Richard Mille X Cyril Kongo timepiece: What you need to know

Richard Mille

Splash of Colour

“I am not a painter bound to a single space, nor to any particular surface." Prominent graffiti artist Cyril Kongo has an apt description of the nature of his work, but even he could not have expected his painting to find its way to where it recently has — on the Richard Mille RM 68-01 Tourbillon Cyril Kongo timepiece.

The collaboration was birthed from Richard Mille’s desire to introduce contemporary art to fine watchmaking — as if every Richard Mille timepiece isn’t already a veritable miniature example of kinetic art. And although Kongo isn’t one to be restricted by his canvas (or lack thereof), it was a definite challenge to transform the usually large-scale, free-spirited style of graffiti art into something that would fit on a space only approximately five centimetres square.

Cyril Kongo
Cyril Kongo in action

It took a whole year of experimentation and development to create the unique painting technique and tools that Kongo required to work in miniature. This included a special airbrush that dispenses single droplets of paint for utmost precision, as well as a palette of indelible paints in the hues most signature of Kongo’s work that will adhere to the titanium movement components and stand up to the rigours of assembly and dismantling. Adding to the challenge was the necessity for the weight of the paint to be determined before painting began, and strictly kept to during the process or the equilibrium of the calibre could have been jeopardised.

Kongo describes the painstaking process, “Certain pieces were barely a few millimetres long, some even smaller, and I had to put the lettering directly on them, enough for visual effect but without using much paint so as to avoid throwing off the balance of the movement."

The result is a masterpiece that looks good from every angle. On the dial side, the movement bridges come alive with bold splashes of paint while through the transparent caseback, the baseplate radiates outwards towards the edges of the watch case in a design reminiscent of a paint splatter on a wall. The beautifully decorated movement boasts a fast rotating barrel, which completes a revolution every six hours instead of the regular 7.5 to achieve the better power reserve of 42 hours, and a free sprung balance with variable inertia that provides better resistance to impacts. All this is protected by a case of black ceramic and NTPT carbon, adorned with a torque limiting crown that prevents accidental over-winding. Only 30 pieces of this limited edition timepiece are available worldwide.

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Published 29th July 2016