“Working with Richard Mille provided an opportunity to go where no one else has ever gone before,” Pharrell Williams said via a press release announcing his new collaborative watch. And what unexplored frontier was the musician speaking of? The bottom of the sea, where he sources plastic for his Parley for the Oceans collections? A place where Daft Punk appears sans helmets?? An affordable hotel in Monaco??? Actually: “Mars,” Pharrell says. Today, the GQ cover star announced the RM 52-05, a watch limited to only 30 pieces that costs a number you must be sitting down to read. Are you sitting? OK, it’s $96—I swear to God, sit down. It’s...$969,000.
The RM 52-05 is made in typical Richard Mille fashion: it’s got a tonneau- (barrel) shaped case; it’s comprised of precious materials like red gold, cermet (a combination of ceramic and metal), white gold set with diamonds, and titanium; and advanced machinery like the tourbillon sits at the bottom of the watch. What you’ll notice immediately is the astronaut staring back at you from the watch—but what takes a second to sink in is what’s reflected in their visor. The watch depicts an astronaut safely standing on Mars, looking out across its surface, and staring back at our Earth. “A viewpoint expressing one of Pharrell Williams’ dreams,” the press release reads.
A collaboration between Pharrell and Richard Mille, who the singer calls the “Timepiece Supreme Creator,” has been a long time coming. Always an early adopter, Pharrell first shouted out RM on the 2006 song “Can I Have It Like That.” He’s also worn several Richard Mille watches over the years, including the 70-01 and the 25-01.
Pharrell says the design was inspired by his longtime love of space, and his memory of the Mariner 9 “space probe” that orbited Mars when he was young. He’s determined to complete that Mars mission—even if it is through a watch. “Creating is about shifting the angle at which we look at things, that’s really the only difference, and with the RM 52-05, we’ve looked at Mars from a different angle, an unexpected first-person point of view. In doing so, we’re breaking the mold.”
Also breaking the mold: working with a musician on an almost-million-dollar watch. Over the past decade, collaborations have become the most prominent way for brands to scrape together excitement and hype around a new release. An Air Force 1 is cool; an Air Force 1 designed by Travis Scott is one of the most in-demand shoes of the year. Puma was doing, uh, okay; Rihanna came on as creative director and super-charged the business. But rarely do we see these types of collaborations in the watch world. where the prices are higher and consumers are swayed more by tradition than pure hype. That shift is happening ever so slightly, though. Although not a true collaboration, a Rolex Daytona reference 116508 with a green dial has rocketed up in value on the strength of a John Mayer co-sign. Richard Mille has been banging this drum for some time: the brand’s worked with actors like Jackie Chan and Sylvester Stallone in the past. Will Pharrell be enough to move 30 $969,000 watches?
Pharrell mentions he first got into Richard Mille watches in the mid-2000s because they were “just like a breath of fresh air, in a category that was stagnant.” Releasing a watch co-designed by Pharrell that shows an astronaut peering down on Earth from Mars is certainly enough to shake things up.
Originally Appeared on GQ