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Richard Mille RM 88 Automatic Tourbillon Smiley: The Symbolism of the Smiley

Richard Mille RM 88 Automatic Tourbillon Smiley: The Symbolism of the Smiley


Everyone carries the desire to create connections with others and spread happiness. With this in mind, what could be more symbolic than the smiley? Little more than 50 years ago, a yellow circle, with two oval eyes and a broad, smiling mouth, established itself as a collective symbol of positivity and pop culture. Today, it is impossible to imagine our society without the smiley, drawn by Franklin Loufrani: it is a symbol of interaction.

Following three years of development by the Richard Mille team, the new RM 88 Automatic Tourbillon Smiley combines the iconic smiley with a series of miniature sculptures. The result is a highly technological and creative timepiece. As a limited edition of 50 pieces, this emotionally charged watch is specially designed for lovers of watchmaking who simply want to spread joy.

The new Richard Mille RM 88 Automatic Tourbillon Smiley

Smiling: A universal language

Drawn 50 years ago by Franklin Loufrani and first appearing in the pages of the French newspaper France Soir in 1972, the smiley is still a sign of happiness today. The smiley symbol is universal: a smile, recognisable anywhere in the world. One of the first recorded smiles in history dates back to 2,400 BC, appearing on the statue of a governor of Mesopotamia (now Western Asia). The meaning and visualisation of the smile have changed significantly over the centuries and civilizations. The smiles on the sculptures of the Egyptian pharaohs, for example, are only faintly pronounced. This testifies to restraint and self-control – values regarded as particularly respectable at the time.

Credit © Fabian Nissels

Meanwhile, the emotional smile on the statues of Buddha symbolises happiness, prosperity and joy. By contrast, the smile appears very discreetly in Leonardo da Vinci’s famous Renaissance portrait, the Mona Lisa. At that time, showing one’s emotions was still considered inappropriate and unseemly. The smile finally became the norm through the works of Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun, a painter at the French court, in the Age of Enlightenment. In her works, the painter shows a blunt, broad smile.

Credit © Fabian Nissels

As a genuine source of well-being, our smile today can have a multifaceted meaning. It is a gesture that can expresses joy or sincerity; it can be innocent and or disarming. This symbolism comes to life in the form of the RM 88 Automatic Tourbillon Smiley.

Credit © Fabian Nissels

Artist Olivier Kuhn and his miniature sculptures

Engraver Olivier Kuhn is largely responsible for the RM 88‘s playful design elements. Kuhn, who originally trained in customising motorcycles, combines haute horlogerie, 3D design and jewellery making. He has been creating miniatures for eight years, as well as the gold micro-sculptures in the RM 88 – each of which weighs less than one gram.

Credit © Fabian Nissels

Furthermore, Kuhn was involved in the creation of the micro-sculptures, from their 3D design and manufacture to their final installation in the watch, thus ensuring that the watch also embodies Kuhn’s artistic style. The manufacturing process of the sculptures combines time-honored watchmaking skills with modern-day technology. First, resin is printed using a 3D printer. Then, plaster is applied around it, before it is melted and replaced with gold. Finally, the gold is then moulded with special watchmaking tweezers.

The artist Olivier Kuhn at work
Credit © Fabian Nissels

The process can achieve refinement even in the smallest details. However, the biggest challenge for Kuhn, and therefore the most complex part, was the combination of the cloud and rainbow. This is because the different fibres have to be connected, requiring 25 hours of work per piece.

Credit © Fabian Nissels

The case of the RM 88 Automatic Tourbillon Smiley

While the bezel and caseback are made of white ATZ ceramic, which is known for its high scratch resistance, the case ring is in red gold, serving as a harmonious combination. Meanwhile, the domed bezel and satin finish are achieved through an elaborate process using with diamond tools. The eye-catching crown bears the recurring smiley on its head, adding another colourful, playful accent.

Credit © Philippe Louzon

The dial

The surreal scene on the dial, which looks straight out of some kind of emoji world, bursts from a colourful rainbow and ends in the cloud. On top of this is a small second hand with a lightning bolt and a sun on its tips. This changes the weather conditions with every minute. Furthermore, the wearer can admire a blooming flower, a dark green cactus, a golden sun and a cheerful pink flamingo.

Credit © Fabian Nissels

The three-dimensional effect of this work of art is topped off by a cocktail with an umbrella. Meanwhile, the smiley itself is mounted on a decorative bridge, creating a floating impression. The movement bridge, to which the smiley is attached, has taken the form and colours of a rainbow, creating the perfect background for the entire spectacle. A function indicator at 3 o’clock shows the positions for winding (W) and hand setting (H) when the crown is pulled out.

Credit © Fabian Nissels

The skeletonised movement

Another major challenge was the conception of a movement that would leave enough room to optimally accentuate the scenery without stealing the show from the protagonist. With this in mind, the CRMT7, a skeletonised tourbillon calibre, was developed. The automatic movement with hour, minute and function display operates at 4 Hz and has a power reserve of 50 hours.

Credit © Fabian Nissels

Credit © Philippe Louzon

The RM 88 is equipped with two base plates: one technical, on which the movement is mounted, and the second, which is intended for ornamental objects. This creates the three-dimensional space, but at the same time remains resilient. The rotor made of 3N yellow gold with OneWay winding system and ceramic ball bearings still allows for a phenomenal view through to the dial via the caseback.

Credit © Fabian Nissels

RM 88: Price and availability

The RM 88 Automatic Tourbillon Smiley is a vibrant creation that is sure to bring a smile not only to the wearer, but also to those who catch sight of it. Limited to 50 pieces, the timepiece comes with a yellow Velcro strap. Interested parties can apply for this timepiece at Richard Mille boutiques and, if accepted, purchase the watch for CHF 1.1 million.


BRAND Richard Mille
MODEL RM 88 Automatic Tourbillon Smiley
CASE MATERIAL ATZ white ceramic and red gold
DIMENSIONS 48,15 mm x 39,74 mm x 13,30 mm
WATER RESISTANCE 5 bar (~50 m)
DIAL Three-dimensional dial with colourful elements
STRAP/BRACELET Yellow velcro strap
POWER RESERVE ca. 50 hours (± 10%)
FREQUENCY 28,800 vph (4 Hz)
FUNCTIONS Hours, minutes, functions indicator
PRICE CHF 1,1 million – Limited to 50 pieces