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This week, Richard Mille announced a limited-edition collection of 30 timepieces in collaboration with Paris-based artist Cyril Phan—widely known as “Cyril Kongo.” The RM 68-01 Tourbillon Cyril Kongo watch has turned a timepiece into a true work of art for the wrist, and, according to Kongo, took quite some time to create, too.
“I come from graffiti. All my work originates there. It was my school for painting, I learned in the street. I need to remain in touch with that world while at the same time looking at what’s happening elsewhere,” said Kong. “Graffiti is a language with its own codes, a form of writing, whether this be on a gigantic wall, on canvas, or any other surface. I am not a painter bound to a single space, nor to any particular surface.”
After 20 years in the graffiti MAC CREW collective, and working on large-scale murals and fresco-inspired pieces, he took to micro-spray painting tools to create 30 unique watches with one-of-a-kind hand-painted parts, each colored with his personal touch. Black ceramic bezels encase an asymmetric house, as the thickness from nine to three o’clock, and from 12 to six o’clock, tapers off in differing directions.
“It took the development of special tools, and over a year of experimentation for me to be capable of painting on a watch some five centimeters square,” said Kongo. “Certain pieces were barely a few millimeters long, some even smaller, and I had to put the lettering directly on them—enough for visual effect but without using much paint so as to avoid throwing off the balance of the movement. It’s as though, starting from a complete automobile, I had to paint the chassis, the engine, each piston, etc.”
With this collection, out next month, visual art and 21st century watchmaking are seen in new light—an exuberant, colorful, and unique light at that.