It’s hard to miss a Richard Mille timepiece. With their cutting-edge designs, audacious use of color and extreme technical sophistication, the watchmaker’s creations stand out in a sea of cookie-cutter offerings. Its new Bonbon collection is no exception. Released in January at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie in Geneva, it proves yet again the brand’s willingness to break new ground in the world of luxury watchmaking.
The daring but elegant collection features 10 models, each limited to just 30 pieces, that inject a dose of playfulness from our childhood. Their designs are inspired by the colors and tastes of candy, and would be at home in the wild and wacky world of Willy Wonka and his chocolate factory.
The Bonbon collection took more than 18 months to develop, and follows the spirit of Richard Mille in its willingness to upend convention to push the boundaries of creativity. All the watches in the collection use the construction of previous Richard Mille timepieces as their base. Recognizable models such as the RM 07-01, the RM 016 and the RM 037 have been completely transformed and sport a refreshed aesthetic.
These creations are the brainchild of Cécile Guenat—the daughter of Richard Mille’s founding partner Dominique Guenat—who served as the artistic director for the series and has brought the carefree spirit of childhood into the world of serious craftsmanship.
“’Bonbon.’ Just saying the word is enough to make you smile. It manages to convey a combination of pleasure, openness and sharing all at once. This collection is disruptive, elegant, daring and playful. In a word: creative!” says Guenat, who set herself the goal of reinventing classic sweets such as marshmallow, licorice and gelato with a horological twist.
She adds: “For me, it was truly an opportunity to let loose and have fun revisiting childhood. Nonetheless, it was an ambitious, daring project entailing 18 months of development, and entirely faithful to the spirit of Richard Mille, a serious brand that’s not afraid to break with tradition.”
A Sugary Inspiration
The Bonbon collection’s 10 releases are divided into either the Sweets line (four models) or the Fruits line (six models). Some of the timepieces feature miniature fruits and candies across the dial, while the crowns and case bands on others have been crafted in the shape of cupcakes and bowls of gelato.
For Guenat, the outrageous idea of creating a watch collection around the theme of confectionery was not a totally surprising one. She explains: “It was quite a natural step, you see. The crown of the RM 07-01 is reminiscent of a bonbon, and so is the texture of the ceramic. For its part, the case of the RM 016 made me think of a licorice roll-up. It was also an opportunity to revisit existing collections from a new perspective and give them a bit of a twist, make them fun.”
From gumdrops and swirling gelato to marshmallows and barley sugars, the Fruits line’s six models are each adorned with eight, 12, or 16 miniature depictions. Every model comes with a different piece of decorative confectionery that is unique to that timepiece.
All the miniatures are machined from sheets of solid titanium, and can be a mere two millimeters in thickness. They are entirely painted by hand to give the look and feel of a sugar coating and feature hues that embody mouth-watering flavors. Whether it’s the Litchi (Lychee) and the Myrtille (Blueberry) RM 07-03, the Citron (Lemon) and the Fraise (Strawberry) RM 16-01, or the Cerise (Cherry) and the Kiwi RM 37-01, these timepieces are vibrantly colored and irresistibly delightful.
Simply put, each miniature is a work of artistic craftsmanship in its own right. All the Fruits watches use Carbon TPT® or Quartz TPT®—the same layering materials found in popular Richard Mille models, such as Rafael Nadal’s RM 27-03 Tourbillon.
Meanwhile, the Sweets line features four models inspired by Sucette (Lollipop), Cupcake, Réglisse (Licorice) and Marshmallow. Each is crafted from two-tone ceramic that evokes a creamy, melt-in-your-mouth surface.
Shaped like giant sweets, the dials of the RM 37-01 the Sucette, the RM 07-03 Cupcake and the RM 07-03 Marshmallow have been made with one of the most complex decorative techniques in watchmaking: the grand feu enamel. This technique involves creating shallow depressions that outline the desired motif for each model in plates of rose or white gold, which are then filled in with powdered enamel.
Beyond mere decoration, however, the Richard Mille team has used the technique to enable the creation of green, yellow and pink shades that evoke the sense of playfulness that is at the heart of the Bonbon collection. The firing and glazing skills used to produce the artisanal confectionery are also different from traditional methods. On these elegant canvases, the motifs of the Sweets line stand out and enhance the variations in texture. These creations are certainly objects of desire to be savored slowly and intensely. Much like a kid enjoying a lollipop, it is a childhood dream come true.
An Explosion of Color
The extravagant use of color is not new to the Richard Mille family, and is indeed one of the brand’s signature design flourishes. Beyond the use of titanium, gold and Carbon TPT®, Richard Mille has continuously introduced a wide and vibrant palette of shades to express an adventurous vision that is ever-evolving.
The Bonbon collection boasts its own burst of vibrant colors, including cherry red, kiwi green, the lavender TZP ceramic of the Marshmallow and an unprecedented turquoise shade.
Guenat explains that the combination of Quartz TPT® and Carbon TPT® in the Fruits line “makes it possible to create nuance in some pretty flashy colors.” For instance, alternating black and bright hues produce cases that sport the look of Neapolitan ice cream. The technology used to create these effects is not unlike the science behind baking, where a delicate balance of ingredients, proportion and cooking time is key to success.
Aurèle Vuilleumier, Research and Design Manager at Richard Mille, says a new color takes a year of development to perfect before it can be used. “Every new color is the outcome of innumerable tests. We use prepreg quartz filaments to observe interactions between the constituents and the resin. We evaluate the visual appearance after firing,” he explains. “Each pigment, all of which are natural, has a unique set of chemical reactions.”
It is the exacting and rigorous process that has enabled the launch of a new color, Quartz TPT® Turquoise, which was created especially for the RM 07-03 Myrtille.
Pushing the Boundaries of Creativity
Underlying the playful designs of Richard Mille’s Bonbon collection is a highly sophisticated level of technicality as well as exquisite artistic craftsmanship. For instance, it takes about 45 minutes for an experienced craftsman to paint just one of the candies by hand. In all, 3,000 hours of work were required to apply the acrylic paint and complete quality control on 3,000 components.
With this new collection, Richard Mille has proven yet again that his unorthodox methods and his ability to surprise with each new release continue to fuel demand for his timepieces. This time around, Guenat and her team has done so by successfully refreshing previous generations of Richard Mille watches with her whimsical take on classic pieces. In the process, she may also succeed in bringing out the child in even the most serious watch collector.
THE BONBON COLLECTION
The Fruits line consists of the following 6 models:
RM 07-03 Litchi
RM 07-03 Myrtille
RM 16-01 Citron
RM 16-01 Fraise
RM 37-01 Cerise
RM 37-01 Kiwi
The Sweets line consists of the following 4 models:
RM 07-03 Marshmallow
RM 07-03 Cupcake
RM 16-01 Réglisse
RM 37-01 Sucette