonds, or versions incorporating sculptures. As sophisticated as they are, there is an equivalent model for men. This time, the brand has broken a boundary: femininity takes a path of its own, and a very promising one. More to the point, it’s a woman who’s leading the way.
Richard Mille Talisman
Brought into the fold three years ago to give new life to the women’s collections, Cécile Guénat — the daughter of Dominique Guénat, Richard Mille’s business partner and friend — started out in jewellery. After studies at Geneva School of Art and Design (HEAD) for the theory and a stint with a Lausanne jeweller for the practice, Cécile moved to London and a job with designer Scott Wilson, where she worked on jewellery for a number of brands and fashion houses. “After insisting on the fact that I didn’t have a background in watches, of course I accepted the offer. I was driven by the idea that I could take watchmaking towards something new,” she says. True to her word, Cécile Guénat has created for Richard Mille a groundbreaking, singular collection with women, and only women, in mind.