The talented, multi-award-winning singer, songwriter and producer has long been a friend of the brand, sporting many of its iconic timepieces. And when Richard Mille suggested they work together on the first watch to bear his name, Pharrell looked deep into his childhood for inspiration – Richard Mille RM 52-05 Tourbillon Pharrell Williams.
‘I’ve always been fascinated by looking up at the sky. What could be more inspiring than all that ever was and all that ever will be? Space, before your eyes. It’s yours to see. It was here before the Earth, before this Solar System. It’ll be here after us and nothing’s more meaningful than that. When I look up at the sky I’m looking at God. I feel part of so many different parts of a whole. This is the Alpha and the Omega.’
The word Pharrell uses to describe his music is ‘subversive.’ His artistic world is all about shifting focus, looking for new perspectives in unexpected partnerships. ‘If it’s not subversive, it’s just plain. We need things to “pop” in this world.’ As humans, we spend our time looking out at the cosmos. The ‘pop’ on the Richard Mille RM 52-05 comes from totally changing our perspective a full 180°. It’s the moment we realise, staring at the watch’s face, that what we are peering at, through the vastness of space is … ourselves. Earth as seen from Mars. A distant and beautiful reflection trapped in the helmet of an astronaut.
But how to capture this sheer vastness within the confines of a watch face? The RM 52-05 rises to this artistic and technical challenge with the kind of ground-breaking ideas devotees of the brand expect from the Richard Mille Creative Development team. High-tech materials handled in miniature, using state of the art technology and honed by the partnership of an engraver, an enameller and a painter.
The technical innovations of the Richard Mille RM 52-05 tourbillon calibre are mind-bendingly innovative. Equivalent to a space shuttle, the baseplate that carries the movement is machined of grade 5 titanium through which it is possible to glimpse the grade 5 titanium bridges, skeletonised to evoke rocket launch platforms. It features large inserts in dazzling blue aventurine glass that evoke outer space and the confines of the universe with all its stars.
The astronaut’s helmet is sculpted in grade 5 titanium, hand-painted using indestructible paint to hint at all-pervading timelessness. As for the Red Planet itself, only red gold could bring to life its unmistakable hues. We are drawn into the dramatic Valles Marineris, named for the Mariner 9 Probe, humanity’s first envoy to our distant neighbour. The engraving captures the overpowering rock face, rising a daunting 7 kilometres above the russet sandscapes below. For this, it was necessary to achieve multiple colour changes in the enamel. Unlike traditional grand feu enamels, obtained by adding different pigments, the orange to red and blue to black gradients were made by superimposing layers and increasing the number of firings at 850 °C.
We become the astronaut. In the helmet, two white gold elements containing a black sapphire and two diamonds evoke the floodlights that light up our immediate surroundings. Against the skin, we feel the spacesuit composed of grade 5 titanium, painted white using an airbrush.
Other innovations complete this cosmic timepiece. The brown Cermet combines the lightness of titanium with the hardness of a ceramic. It consists of a metallic zirconium matrix associated with high-performance ceramic that gives the material its incredible brown hue with metallic reflections. The caseband is made of Carbon TPT®, well known in the field of aerospace. The hands and bridges on the back of the model have been skeletonised to evoke rocket launch platforms or satellite arms. The crown is based on the design of a rocket capsule. Even the rubber surrounding it sports the distinctive profile of a Martian rover tyre.
Only a very small crew of astronauts will be on board this unique mission to Mars. The Richard Mille RM 52-05 Tourbillon Pharrell Williams will be produced in an edition of 30 pieces. The little boy who grew up watching Star Trek in Virginia Beach is more than excited to be piloting the expedition…
‘In every aspect of my work, I always look for something different, something new. Working with Richard Mille provided an opportunity to go where no one else has ever gone before. Mars, for instance. Creating is about shifting the perspective from which we look at things, that’s really the only difference, and with the RM 52-05, we’ve looked at Mars from a different angle, an unexpected first-person point of view. In doing so, we’re breaking the mould. We have the best timekeeper in the world. We have Mars. And we have an African-American man from Virginia, all connected.’
Richard Mille RM 52-05 Tourbillon Pharrell Williams Technical Specifications
Limited edition of 30 pieces in brown Cermet and Carbon TPT®
CALIBRE RM52-05: manual winding tourbillon movement with hours, minutes.
Dimensions: 49.94 x 42.35 x 16.15 mm.
Circa 42 hours (±10%)
BASEPLATE AND BRIDGES IN GRADE 5 TITANIUM
Grade 5 titanium is a biocompatible, highly corrosion-resistant and remarkably rigid alloy that enables the gear train to function effortlessly. The alloy is 90%titanium, 6%aluminium and 4%vanadium. This combination further enhances the material’s mechanical properties, which explains its frequent use in the aerospace, aeronautics and automobile industries.
The mainplate of the movement features large inserts in dazzling blue aventurine glass that evoke outer space. Also known as ‘goldstone’, this glass glitters due to its triangular and hexagonal copper crystal inclusions. Incorporated into the heart of the Richard Mille RM52-05 calibre, it represents the confines of the universe and all its stars.
Rigorous tests have also confirmed its resistance capacities.
