The Italian art and architecture movement founded by Ettore Sottssas fuses geometric Art Deco style with a fizzy Pop-Art sensibility. Memphis design is experiencing something of a renaissance after a group of designers under the umbrella name Memphis Milano revived the aesthetic for a collection of objects and furniture at last year’s Triennale Milano Richard Mille RM 07-01 Automatic Coloured Ceramics.
“I find Memphis design particularly fascinating in its diversity and freedom,” said Cécile Guenat, creative and development director at Richard Mille in a news release. “The creator’s goal at the time was to escape the strictures of Modernist aesthetics, and they were pioneers in the use of all types of materials through their designs.”
Guenat is a master at infusing the brand’s highly technical watchmaking with a sense of fun and lightheartedness expressed through colorful materials and whimsical design, demonstrated before with the Bon Bon collection and Smiley Tourbillon. It’s quite a feat in watches that run hundreds of thousands of dollars. Guenat selected three summery colors— Richard Mille RM 07-01 Automatic Coloured Ceramics blush pink, lavender, and powder blue—for the brand’s signature tonneau cases constructed from Tetragonal Zirconia Polycrystal (TZP) ceramic. The robust material, which is used for the bezel and case back, is not only ultralight and extremely durable with a hardness of 1,400 Vickers, it also retains its color over long periods of time without fading.
The colorful, scratch-resistant bezels and case backs are connected by micro-blasted white gold case bands accented with polished pillars. The three-part case design is water resistant to 50 meters. Complementary varnished calfskin straps complete the look.
Each case protects the skeletonized, automatic-winding CRMA2 movement with bridges and base plates in micro-blasted grade-5 titanium with an electro-plasma treatment.
Despite the pretty colors the CRMA2 is far from delicate. It’s built for action and is equipped with the brand’s variable geometry rotor in 5N 18-karat red gold that adapts the winding of the watch to the wearer’s activity and generates a power reserve of about 50 hours.
The contemporary guilloché-engraved linear Memphis motifs are showcased on gray PVD-treated, open-worked red gold dials and embellished with additional Memphis accents in colored ceramic, laser-cut rubber appliques, and diamond-set elements.
“At the heart of the design process for this collection was the idea of juxtaposing colors in materials,” Guenat adds. “Then we enriched this work by weaving inside the ancient craft of guillochage. This creates a symbiosis of the ultra-modern and the traditional in watchmaking.”
Richard Mille has just released three new Memphis-inspired variants of the Richard Mille RM 07-01 Automatic Coloured Ceramics in colored ceramic to officially close out summer. Or, if you’re an actual RM client, to get you in the mood for your tropical winter vacation later this year in Mustique or St. Barts or wherever the beautiful people go.
Memphis was a school of ’80s Italian design founded by Ettore Sottsass, and it’s had a hardcore resurgence in the past few years thanks to Instagram and the Ultrafragola selfie mirror at Opening Ceremony on Howard St. (RIP). It’s graphic and colorful and sort of haphazard.
This capsule collection of RM 07-01 watches comes in very Memphis-inspired colors: powder blue, blush pink, and lavender pink. The high-performance ceramic cases are made from TZP (or Tetragonal Zirconia Polycrystal – like you’d ever need to remember that), which is a biocompatible ceramic. Its properties include corrosion resistance, increased hardness providing scratch resistance (1,400 Vickers), and toughness superior to sapphire. Just a note to say that I love nothing more than nerdy tech specs when it comes to women’s watches. Rejoice.