Going where no one else has gone before is an opportunity that a partnership with Richard Mille always provides. Certainly up his alley as far as Pharrell Williams is concerned.
“In every aspect of my work, I always look for something different, something new,” said the friend of the brand, blessed with a universal appeal that derives from the fact he also happens to be a singer, songwriter, rapper, producer, executive, designer, entrepreneur, TV and film producer, and philanthropist. And parttime skateboarder!
Pharrell’s relationship with Richard Mille goes back to 2006, kick-started by the artist’s name drop of the watch brand in one of his songs. “I just mentioned it in the lyrics because it was like the hottest watch to me at the time. It was just like a breath of fresh air, in a category that was stagnant.”
Eventually becoming fast friends, he revealed that it was only when he really got to know the “Timepiece Supreme Creator”, his personal nickname for Mille, that he truly understood how the Frenchman constantly pushes boundaries.
“He’s a stickler for detail. He is also concerned with the broader bigger picture. When you see the watches, they’re really about those subtle details working together in concert for better performance,” raved Pharrell.
So in collaborating with the watchmaker famed for an innovative and avant-garde sensibility, the award-winning multi-hyphenate gazed skywards for inspiration, saying, “I’ve always been fascinated by looking up at the sky. What could be more inspiring than all that ever was and all that ever will be? Space, before your eyes. It’s yours to see. It was here before the Earth, before this Solar System. It’ll be here after us, and nothing’s more meaningful than that. When I look up at the sky I’m looking at God. I feel part of so many different parts of a whole. This is the Alpha and the Omega.”
Diving deeper into his fascination and reverence for the cosmos, it is unsurprising to learn that Williams' son is named Rocket and his label goes by the moniker of Star Trak. In line with the creative powerhouse’s own subversive, iconoclastic streak — anchored upon the search for new perspectives in unique tie-ups — the vision of his timepiece with Richard Mille slowly emerged.
Giving the 30-piece limited-edition RM 52-05 Tourbillon Pharrell Williams the pop factor is the sight of Earth as seen from Mars, rendered by the reflection on the astronaut’s helmet visor.
To capture the lofty image in the miniaturised format of a watch face, the Richard Mille Creative Team gamely rose to the challenge by manipulating high-tech materials and using state-of-the-art technology in affiliation with an engraver, an enameller, and a painter.
The stuff of rocket science, the RM 52-05 tourbillon calibre, in line with a space shuttle, features a movement with grade 5 titanium baseplate and visible bridges that are skeletonised to evoke rocket launch platforms.
Intricate details such as striking blue aventurine glass inserts parallel outer space and the astral wonders of the universe, while imperishable paint is used to hand-colour the grade 5 titanium helmet; red gold to illustrate the Red Planet; engraving to depict the rock face, and enamel to portray the spectrum of colour gradations from orange to red and blue to black achieved via superimposing the layers of enamel and countless rounds of firing at 850 °C.
Keeping up the impressive state of things, the ensuing innovations include: black sapphire and two diamonds encased by white gold to evoke floodlights in the helmet; a spacesuit of grade 5 titanium airbrushed in white paint; a brown metallic Cermet case fusing titanium’s lightness with ceramic’s hardness and boasting a metallic zirconium matrix used in high-performance ceramic; a caseband made of Carbon TPT® used in aerospace technology; and a crown shaped like a rocket capsule and surrounded by rubber resembling a Martian rover tyre.
“Creating is about shifting the angle at which we look at things, that’s really the only difference, and with the RM 52-05, we’ve looked at Mars from a different angle, an unexpected first-person point of view. In doing so, we’re breaking the mould. We have the best timekeeper in the world. We have Mars. And we have an African-American man from Virginia, all connected."