Richard Mille is quickly becoming the choice brand of incredibly high-budget miniature model enthusiasts. Looking over the new-for-the-end-of-the-year Richard Mille watches here in Hong Kong at Watches & Wonders 2015, one can easily grasp that Mr. Mille is incredibly serious in having his timepiece (among many other things) serve as ultra-modern tiny art displays. Things like watches with a tiger and dragon facing off in front of a tourbillon, or having the pop culture-accurate Richard Mille RM 26-02 Evil Eye watch enveloped in flames are odd themes which actually can distract people from appreciating just how insanely detailed they are.
Richard Mille’s highly successful sense of pure audacity pays off again with the RM 26-02 Evil Eye tourbillon watch that is no doubt visually inspired by the “Eye of Sauron” from the modern Lord Of The Rings Trilogy of movies. That sort of makes sense if you think about it. What if you were an artist and someone said to you, “Make a watch with an evil eye it. Don’t forget, budget is no issue.” What else would you design other than one with the most potent “evil eye” symbols of modern pop culture? You basically would go straight to thinking of Sauron’s flaming watchful sitting high in Mordor looking over the world for the ring of power. The eye sits to the left of the dial next to the tourbillon and surrounded by meticulously made red-toned solid gold flames.
Of course, the RM 26-02 Evil Eye watch is not at all officially related to Lord Of The Rings, but it might as well be what is probably the most expensive wearable homage to J.R.R. Tolkein’s universe yet. Officially, the Richard Mille Evil Eye is about the “evil eye” concept that has historically existed in various religions and cultures for eons. Apparently, in some cultures, it is said that the only way to ward off the evil eye is with your own evil eye. Way to remind people to stay vigilant, right?
Richard Mille’s penchant for crafting miniature dioramas on watch dials was satisfactorily proven to me at least a few years ago. I also applaud the brand for being open about the identity of the artist they use to create such special crafts. For the Evil Eye, they worked with Geneva-based Olivier Vaucher. At this point, it is about creating increasingly spectacular themes rather than wowing us with just how detailed Richard Mille has been able to create characters and scenes on the dials of their already impressive super-luxe sport watches.
From a design perspective, the Richard Mille RM 26-02 is somewhere between men’s and women’s -sized. I am actually pretty sure it is considered a unisex watch – perhaps it was the satin-style strap. Actually, on a matter rubber strap this could be a lot more of a macho timepiece. It does have flames on it – but then again flames could mean a range of things… The point is that there are few timepieces that go equally well on men and women (I’ll forgive strap-swapping), but the RM 26-02 is one of them. Then again, for over $500,000 the watch should at least be fashionably versatile, right?
Presenting at Watches & Wonders 2015, Richard Mille was the only non-Richemont Group brand in attendance. A quick survey of the watches worn by the attendees confirms why – you just see a lot of Richard Mille watches on wrists. Not just standard Richard Mille watches, but also dozens of limited edition and custom models. Richard Mille’s particular flavor of nonchalant excess actually resonates well with the more youthful-minded Asian ultra-luxury watch buyers. Whereas these same individuals would have worn much cheaper, and much less visually distinct watches 10 years ago, today they are wearing what Richard Mille likes to refer to as, “racing machines for your wrist.”
The RM 26-02 case is produced from 18k red gold as well as black ceramic. Richard Mille uses a high grade of ceramic that is finely polished and given beveled edges. The combination of materials works well as they contrast with each other nicely and work with the dark and fiery theme of the evil eye dial. The case is about 40mm wide and about 48mm tall being 13mm thick. That isn’t per se small, but among the smaller modern Richard Mille watches though the curved tonneau-style case wraps around the wrist very comfortably.
Mr. Vaucher’s work incorporating the evil eye and flames into the architecture of the movement is impressive. This is easily one of the more challenging dials in Richard Mille’s ongoing series of “tourbillon art watches.” Even if you don’t like the composition, you need to understand that rendering flames and imagery like this in a way that looks detailed, impressive, and not silly is super challenging. The Swiss know how to make pretty much everything feel much more polished and thus more serious than pretty much everyone else. I mean we are talking about a luxury watch with a Tolkien Middle Earth character, copious life-like flames and diamond hour markers. On paper, there is almost no way to make this concept work, and yet here it is in person and I’d wear it and proudly show it off in its artful, horological, fantasy nerd glory.
The Evil Eye itself is carefully grand feu enamel painted, and the flames are solid gold and then lacquer painted. This is woven in the Richard Mille caliber RM 26-02 manually wound movement with the hours, minutes, and a one-minute tourbillon. There is a small power reserve indicator on the dial as well. The 3Hz frequency movement’s max power reserve is about 50 hours and much of the movement is produced from titanium.
There isn’t anything quite like the Richard Mille RM 26-02 Evil Eye watch on the wrist. Well, it is part of a limited edition of just 25 pieces so there will be at least a few other watches out there like it. Like I said, it is one thing to have a wild idea like doing an “evil eye tourbillon watch,” and it is another to actually do it. Of all the brave souls that do, only someone like Richard Mille can actually make the concept work – and make it even be cooler than expected. Price for the Richard Mille RM 26-02 Evil Eye watch is 690,000 Swiss Francs. richardmille.com