Richard Mille's Bonbon collection inspires a sugar rush

"Bonbon ... just saying the word is enough to make you smile."

The Bonbon collection comprises the sweets and fruits lines (All photos: Richard Mille)

At its final showcase during the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie in Geneva, Switzerland, watchmaker Richard Mille left the hallowed grounds of the venerable watch fair on a sweet note. Comprising 30 pieces across 10 model lines inspired by the sweetness of candy and fruit, the gorgeous, colourful and exuberant Bonbon collection articulates a sweet and tangy new vision in watchmaking.

The line brings to life 60 zingingly bright colours — including the world premiere of a new turquoise hue — across six Carbon TPT and Quartz TPT cases, tiny candies that adorn the Fruits line, four two-tone ceramic cases, as well as the decoration gracing the Sweets line. It was a masterstroke on the part of artistic director of the collection Cécile Guenat to bring a playful and rebellious spirit of childhood into the world of haute horlogerie and art craftsmanship. Bringing together technical daring and colourful creativity in surprising ways, she set herself the goal of revisiting classic sweets such as marshmallow, liquorice and gelato with a twist.

The Bonbon collection represents a unique aesthetic that combines visual appeal, mechanical mastery and flawless craftmanship

Despite its disruption of the usual Richard Mille aesthetic, the Bonbon collection is not without precedent. For example, Richard Mille’s play on colour comes from an existing push to continually expand its range. Forays into the spectrum of greens, crimson, yellow and even pink are possible thanks to a mastery of materials, many of them exclusive, that is a Richard Mille speciality. The brand’s understanding of how tinted ceramics behave, expertise in layering materials like Carbon TPT and Quartz TPT and constant improvements to the setting of coloured gemstones are all ingredients in these confectionery recipes, which are singularly imaginative, playful, distinctive and, most importantly, appetising.

A finely honed eye for detail makes these 10 models stunning graphic compositions that offer a wealth of shades and textures appearing in every component of the watch. The crowns and some of the caseband, for instance, take the shape of a particular treat, such as a cupcake or gelato.

While drawing on avowed expertise in the area of materials, colour and form, Richard Mille has taken the lid off a candy jar to reveal confections for the wrist that are also steeped in horological mastery. Based on three of the brand’s iconic models — the RM 07-03, RM 16-01 and RM 37-01 — the watches offer a passage back to our childhood with the simple pleasure of slightly regressive and thoroughly tasty memories, to be enjoyed without moderation.

The RM 16-01 Automatic Réglisse from the sweets line serves as a playful accessory 

“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,” explains Guenat. “Bonbon … just saying the word is enough to make you smile. It manages to convey a combination of pleasure, good cheer and sharing all at once. 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 my 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.”

From velvety marshmallow and custard cream to the crunch of hard candies and lollipops and tangy tartness of citrus quarters —applying the science of materials and textures to the realm of confectionary, Richard Mille has embarked on a vast collection of delicious and powerfully evocative pieces. Whether in the Sweets or Fruits line, every watch in the Bonbon collection is mouth-wateringly appetising and promises a moment of horological ecstasy.


Sweet dreams

From left: The RM 07-03 Marshmallow, RM 07-03 Cupcake, RM 37-01 Sucette and RM 16-01 Réglisse

The Sweets collection comprises four models, all with two-tone ceramic cases that set off their grand feu enamel or black-chromed titanium confections. The RM 07-03 Cupcake, RM 07-03 Marshmallow, RM 37-01 Sucette and RM 16-01 Réglisse are colourful and delectable, evoking a whole spectrum of flavours. Better yet, the textures you expect to encounter upon biting into these sweets are conjured up visually, thanks to a mastery of enamelwork that succeeds in evoking sensations like softness, crunchiness and fluffiness.

The creamy quality of the TZP ceramic case is enhanced by the varied matte and polished effects of elements on the dial. Black, a foundational colour in the technical vocabulary of Richard Mille, is presented in a whole new light here, as a giant roll of liquorice that occupies the entire surface of a dial. Here, the most satisfactory solution for obtaining the liquorice shape of the RM 16-01 Réglisse was a stamping operation, followed by a black chrome coating that lends this piece its spot-on colour and texture.

The RM 37-01 Sucette, RM 07-03 Cupcake and RM 07-01 Marshmallow are all graced with a dial produced in one of the most refined techniques employed in haute horlogerie — grand feu enamel, which involves creating shallow depressions that outline the desired motif for each model in plates of rose or white gold, then filling these with powdered enamel — is here used in an entirely novel way.


Fruity forays

From left: The RM 07-03 Myrtille, RM 07-03 Litchi, RM 37-01 Cerise and RM 37-01 Kiwi

The Fruits line is a homage to the very concept of sweet temptation in three delectable flavour combinations: Lemon and Strawberry (RM 16-01 Citron and Fraise), Blueberry and Lychee (RM 07-03 Myrtille and Litchi), and Kiwi and Cherry (RM 37-01 Kiwi and Cerise). In addition to colour-gradient cases made of Carbon TPT combined with Quartz TPT of a different hue for each model is an all-new turquoise colour. Painted in acrylics and lacquered by hand, the 3,000 miniature sculptures integrated in these compositions stand out from the dials, turning each one into a sachet full of tiny candies.

To further enhance realism, a “sugar-coating” effect was achieved using powdered enamel and the fine sand employed in hourglasses. Tart jelly ribbons, twisty lollipops, candy citrus segments, gumdrops and other surprises are positioned on plates of grade 5 titanium that are machined and skeletonised like horological components. Interestingly, the mechanical components of the watch are designed to ensure secure attachment of the inserted miniatures, which had to be tested for risks of loosening due to vibrations and humidity to ensure these sweets would never slip from their lovely packaging.

The RM 16-01 Fraise and RM 16-01 Citron

The mouth-watering central motifs are joined by those embellishing the flanges and crowns, and in order to provide a consistent frame and ensure complementary shades, the contour of the dials is also coloured. The crowns, which represent such delights as pink-frosted cupcakes or rolls that recall donuts are also technical elements that contribute to the story, sweetening and enriching it.

Whether it is the long, narrow tonneau of the RM 37-01 case, the chunkier, less contoured form of the RM 07-03, or the gently rounded rectangle of the RM 16-01 — each case is both emblematic of the brand’s creations, thanks to its design, and evocative of the velvety softness of sweet treats. “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,” Guenat says.


This article first appeared on March 18, 2019 in The Edge Malaysia.


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