[SIHH 2012] Parmigiani Fleurier Novelties
The Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda 1950 fits into a big trend of the Sinophile watchmaking; the (colossal) Chinese market is fond of plain Hours-minute-second with a classic diameter. Yet, in this field, there were a tremendous number of reissues of pieces from the 50’-60’s; many brands merely reproduced these codes without the era’s magic. However, certain brands, like Lange & Söhne or Vacheron Constantin, make very fine things in this vein.
Parmigiani recently took up the Quest for the Bauhaus’ horologic Grail: the quintessential horologic layout.
Minimalism is too often mistaken for dullness and the functionalism for the banality.
If making a white classic 3 hands is easy, it is a bit, or even a hunk more difficult in black…
Many brands make (or subcontract) superb powdered or grained silver;
They produce « liquid-paint » enamellings (©www.Watchonista.com), eggshell whites, “Silver-Surfer” silvers, more than perfect whites…. In short, some fine white which conveys quality.
But regarding the black, it is despairing. Dull colors, light sinks, corny textures on a B-uhr made by a “little” German, the final result is poor in terms of quality.
Weak product management? Lazy suppliers? Color more difficult to master?
With this Tonda 1950, Parmigiani Fleurier demonstrates that it is possible to achieve a beautiful black.
This Tonda’s black is surprisingly powdered/shimmering/eggshell (just wear the watch, you will understand).
For the lovers of more sportive watch (without white dial), it is bliss.
Because the vivacity of the dial’s black combines with the distinctive PF lugs and the sharp hands, to produce a very dynamic look.
As a result, the watch seems larger than the advertized 39mm… Still in this idea of “perceived quality”, the brand name circled in gold combined with the narrow indicators complete the effect.
Even if the white Tonda 1950 is a success, it is with the black version that Quadrance (PF’s dial department) demonstrates its Know-how. Sportive, dressy, neo-classic, it is an achievement.
Nowadays there is a crack in the very high-end watchmaking, between sports-chic (Royal Oak, Overseas, Nautilus…) and classic dressy watches.
This distinction was created by some big wigs of the Helvetian design, such as the late Gerald Genta.
And since the 70’s, the design of high end classic watchmaking collections almost hasn’t evolved aesthetically.
But nowadays, Parmigiani Fleurier punches a hole in the establishment of the high end dressy watches, by modernizing the classic codes. Hence, the movement of the “Tonda Retrograde Calendrier Annuel”, completely designed, assembled and finished in the Parmigiani-Fleurier manufactory, represents the horologic “swissness” pinnacle.
The annual calendar movement is of course automatic, to allow the use of a watch winder Even if the circular-graining of the 22K gold balance is superb, one could almost regret that it blocks the light which perfectly enhances the subtle Côtes de Genève and beveling. The dial is a surprise: a neo-classic design featuring grainy silver at the center and powdery at the periphery; you will notice the many details, especially the PF logo circled with gold.
But the centerpiece is of course the Grande date, indicated by a retrograde hand instead of an aperture.
The day is indicated at 9 o’clock and the month at 3 o’clock, when the moon phase for the Northern and Southern hemisphere sit at 6 o’clock. This super-accurate complication only has to be adjusted every 120 years.
The watchcase is 40mm across, but the exclusive and dynamic lugs, together with the Hermes wide alligator sports wristband make it look like a 42mm.
The bet on the Tonda line seems to be worthwhile for Parmigiani: that of having the Swiss conservatism evolve while keeping with the tradition. It is not really a novelty, but this watch is rare and interesting enough for us to dwell upon, lengthily!
In 2004, Parmigiani presented the Bugatti Type 370 (which is the top speed in Km/h of the first Veyron), featuring a first: a movement with a transverse architecture, just like a super car engine block.
While the actual trend is to produce movements as large and as flat as possible, PF did the exact opposite: a movement as small and as thick as possible, in order to fit it transversely in a watch case which is reminiscent of the hoods of the Bugatti from the 30's, such as the famous "Type 35" and "Type 41”.