DECORATIVE BRIDGE, ASTRONAUT’S HELMET
The grade 5 titanium helmet resting on a structure depicting the upper part of a spacesuit, also in grade 5 titanium, connects the dial to the movement beneath it. It has been painted white using an airbrush that was initially developed for street artist Cyril Kongo, who hand-painted the Richard Mille RM 68-01.
The projectors and cameras, represented by two diamonds and a black sapphire set on either side of the helmet, required particular care and attention. The stones are showcased by a moderate gem-setting depth, reflectors that have been polished and bevelled using watchmaking techniques and the alignment of their tables, all of which are facing the same way to ensure a uniform reflection.
To recreate the imaginary Martian scene, the curved 5N gold visor has been engraved using specially created burins, grand-feu-enamelled and then hand-painted. The engraving alone requires 15 hours per piece, followed by an entire day of grand feu enamelling. Pierre-Alain Lozeron had to apply all his patience, skill and dexterity to bring these creations to life.
FREE-SPRUNG BALANCE WITH VARIABLE INERTIA
The terminal-curve spring equipping this type of balance wheel guarantees greater reliability when subjected to shocks or strong vibrations and during movement assembly and disassembly, hence ensuring better chronometric results over time. The regulator index is eliminated, and a more accurate and repeatable adjustment is possible thanks to 4 small adjustable weights located directly on the balance.
FAST-ROTATING BARREL (6 hours per revolution instead of 7.5 hours)
This type of barrel provides the following advantages:
– The phenomenon of periodic internal mainspring adhesion is significantly diminished, thereby increasing performance,
– Provision of an excellent mainspring delta curve. The choice was determined by the ideal power-reserve/performance/regularity ratio.
BARREL PAWL WITH PROGRESSIVE RECOIL
This device permits an appreciable winding gain (circa 20%), especially at the start of winding. It also helps to distribute the internal tension of the mainspring effectively.
WINDING-BARREL TEETH AND THIRD-WHEEL PINION WITH CENTRAL INVOLUTE PROFILE
The central involute profile of the winding-barrel teeth provides an optimal pressure angle of 20°. This promotes effective rotary motion and compensates for possible variations in the engagement of the going train, thus ensuring excellent torque transmission with a distinct improvement in performance.
SPLINE SCREWS IN GRADE 5 TITANIUM FOR THE BRIDGES AND CASE
Unaffected by physical manipulation during assembly and disassembly, these screws permit better control of the torque applied to them during assembly and age well.
– Movement dimensions: 32.80 x 30.90 mm
– Thickness: 6.40 mm
– Tourbillon diameter: 10.90 mm
– Balance wheel diameter: 9.12 mm
– Jewels: 19
– Balance wheel: Glucydur®, 2 arms and 4 setting screws
– Moment of inertia: 11.50 mg.cm2, angle of lift: 53°
– Frequency: 21,600 vph (3 Hz)
– Balance spring: elinvar by Nivarox®
– Shock protection: KIF ELASTOR KE 160 B28
– Barrel shaft: in nickel-free Chronifer® (DIN x 46 Cr 13 + S) with the following characteristics: stainless – antimagnetic –
suitable for tempering
Brown Cermet and caseband in Carbon TPT®
The brown Cermet combines the lightness of titanium with the hardness of a ceramic. It consists of a metallic zirconium matrix associated with high-performance ceramic that gives the material its incredible brown hue with metallic reflections.
Cermet has a mass to volume ratio of 5.7 g/cm3 and a hardness of 1,200 Vickers, comparable to a traditional ceramic and making it eminently suitable for use in bezels and case backs, both areas that are highly vulnerable to scratches, while ensuring that the entire assembly is light in weight. These two elements are affixed to a caseband made of Carbon TPT®, which also contributes to lowering the total weight.
This high-tech material is made up of 600 layers of parallel filaments obtained by separating out carbon fibres. The layers, no more than 30 microns thick, are impregnated with a black resin. They are then assembled on a dedicated machine, which stacks the layers, varying the orientation of the fibres by 45° between layers. The composite is then heated to 120°C at a pressure of 6 bars in a kiln similar to those used for the production of aeronautics parts, after which it is ready to be machined at Richard Mille.
The tripartite case is water-resistant to 30 metres, ensured by 2 Nitrile O-ring seals, and is assembled using 24 spline screws in grade 5 titanium and abrasion-resistant washers in 316L stainless steel.
In grade 5 titanium
– Bezel side: in sapphire (hardness of 1800 Vickers) with anti-glare treatment (both sides).
– Thickness: 1.50 mm
– Case back side: in sapphire (hardness of 1800 Vickers) with anti-glare treatment (both sides).
– Thickness: 1.20 mm
– Hand-polished anglage
– Microblasted milled sections
– Stretched or polished upper surfaces
– Microblasted surfaces
– Satin-finished surfaces
– Hand-polished anglage
– Long strokes
– Brushed strokes
– Long side strokes
– Polished edges
– Lapped and polished ends
– Burnished pivots
– Diamond chamfering
– Circular decorated faces
– Rhodium plating (before cutting the teeth) Minimal corrections applied to the wheels in order to preserve geometry and performance.