By Rebecca Doulton
Tourbillons were one of the star attractions of the SIHH 2015. From ultra-thin tourbillons, skeletonised tourbillons and hidden tourbillions, almost three quarters of the watch brands united in Geneva last week had a whirlwind complication in their collections. But Richard Mille watches takes the prize for having created the first flying tourbillon combined with a flower automaton in this century.
Last week we saw the revival of Jaquet Droz' famous automata as the brand recreated two birds in a nest feeding their chicks. But for somebody like Monsieur Mille, who is renowned for his extremely complicated, high-tech, futuristic timing devices associated with sports titans like Rafa Nadal, to indulge in creating an automaton celebrating nature with flowers is quite a surprise.
In keeping with the flamboyant yet highly technical spirit of the brand, the new Richard Mille 19-02 Tourbillon Fleur is a real show-stopper and recreates a magnolia flower protecting a flying tourbillon - Richard Mille's first flying tourbillon - escapement with five pink-coloured gold petals. The fun really begins, though, when the magnolia flower opens and closes its petals at intervals of five minutes, or on demand using a pusher located at 9 o'clock.
The automaton behind the petal-opening takes the action one step further and the entire flying tourbillon with its ruby-set stamen moves upwards to imitate the natural motion of a flower to increase its chances of pollination. In this case, the one-minute flying tourbillon rises a few millimetres to showcase all of its components.
The tonneau-shaped case, made of three different layers, is a hallmark of Richard Mille watches and houses calibre RM19-02, a manual-winding tourbillon movement with hours, minutes and an automaton mechanism. The Richard Mille 19-02 Tourbillon Fleur is set with diamonds on the bezel, flange and hour dial, which is placed between 12 and 2 o'clock.
Whether or not a tourbillon actually improves the accuracy of a watch is hotly contested among horophiles. But what everybody does agree upon is the aesthetic pleasure of seeing the spinning balance wheel twirl and whirl in rotations of 60 seconds. Especially if you happen to have the 924,000 Swiss francs that this watch, limited to 30 pieces, commands.