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, says Cécile Guenat, the Artistic Director at Richard Mille and the creative force behind the brand’s new Bonbon Collection.
The Richard Mille Bonbon Collection comprises ten models, each produced in a limited edition of 30 pieces, and are based on three of the brand’s iconic models, the RM 07-03, RM 16-01 and RM 37-01. The ten models are split into two lines: Fruits and Sweets.
The Fruits line of the Bonbon Collection has six models: Citron (Lemon) and Fraise (Strawberry) based on the RM 16-01, Myrtille (Blueberry) and Litchi based on the RM 07-03, and Kiwi and Cherry (Cerise) based on the RM 37-01. The Sweets line meanwhile has four models: Cupcake and Marshmallow based on RM 07-03, Sucette based on RM 37-01, and Réglisse RM 16-01.
“The idea was to revisit the existing collections while playing with colour. This allowed me to bring out a pop-inspired sense of fun. In all, we developed a palette of 60 colours for this unisex collection,” explained Cécile, who considers this collection “disruptive” because: “The multiplicity, miniaturisation and playful quality of the fruits and candies constitute a deliberate departure from classical watchmaking, as do their bright colours and stylised appearance.”
The notion of a watch collection based on the theme of confectionery came unbidden to Cécile, and she elaborated: “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 liquorice 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. There are 16 different sweets to discover for this collection, with a different decoration of confectionery delight unique to each piece.”
Looking at the Fruits line, we are informed that a total of 3,000 tiny fruit inspired “candies” were produced to embellish the dials and crowns of the 180 watches in this line. Each piece is adorned with 8, 12, or 16 of these miniature candies that include two-millimetre liquorice rolls, two-tone twisty lollipops, tart jelly ribbons, a candied orange quarter covered in tart sugar crystals, other citrus segments, gumdrops, swirling gelatos, marshmallows, and barley sugars, among others. They are all machined from sheets of solid titanium, and to simulate the look and texture of ‘sugar coating,’ powdered enamel and fine sand were employed while the application was made entirely by hand.
These candies are then affixed to the openwork dials whose skeletonised plates are made of grade 5 titanium, sanded and angled by hand. These mechanical components of the watch are also designed to ensure secure attachment of the inserted miniature candies.
The contours of the dials have also been coloured to provide a consistent framework and to ensure complementary shades. The crowns are embellished with such delights as pink-frosted cupcakes or doughnut rolls. The bezels are carved from blocks of Carbon TPT whose black sleekness recalls the natural colour of liquorice. The cases provide a fruit note thanks to Quartz TPT, a material exclusive to Richard Mille that can potentially be rendered in just about any colour, we are told. In this collection, we have a variety of overlays in red, yellow and purple with black veining. Cécile Guenat explains that “the combination of Quartz TPT and Carbon TPT makes it possible to create nuance in some pretty flashy colours.”
The alternating black and bright hues yield cases intended to resemble Neapolitan ice creams. Explaining the innovative manufacturing process behind these colourful renderings, Aurèle Vuilleumier, R&D Manager at Richard Mille said: “Every new colour 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. A new colour takes a year of development to perfect before it can be used. Each pigment, all of which are natural, has a unique set of chemical reactions.” Through this process, Richard Mille launched a new colour for this collection, Quartz TPT Turquoise, which was created especially for the RM 07-03 Myrtille (Blueberry).
The cases of the four models in the Sweets line are crafted from two-tone TZP ceramic to create a “creamy” surface in four distinct colours: the hunter green Sucette, dark blue and sky-blue Cupcake, blush pink and yellow Réglisse, and lavender pink Marshmallow.
Their dials were designed to resemble giant sweets. The dial of the Réglisse is a black chrome metal presented as a giant roll of liquorice that occupies the entire surface of a dial. The liquorice shape was obtained by a stamping operation, followed by a black chrome coating to achieve the desired colour and texture.
The other three dials are produced using one of the most refined techniques employed in haute horlogerie: grand feu enamel. However, at Richard Mille, it is done a little differently. Grand feu enamel requires extremely high firing temperatures, around 800 °C and is a demanding art form on which the strength and sheen of the resulting material depends. When heated in the oven, the enamel contracts, twisting the dial plate out of alignment. To combat this, dial-makers usually resort to enamelling the reverse to balance the tension between the front and back. However, Cécile clarifies: “our grand feu enamels are produced without enamel backing. This allows us to reduce the thickness but adds yet another layer of complexity to the production process.”
Furthermore, enamelwork is usually lapidated, meaning it is levelled and burnished so that the final surface does not exceed the designated height. This polishing phase rubs out the texture and flattens the surface. Here again, Cécile points out that: “Rather than lapidation, we have chosen to sand the grand feu enamel on the RM 07-03 Marshmallow in order to preserve the volume and appearance of the material itself. This is how we achieve the fluffy quality of the marshmallow on the dial, for instance.”
Other constituents of the decoration are highly polished to produce the sparkling transparency appropriate for tart sugar candies, like those on the dial of the RM 37-01 Sucette and the RM 07-03 Cupcake.
Lastly, the dials of the RM 07-03 Cupcake and RM 07-03 Marshmallow models are not made from one piece but combine several plates. “The six grand feu enamel plates of the Marshmallow are all created separately before they are arranged together and assembled. We made the decision not to add a border to the dial, leaving an arbitrary contour,” explained Cécile. “The layer of grand feu enamel rises to the level of the flange and indexes. This too proved to be a technical challenge.”
Thus, drawing on its expertise in the area of materials, colour and form, Richard Mille offer a passage back to childhood with its Bonbon Collection; a delectable new selection of graphic, emotional and chromatic expression to be enjoyed without moderation.
According to Cécile, “This collection is disruptive, elegant, daring and playful. In a word: creative! For me, it was truly an opportunity to let loose and have fun revisiting childhood. Nonetheless, it was an ambitiously 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.”