In the world of watchmaking, where companies tend to harp on heritage, change can be painfully incremental. So when Cécile Guenat presented a group of timepieces inspired by candy for Richard Mille this past January, the radical move captured the industry’s attention—though the reactions haven’t all been sweet.
Aptly called the Bonbon collection, the 10 models—her first full collection— feature swirly lollipop-inspired lacquered dials, peppermint sticks and fruit chews dotting the faces, and cheerful pastels that bring to mind marshmallow Peeps. The introduction at the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie watch fair in Geneva was jolting, not least because Richard Mille has built a reputation primarily for its macho, technical timepieces, often marked by collaborations with sports stars, such as golfer Bubba Watson, or action heroes like Sylvester Stallone, while even Bonbon’s proprietary and tough Carbon TPT cases are in layered colors reminiscent of Italian rainbow cookies.
Tiny lollipops at the 11 and 1 might not be what old-school watch collectors crave. Some expressed shock; others speculated the watches were meant as a joke. Guenat, one of very few female designers in the business, took it all in stride. “The Richard Mille brand tends to evoke strong responses, both positive and negative,” she says, “and I have to admit, you need to get used to it.” Besides, Guenat told Robb Report, many existing clients were wowed. “I had a feeling they were charmed by the pure playful side of the collection, after seeing so many classical-looking watches in the market,” she says. “They came to us and said, ‘It’s like all the lights finally went on!’”
It’s Guenat who’s having the last laugh: All of the models, limited to 30 pieces each, reportedly sold out within two days of their release to the public. If Bonbon is a taste of what’s to come, Richard Mille may have found its golden goose in Guenat—and changed the face of watchmaking yet again.