RICHARD Mille is still tying up with iconic names to develop new timepieces, but the tie-ups have turned more colourful lately. The last three watches it teamed up with someone to make - and launched recently - have dials of bright and many hues. It isn't just because the collaborators are from the art world that the watches are colourful - though the latest one is Cyril Kongo, a French painter known for his graffiti and is nicknamed "Mr Colourful". Richard Mille has also worked with sports stars and builders of private jets to make such radiant timepieces.
Apart from the collaboration with Kongo, Richard Mille this year also unveiled two other new coloured models which it has co-produced with others - one with Airbus Corporate Jets, the private jets division of Airbus, the French giant airplane manufacturer; the other with Spanish tennis champion Rafael Nadal.
The watch that also bears Kongo's name on it is a tourbillon complication. The RM 68-01 Tourbillon Cyril Kongo, which is limited to 30 pieces at S$1.03 million each, marks for the first time that "an artist has transferred his universe of the tremendously large to the heart of a watch", according to Richard Mille.
So where the gigantic wall is usually the surface on which Kongo works the magic of his street art, on the RM 68-01 Tourbillon it is the micro mechanical parts of the watch that are his canvases.
It took over a year to develop the custom-made airbrush for the artist to use to "paint" on the timepiece. This airbrush allows him to spray his colours with the utmost delicacy - one droplet at a time. He has to be careful not to upset the ticking rhythm of the watch - the weight of the paint has to be strictly determined beforehand.
"This significant challenge . . . resulted in the creation of a unique palette of brightly coloured indelible paints that adhere perfectly to the titanium components and can endure assembly and dismantling," Richard Mille says.
The tie-up with Airbus also produced a colourful dial for the RM 50-02 ACJ, a tourbillon-split seconds chronograph. The multi-hue dial was inspired by the aeronautical instrumentation of a plane.
Standing out more is the titanium-aluminium case, which is developed to mirror the shape of an Airbus Corporate Jets' window.
With this timepiece, the iconic Richard Mille screws around the outer edge of the bezel have also been replaced by Torq set screws with their distinctively shaped head slots - and a jet engine inspired crown bearing an engraved, wave patterned Airbus logo.
The RM 50-02 ACJ Tourbillon Split Seconds Chronograph is limited to 30 pieces, with each carrying a price tag of over US$1 million.
The pairing with Nadal is not new. Richard Mille and the tennis champion have been working together for six years, producing their first joint venture in 2010 - the first RM 027 which featured a carbon nanotubes case. There was also the RM 27-01, whose movement is cable-suspended.
And the more recent RM 27-02, which has a NTPT carbon "unibody" baseplate.
The latest outcome of the collaboration is the ultra-light RM 35-02, which has a NTPT carbon or Quartz-TPT red case. The timepiece is equipped with a double-barrel system that drives the balance wheel to oscillate at a faster than usual 28,800 vph to provide greater torque stability - good enough to withstand the blow from a powerful swing of a tennis player like Nadal.
But what's really new about the watch is its movement - it's the first automatic movement in the Nadal collection. Another first is that the watch has a case-back protected by a sapphire crystal sporting an anti-reflective treatment. This allows the movement to be admired from every angle.
The watch is priced at US$145,000, or S$200,000.