In order to satisfy the increasing market and to pay an ultimate tribute to the Bugatti Veyron, the most mythical Super car from the 2000's, PF just presented the "Super Sport", dedicated to the limited eponymous edition of the Veyron. Rather than perform a makeover on the "Type 370" with orange and black, the brand of Fleurier proposes an entirely different watch. It keeps the lateral display, so useful to tell time without having to let go of the wheel.
Thus, the caliber and the watch case of the "Super Sport" are completely new.
While the 370 paid a tribute to the classic Bugatti's front part, the Super Sport is still a tribute to the case that contains the Bugatti's engine, but this time with the Alsatian intergalactic fighter's rear part as an inspiration.
The bow is curved like a raindrop, the most aerodynamic natural shape. As a coincidence, the typical wing shaped case lugs of Parmigiani are reminiscent of the Bugatti Super sport's rear part, thus, multiple aesthetical references.
The watch is as unusual in its dimensions as it is in the way it feels on the wrist. One finds again the sensations experienced with the "Type 370". It is such a surprising and innovative watch in the way it displays the hour, that wearing it is more indispensable than ever. The crowning touch is that the astonishing work performed on the movement, with its bridges and plates with "Black Gold" colored Côtes de Genève, is visible through six sapphire crystals: the contrast with the white gold case is stunning. Therefore, like the two Veyron Super Sport's coupled V8, one can see two barrels that provide a 10-day power reserve (circular graduated scale displayed on top of the watch).
The watch is manually wound through a dynamometric crown, which retracts with simple pressure.
With the Bugatti series, Parmigiani signs one of the most successful partnership of the motor sports world, by producing an elitist and groundbreaking watch, all the way through to the architecture of its engine.
A piece worthy of the independent high-end watch making's most original creations.
The photograph, bending under the weight of his camera, his eyes blinded by the flashes, sometimes reaches a level of exhaustion almost hallucinatory. To be honest, the first time I saw this Tranforma Rivage Chronograph, I thought it was a mistake. In the flow of dressy neo-classic watches of PF, this watch looks like a UHO, as if Mercedes-Benz produced a G Class ;). At first, one could think that a specialist of aerospace/professional/adventure watches, like Sinn or Fortis, had lost their way in the Vallee de Fleurier rather than in the Guangzhou valley.
Then, when one looks at the details, it is obviously Fleurier's quality: it is beautiful, it is very well finished, but most of all, it does not lapse into the technical pedantic arrogance. Joy, happiness.
Regarding the caliber, it is far from a 7750 with a dubious pedigree: the watch is powered by the PF334, 50h power reserve, 28800v/h (but with a display "divided" by 2, (down to 1/4th of a second instead of 1/8th), 68 jewels, with an overall Fleurier quality. In fact, the chronograph is 43mm across with a large aperture. The external case is made of titanium, while the internal case is made of woven carbon fiber (because of this Transform-ability, the watch is waterproof up to 30m only, versatility opposed to water resistance, it is a matter of choice !)
Yes: the internal case. Because the watch is "convertible", it can be fitted in the titanium wrist frame as well as in a steel pocket watch case. The chronograph's secondary dials are also made of carbon fiber while the main dial is made of graphite, to stay within the realm of carbon. The light effects are magnificent and highlight the stylized map of the globe. While you got the explanation for "Transforma", you are still missing the one for "Rivage": it is a limited edition watch (100 copies), an homage to the Swiss sailor Bernard Stamm, whose new boat is made of carbon fiber.
Let's hope that this success will be the inspiration for a new line at PF, as much as this aerospace/adventure style is despised by the great brands, wrongly so.
At SIHH 2010, there was this magnificent piece from Vardon & Stedman brothers, an oval shaped pocket watch!
It was exceptional because it featured telescopic hands that retract following the railway’s curvature, a display that is a feat dating more than 200 years and was never reissued in the same way.
When I saw this watch, I tried to find any modernized version on the net. Nothing! It is one of these moments when you wish you were a watchmaker! Two years later, Parmigiani proposes a veritable tribute to this pocket watch, the Toric Ovale; PF creates a watch that does more than mimicking the original design, it reproduces the complication altogether!
