At Swiss luxury watchmaker Richard Mille, you might not expect to find joyous colours. It’s a brand better known for high-tech, high bravado pieces, after all. But under the watch of creative and development director Cécile Guenat, the house has taken big, bold steps towards more playful designs, often in the realm of ladies’ watches.
The latest from the brand is a second edition of its RM 07- 01 Coloured Ceramics capsule collection. First launched in 2021, these are perhaps some of Richard Mille’s most aesthetically lighthearted designs. The trio of new Coloured Ceramics watches are inspired this time by the Memphis Group, the Italian art and architecture movement from the 1980s that upended and rebelled against modernist design.
Key motifs of Memphis design include unbridled use of colour, plastic-like textures and materials, and combinations of simple asymmetric shapes—traits that led early detractors to call it a bad marriage between Bauhaus and Fisher-Price. But the influence of Memphis style, and its founder Ettore Sottsass, has persisted. Today, it continues to be a highly influential source of inspiration for many serious designers who know how to take their upbeat kitsch seriously.
For Guenat, tapping into Memphis design meant reinventing the dials and moving on from the first release’s art deco-inflected botanical and sunburst motifs. This time, there’s a play on geometric forms and textures, mixing materials such as ceramic, rubber and gold in the same way, Guenat says, that “an object was designed in the Memphis movement”.
This juxtaposition of materials is a nod, perhaps, to the Richard Mille ethos of combining hyper modernity with tradition. There’s the biocompatible TZP (tetragonal zirconia polycrystal—so light and durable they were first used for human joint replacements) ceramics that make up the case, which is framed by micro-blasted white gold case bands with polished pillars.
There’s also the skeletonised calibre CRMA2 automatic movement with the baseplate and bridges crafted from titanium. But the dial’s where the magic is at with these Coloured Ceramics watches. Each colourway features a differently ordered assortment of decorative shapes. These are framed in gold and filled in with coloured ceramic, laser-cut rubber and PVD-treated red gold in either smooth or hand-guillochéd finishes, as well as a circle of diamonds.
The effect of these whimsical assemblages is a bit like a zany, totemic piece of Memphis furniture that adds fun and levity to a room. How’s that for a smile-making machine on the wrist?