February 12 marked the beginning of the Chinese New Year 2021. According to their 12-year zodiac calendar, this is the Year of the Metal Ox, the year of xin chou. In Chinese culture, the ox is seen as hardworking and signifies movements. With the emphasis on metal too, could this be a particularly good year for the haute horlogerie brands?
Richard Mille is one of those which will likely be hoping the belief rings true. Chinese culture has certainly influenced the Swiss brand in the past, with a collection dedicated to Hong Kong born actor, Jackie Chan. They had long wanted to create a timepiece for the actor, inspired by his Chinese name meaning ’the one who will become a dragon’.
The martial arts expert and Hollywood star is a renowned watch enthusiast, with an affinity for Richard Mille wristwatches.
In 2012, the year of the dragon, the luxury watchmaker launched the RM057 Dragon-Jackie Chan, a manual winding tourbillon movement with hours, minutes and power-reserve indicator.
This watch features an intricately designed dragon, embodying the characteristics of this mythical creature. In ancient China, the dragon represented a visual representation of the emperor and power, while today, it signifies success and happiness.
The movement baseplate is made of pure, deep black onyx, considered a stone of protection against negative thoughts and the stone of equilibrium and inspiration. The engraved golden dragon, with colored scales, grips the tourbillon bridge in one of its claws.
Jackie Chan’s signature is engraved into the baseplate side which rotates once every 60 seconds in time with the tourbillon’s rotation. This collection is a limited edition of 36 pieces.
This Richard Mille timepiece is also a manual winding tourbillon movement with hours, minutes and power-reserve indicator. It’s engraved with a dragon and a phoenix and was limited to 15 pieces.
Again drawing on Chinese cultural references, the phoenix was known to be pure and peaceful, eating and drinking nothing but bamboo seeds and sweet spring water. The dragon has always appeared in a magical variety of forms. Its nature could be both secretive yet active. Dragons were said to travel between the skies and earth and were considered the mounts of heavenly deities.
The movement features a baseplate of PVD treated titanium, double winding barrels and a power reserve of 48 hours, indicated by a red line between 10 and 11 o’clock. A torque-limiting crown adds extra protection and prevents any possible overwinding.
The two mythical creatures are entirely hand-carved in rose gold in the interior of the movement. Special miniature tools were necessary for the hand-finished micro painting of these entities, including their unseen parts.
This manual winding tourbillon movement with hours and minutes is seen as the culmination of this collection. Bringing together seemingly unrelated worlds, the dragon in sapphire and gold is incorporated within a tourbillon movement, combining complex sapphire machining with the delicate and poetic art of engraving.
The Oriental dragon in this instance symbolises perseverance and success, plus the power and strength that make it a master of the elements. Geneva’s finest engravers, Olivier Vaucher, collaborated with the Swiss brand’s movement and exterior engineers on this complex project.
The engravers followed the notion of robustness and reassuring solidity, visible in the bearing of the dragon that firmly encircles the manually-wound tourbillon calibre. The head and feet in carved red gold emphasise the crystalline texture of the sapphire. The intricate details of the scales were painted with gold, while applying these to the dragon’s tongue and eyes added a final artistic dimension to the piece.
Also, while Richard Mille sapphire cases are generally ground, the technique was set aside in favour of laser micro-cutting, performed using a specific machine for this project. This allowed for the piece’s extremely precise details and curves while avoiding undesirable physical and chemical reactions.
We can only speculate whether Richard Mille is influenced in any way by the Chinese zodiac calendar. What we do know for sure though, they have delved into the rich Chinese culture and mythology to produce a fine and distinctive watch collection.
Internal links - thinking of buying your first, or next, Richard Mille? Global Watches has a fine selection, including these carefully selected pieces:
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