Richard Mille certainly knows a thing or two about sidling up to the ladies. For the past couple of years, he has actively courted the affections of female watch connoisseurs with a bevy of dedicated
women’s models that aren’t simply feminised versions of men’s watches. And it’s clear that Mille doesn’t like to play it safe either. Like his men’s pieces, his women’s models are not for the faint of heart, as exemplified by the spider motif in the RM 19-01 ‘Natalie Portman’ or the dragon-and-tiger engraving in the RM 51-01 ‘Michelle Yeoh.’ They’re fierce and strong, just like their wearers; and they make no apologies for being so.
This year’s RM 19-02 Tourbillon Fleur, with its bright lacquered pink magnolia blossom on the dial, might have you thinking that Mille has gone all soft. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. The flower petals actually open and close every five minutes—or on demand, if you prefer—making it a sublime work of kinetic art on the wrist that is every bit as entrancing to watch as an Attenborough documentary.
Not many watchmakers bother to create unique or high complications for women, let alone engineer an automaton mechanism, but, with the Tourbillon Fleur, Mille checks both boxes. The choice of a magnolia blossom isn’t random, either: Magnolias are known to be a hardy species that can withstand severe climates. It’s a subtle tip of the hat to female fans who are every bit as indomitable as the watch they wear.
The Tourbillon Fleur comes in two versions: A fully paved 18-karat white gold edition and a non-gem- set 18-karat red gold model. We’re partial to the gem-set version, if only because it elevates the exceptional quality of the piece. Like a synchronised swimming routine, the mechanical ballet performed by the opening and closing of the petals is a sight for sore eyes. Unless deactivated by the pusher at 9 o’clock, the petals unfurl every five minutes, stay open for five more, and then shut. As they gradually unfurl (the process takes six seconds), a flying tourbillon mechanism—the manufacture’s first—is revealed in all its glory. As if to highlight the significance of this event, the entire tourbillon assembly rises by 1mm, offering a closer look at its hidden wonders. The centre of the tourbillon is also studded with seven precious stones to represent the flower’s stamens.
The entire choreography is remarkably as precise and controlled as a Bolshoi Ballet production. To ensure a regular supply of energy for both the automaton and the regular timekeeping functions, Mille’s engineers devised a two-barrel system. Fully wound, the movement can last up to 36 hours. And rest assured that there’s no danger of over-winding the movement (something that happens more often than you’d think); a torque-limiting mechanism in the winding crown prevents this from happening.
With only 30 pieces ever made, and the fall/winter runways rife with opulent floral prints (everyone from Anna Sui to Dries Van Noten to Giambattista Valli and Valentino showed some variation of this theme), we think the Tourbillon Fleur will be highly sought-after, its million-dollar price tag (USD1.09 million for the diamond-set model) notwithstanding.
Text by Charmaine Ho