Time-Honoured Horology: Inside Richard Mille's Exquisite New Bonbon Collection

BY Harper's BAZAAR Arabia / May 20 2019 / 15:35 PM

Amanda Mille, head of clientele at Richard Mille and eldest child of the eponymous brand’s founder, reveals the watchmaker’s feminine side in the delectable new Bonbon collection

Time-Honoured Horology: Inside Richard Mille's Exquisite New Bonbon Collection

Having moved to Dubai some five years ago, Amanda Mille is well-versed in the tastes of the Middle East female watch market. “Many of the ladies here are now my closest friends,” Amanda shares, “so, I’ve been very lucky to get their amazing feedback about what they want from a timepiece. And this is that they didn’t want a watch to lose any of its technicity — but that, until now, the colour had definitely been missing.” Enter Richard Mille’s Bonbon collection, the latest line unveiled at this year’s Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie in January.

Playful aesthetics meet haute horology with six candy-adorned Fruit models replete with eye-popping colours on Carbon TPT and Quartz TPT cases, and four Sweets pieces in two-tone ceramic cases decorated with either grand feu enamel or black-chromed titanium confections. The model of the exclusive 10-piece collection is produced in a limited edition of 30 pieces and each encases a highly complicated, no-nonsense Richard Mille movement.

RM 37-01 Automatic Kiwi from Richard Mille

While the collection includes the unisex RM 16-01, as a whole it is an enthusiastic nod towards the buying patterns of their rapidly growing female market — particularly the RM 07-03 and RM 37-01 models. “The 07 collection is usually the first choice while they get to know the brand and feel comfortable with it,” Amanda explains. “Then, as they become more confident, they go for a slightly bigger model such as the 037,” Amanda admits that until recently, this female client base was a challenge to reach. “We didn’t have the right way of talking to these ladies at the beginning,” she recalls. “Maybe it’s because there were so many men at the company and they didn’t really know how to approach them.” This rapidly changed following Amanda’s appointment as the brand’s head of clientele and that of Cécile Guenat — daughter of Richard Mille’s business partner Dominique Guenat — as artistic director.

Together, the pair is driving the watchmaker’s feminine side, with Cécile heavily involved with last year’s launch of the RM 71-01 Automatic Tourbillon Talisman: Richard Mille’s first in-house automatic tourbillon movement housed within a diamond-encrusted women’s watch. “Cécile has been working really hard on these collections, and at the same time I have been around these women in the Middle East,” says Amanda. “So, it’s been an amazing opportunity being part of all these new projects and adding our spices to them.”

RM 07-03 Automatic Marshmallow from Richard Mille

Some of these point to Cécile’s own background as a formally trained jeweller. Twists on classic jewellery techniques are seen throughout the Bonbon collection, from dials featuring swirled enamelled marshmallows to hand-painted miniature candies, complete with a textured sugar-coated effect. For Amanda, these touches all contribute to Bonbon’s key messages: “freshness, happiness and a bit of crazy.” The change that Amanda has spotted amongst female collectors themselves is simple. “Power,” she says. “If you look back even just a few years, the gentlemen were buying the watches for their wives. Today, the mindset has really changed, and we are having ladies coming to the boutique to buy their own timepiece. They want to make a statement.” And so, Amanda pays close attention to the needs of these women, with comfort remaining key. “All pieces made with ceramic work well,” she explains. “Especially in the Middle East, as it was very easy to use and clean. And it’s scratch resistant — ideal for wearing on a daily basis.”

Above all, Amanda wants each client to feel relaxed when buying a Richard Mille timepiece, particularly their first. “They need to take their time when buying that first piece – it’s the most important. And we also need to take time for them, to make sure they leave with the right watch on their wrist.”

Established by her father in 1999, Amanda revels in the creative freedom of being a newer and independent brand. She ascertains that there is a clear distinction between Richard Mille and other longer-established watchmakers, with the latter frequently returning to past 20th century collections for modern-day reinterpretation. “We are not really following a previous generation, and so far we have been very lucky as people have been following us instead,” Amanda reflects. “We have always thought outside the box and created our own trends.” This independent spirit matches the mood of Richard Mille’s clientele. “They are not normal people. They don’t care what people think,” says Amanda.

Nowhere was this more apparent than in the female reception to the Bonbon collection when it landed in its burst of Willy Wonkaesque eccentricity at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie in January. “Its colours were new and we could see them returning again and again because it made them happy,” Amanda smiles. “They will pick whatever makes them feel comfortable because we all know — at the end of the day — women do what they want.”

From the May 2019 issue of Harper's Bazaar Arabia