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The outcome of a partnership between watchmaker Richard Mille and artist Cyril Kongo is a veritable work of art for the wrist. The new RM 68-01 Tourbillon Cyril Kongo watch is the outcome of Richard Mille’s desire to introduce contemporary art within haute horlogerie in an unprecedented manner. Indeed, this tourbillon caliber is more than a watch, insofar as it also serves as a canvas for the inspiration and creativity of street artist Cyril Kongo.

Never before has a work of art thus taken shape on the bridges and baseplate of a watch, becoming a truly integral part of the timepiece. Richard Mille and Kongo succeeded in taking an art essentially associated with large-scale urban murals and translating it for the horological world of micromechanics and precision, thereby making a leap from city walls to bridges, baseplates and sapphire dials of watchmaking.

Kongo’s work comes from graffiti and street painting. Graffiti is a language with its own codes, a form of writing, whether this being on a gigantic wall, on canvas, or any other surface.

It took more than a year to develop the painting technique used by Kongo. A special airbrush was developed to allow the artist to spray his colors with the utmost delicacy, one droplet at a time. To avoid jeopardizing the caliber’s equilibrium, essential to its functioning, the weight of the paint had to be strictly determined beforehand.

This significant challenge involving all the teams collaborating on the RM 68-01 project resulted in the creation of a unique palette of brightly colored indelible paints that adhere perfectly to the titanium components and can endure assembly and dismantling.

It took the development of special tools and over a year of experimentation for Kongo to be capable of painting on a watch some two inches square. Certain pieces were barely a few millimeters long, some even smaller, and he 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. This production technique made it possible to draw lines barely visible to the naked eye and impossible to create directly by hand, even if certain motifs were sketched using pens with especially fine nibs. Regardless of the technique, every component of each watch was painted in the hues of the man known as Mr. Colorful. The RM 68-01 demanded that Kongo rethink his approach to graffiti in order to adapt his artistic vocabulary for the extremely limited surface of a caliber. His real triumph lies how he makes it possible to contemplate his work from every aspect of the piece.

On the back of the watch we see the central form of the tourbillon movement’s baseplate radiating outwards like a splash of paint physically thrown against a wall, while from the front the different movement bridges can be seen arcing in different directions like the wild brushstrokes found in street art murals. Housed within a case comprising an NTPT Carbon case-band with black ceramic bezels, the asymmetric case design tapers in two directions in thickness from 9 to 3 o’clock and in height between 12 and 6 o’clock. The RM 68-01 combines contemporary mechanical and visual arts in a truly exceptional expression of 21st century timekeeping.