It is also one of the most thoroughly shaped watches, as it features an oval shape down to the tip of its hands.
The hands retract at 3 and 9 o’clock and extend at 12 and 6 o’clock. For the large hand lovers, it is rapture: not only are they large, they grow even larger!
Based on its Vaucher/PF110 caliber (8 days Power reserve, set at 21600v/h), the Toric Ovale encloses the PF114 shape movement, (8 days Power reserve as well), which features a chiseled floral ornament.
The display complication that pulls or pushes on the hands in order to alter their length is relatively thick, which is noticeable on the Power Reserve and Date apertures’ bezels, respectively sitting at 12 and 6 o’clock.
To stay in the realm of the dream, one could imagine, in the future, a "Grande seconde" that would follow the same elliptical curve.
Of course, in watchmaking, technique is nothing if not served by a flawless design. The watch is an absolute aesthetic achievement; a single criticism though, the aperture that shows the movement on the back of the case is vaguely potato-shaped, when one could have expected it to be fully oval … To achieve an oval watch is always a challenge, because supermarket watches sometimes sullied this shape, a little kitsch… In this case, the watch is beautiful, as it takes after the Bauhaus, the Art Deco (a fundamental influence at PF). The lugs designed by the brand from Fleurier never fit better than on shaped cases, akin to the Bugatti Super Sport (the watch); they perfectly suit the offbeat case design.
As you can see on the wrist shot, it is rather a Dandy’s watch; the lugs are tapered at the level of the spring bars, to follow the case’s curvature. With regards to the dial and the hands, it is a real surprise: the indexes are a reminder of the famous Panerai’s «sandwich dial», and provide a quite adaptable sporty look to the watch.
With the «Grand feu » enameling finish, one obviously stays in the realm of chic. Akin to the indexes, the extendable hands are blue, the color of oven treated titanium, a highly complex technique mastered by few.
Now that this technique is acquired, I want to see some future Parmigiani featuring blued titanium dial…
The oval is pervasive on the watch, from the hand’s tip to the lugs, as well as through the numbers, the watch benefits from a hard-liner geometry. One could almost regret that the oval balance has not yet been invented!
Chinese market my love. China is obviously the new Sinorado of the Helvetian watchmaking.
And this year is The year of the Dragon.
The Dragon is a fabulous creature, more than in any other mythology, in that it borrows from the camel, the tiger, the eagle and the demon, as well as other creatures.
The "Dragon" clock by Parmigiani is based on the "Le chat et la souris" mechanism. "Le chat et la souris" was extremely sober, as it borrowed a lot to Art deco with an asserted minimalism.
If the profusion of precious material could make the clock look heavy, but the dynamism of the clock remains, the dragon's posture is energetic and it looks absolutely ferocious.
It runs behind the pearl of knowledge with as much energy as the cat ran after the mouse.
The dragon's body is made of gold and silver. The scales are made of jade, 585 pieces fitted depending on their color in order to produce a shaded effect. The eyes are made of ruby, the tongue is carved in cornelian and the claws are made of white gold. The pearl of knowledge is set with diamonds, sapphires and rubies.
Of course, the dragon stays with all the traditional Chinese mythology codes, as it is also the case for the characters, displayed on the base made of rock crystal. Following the tradition, each of these characters represent 2 hours in base six. The pearl of knowledge jumps 6 times per hour, while the dragon does the same once over the same period; Of course, it takes enormous amounts of power to move this mass of precious materials.
If the theme borrows a lot from Chinese mythology, it is also the case for the making.
Like the Dragon, which is a mosaic of animals, the clock is a mosaic of artwork.
Rather than an exclusive presentation, I chose to dwell upon the finest pieces of PF, because the most surprising feature of the brand from Fleurier is variety.
While many brands specialize in a single product, PF does the exact opposite, from the neo-classic watch, to the style of independent watchmakers, from the sports watch with Grande Complication to the clock worthy of the Guinness book.
Parmigiani is not entangled in an heritage, this young brand has still everything to play for, and that’s its strength.