Tuesday the 7th of July, 2015, saw the opening of the Richard Mille concession in Harrods, London. To honour the opening of his latest point of sale, Richard Mille presented the RM 19-02 Tourbillon Fleur to a crowd of industry professionals, who’d kindly shelved their Tuesday morning schedules in favour of a few complimentary cocktails and the chance to ogle Mille’s ever-diversifying collection.
Stealing centre stage was the Richard Mille RM 19-02 Tourbillon Fleur. It is a landmark piece for the brand, boasting their first flying tourbillon. Whenever a brand débuts a new complication, you can expect it to dominate the display. In the case of the Richard Mille RM 19-02 Tourbillon Fleur, this technical marvel is framed by an automaton in the design of a flower in bloom.
The petals of the flower, hand-painted by the brothers of Oliver Vaucher – famed for their previous work with Vacheron Constantin, Van Cleef & Arpels, and Ulysse Nardin to name but a few – open to reveal the beating heart of the watch every five minutes. The automaton is powered by a second barrel, which is wound along with the barrel that drives the mechanism, by a single crown at three o’clock. But should you wish to show off this beautifully executed complication, you can actuate the automaton on demand by depressing a pusher located on the opposite side of the case at 9 o’clock. Both the pusher and the crown are clad in black onyx, which stands out in sharp contrast to the white gold case, studded with diamonds.
This watch makes full use of Richard Mille’s classic tonneau case shape. The eight screw heads that adorn the bezel are finished to a high polish, and the four structural bars that decorate the flanks are encrusted with black sapphires so they stand out from their glittering surround. This watch appears very feminine in design and materials, but at 45.4mm, it is around the size of a normal gent’s watch from Richard Mille.
Meretricious as it may look on a man’s wrist, it could certainly be carried off thanks to its size and distracting beauty. One of the nicest touches on the tourbillon itself, aside from a finely-wrought cage, are the five rubies set around the shock setting. The rubies represent the stamen of a flower and nod to the consideration and depth of thought that went into the design. In addition to the tourbillon being revealed every five minutes, the whole carriage lifts up and protrudes from the flower to greet the wearer.
The foliage that decorates the dial and surrounds the tourbillon (located between 6 and 9 o’clock), is also hand-painted by the Vaucher brothers, adding a separate trade skill to this collaborative masterpiece. The time itself is read from a small sub-dial between 12 and 3 o’clock. The sub-dial is studded with diamonds and the hours are marked by individually set stones. Hours 7 and 8 are omitted to allow for the encroachment of the tourbillon flower, while hours 12, 3, 6, and 9 are larger than the intermediary markers, referencing a traditional dial layout.
This is a hand-wound calibre with a 36-hour power reserve. What’s really great about the fact it’s not automatic is the way this plays to the aesthetic beauty of the glass-backed tonneau case. With automatic watches from Richard Mille, the circular rotor weight always seems to jar with its more angular setting. This is just my opinion, but the absence of the rotor allows the case shape, and the elegance of the in-house movement to flower (sorry).
This watch comes in white gold on a satin strap, but as you can see from the press photos, leather straps are also available on request. In fact, the case material can even be changed if you ask nicely. The model who presented the watch to us appeared to be wearing a rose gold variant, which I am informed can be ordered on request. To be honest, considering this watch has a retail price around $1,090,000, you could probably have the Richard Mille RM 19-02 Tourbillon Fleur on a strap made of unicorn hair, or buttered toast if you did so desire.
What is certain is that the French maestro is eager to please. His affable personality, inspiring back-story (which includes a tale about swapping his Parisian residence for a château in Brittany), and instantly recognisable timepieces are additional lures for anyone thinking of investing in his brand. It may take a hefty sum, but this is more than a watch. It is a mechanical marvel. Love or hate its design, it’s hard to argue with its technical excellence. The Richard Mille RM 19-02 Tourbillon Fleur will be limited to 30 pieces. richardmille.com