Parmigiani Fleurier 2013 novelties: Elite dial making
Parmigiani Fleurier’s SIHH has taken the opposite course of the 2013's trend: the show-off.
By Malik Bahri
SIHH being the high mass of Haute Horlogerie, especially this year, we witnessed an abundance of scenography stands. Hostesses were praising the virtues of ultra-visual complications whereby the regulating organs were evolving all through the case.
When approaching the Parmigiani Fleurier's stand, one could see the contrast set by the muffled atmosphere. Discretion was the day’s motto and visual abundance was rather to be found in its minimalist aspect.
Just as for the SIHH2012, let’s have a look to the highlights of the 2013 edition, rather than going through a fastidious exhaustive review.
The Parmigiani Fleurier Transforma CBF Set
For the uninitiated, just a reminder of the Transforma concept: the case is removable (a watch head, as per the brand denomination) and may be fitted into two types of receptacles: the pocket watch or the wristwatch support.
Until now, the Transforma from Parmigiani Fleurier was thus a watch head and two receptacles. Up till now…
The Parmigiani Fleurier Transforma CBF pushes the design further by adding a second head and an additional container. The third receptacle is a table watch which is indeed a very beautiful watch-winder witch the capacity of welcoming the other four elements of the set:
The pocket support
The wrist support
The annual calendar watch head
The chronograph watch head
In everyday life, it will be useful in winding the annual calendar to the colours of the Confederação Brasileira de Futebol.
The Parmigiani Fleurier Transforma CBF set: wrist watch and pocket watch
This Transforma set is dedicated to the CBF, the manager of the famous Seleção, the most titled soccer national team in the world. Until now, the series dedicated to the CBF was inspired by the Pershing series sports case. However, the classical style of the new case transforms the partnership into a clearly more dressed aspect. This is a quite surprising and praiseworthy choice since it dissolves the cliché of the soccer fan who never wears a suit at work and who wears tracksuits throughout his life and chants in stadiums. Parmigiani Fleurier introduces a watch for the discreet fans of the Brazilian team.
For example, the annual calendar displays the five stars (corresponding to the five World Cup wins) of the CBF’s flag on the moon phase!
The watch uses the PF339 calibre already seen in the Tonda Quator QA. This movement is based on the PF331, the module adds an annual calendar and a retrograde date.
The calibre makes approximately 12’’’ (lignes), that is, 27.1mm for 5.5mm thick. It has a frequency of 28800 vibrations per hour for a 50 hours power reserve, supplied by two barrels. The plus factor of this configuration resides in the fact that it guarantees an optimum couple on the power reserve as a whole.
The Transforma CBF's dial with the colors of Brazil
The pink gold case is 43mm in its biggest diameter. At first glance, the use of pink gold might seem unnecessary since the two steel shafts cover it almost entirely once the watch is cased up.
However, the heart of the piece is not to be found here.
What strikes immediately having the watch in hand is the exceptional quality of the dial’s finish. Of course, details such as the green or yellow hands subtly remind one of the set’s theme; it is however the intensity of the blue colour which remains most memorable.
Apart from the Pershing Abyss below and the famous blue De Bethune obtained following an entirely different technique (oven bluing), the dial of this CBF Seleção is the most beautiful one that has ever decorated a watch.
The Transforma as a pocket watch
According to light intensity, it oscillates between magenta and midnight blue without being aggressive; it is the embodiment of a purity and smoothness never seen before. The other «watch head» of the box set is a chronograph with a 43 mm carbon case. The atmosphere is here very different and much more sportive than on the annual calendar.
The movement is the PF 334, 13’’’1/4 (30mm) for 6.8mm in height. It also runs at 28800 vibrations per hour for 50 hours power reserve, once again ensured by two barrels. Having a module, it is extraordinarily fitted, with 68 rubies.
This price of the box set is 56900€, which is reasonable for an annual calendar and an Haute Horlogerie chronograph, accompanied by all the necessary accessories …
The Parmigiani Fleurier Transforma CBF on the wrist
The new Pershing Tourbillon Abyss
Another watch equipped with a one-of-a-kind blue dial is the Pershing Tourbillon Abyss.
Nowadays, the watch market of more than 20k€ is divided in several categories, which can be classified into two customers groups.
Watches for the well-informed, who join traditional and independent Haute Horlogerie. Most of the time, the brand’s name makes itself discreet to leave complications, finishes and tradition in the spotlight.
The «Show Off» watches, which join average brand-name watches, strongly set, and the very distinctive «Jet Set» watches. The finishes and beautiful watchmaking leave the stage to a maximum amount of show-off: name in bold, gleaming stones, emblematic design.
Until now, the attempts in reconciling traditional Haute Horlogerie and « show-off» have not been very numerous, but with the advent of the Pershing Tourbillon Abyss, Parmigiani Fleurier registers itself in this niche.
Parmigiani Fleurier Pershing Tourbillon Abyss
The Tourbillon Abyss is in fact covered with the imposing titanium 45mm case from the Pershing series, water resistant to 100m; even if 300m would have been preferable for such a sportive watch. An impressive pink gold bezel is on top of the case. The horns are prominent and when one is having a drink at a luxury hotel in Monaco, the watch will not lose face in front of a ROO, a Big Bang and the likes. The titanium ensures comfort. Whether we like it or not, this very distinctive case is the main characteristic of this style exercise.
What makes the dial even more impressive is that it steals the spotlight from the tourbillon which is a rare (or even unique ?) feat !!! The «wave» finishes calling upon two levels of blue are astounding, magic, and with as much varieties of reflections that can exist in lighting conditions.
Parmigiani Fleurier Pershing Tourbillon Abyss
In the context of pure texture, the annual calendar’s powder is slightly overboard; here, the brushing hardens somewhat the light, but the waves are just fa-bu-lous since they make everything that one may have seen pertaining to this theme simply obsolete !
However, the fact that the escapement is eventually side-lined becomes problematic; and yet, it is an Haute Horlogerie tourbillon (the use of this term pertaining to Parmigiani is not demeaning). At the 12 o’clock position one can identify the power reserve hand, graduated up to the 7 o’clock position and at the 6 o’clock position is the tourbillon.
Back of the Pershing Abyss' case
The watch is clocked at 21600 vha, has a 168h power reserve and performs a rotation in 30 seconds.
The case housing the calibre measures 15’’’ in width for 5.55mm in height, with 30 rubies. Those are particularly unusual dimensions, the world seeming to be divided among the 11, 13 and 17’ calibres…
The finish, the tourbillon’s bridge in particular, is of high quality, the blued silicon of the escape wheel is quite magical in the marine context of the piece.
This hybrid watch is a great success as making it a true mission to increase the general level of watchmaking is important, even at the wrist of the most uninitiated!
The new Parmigiani Pershing Abyss on the wrist
The Parmigiani Fleurier 15 days Clock Blue Note
Another piece equipped with the exceptional «blue dial» is the marquetry 15 days Clock. Yes, Parmigiani manufactures a table clock.
In wristwatches’ universe, it is always slightly off-beat to manufacture a beautiful table watch. Generally, only the most prestigious Swiss firms launch themselves into such an exercise.
A clock’s large volumes and surfaces give leeway to creative liberties, which cannot even be imagined in a wristwatch.
Parmigiani Fleurier 15 Days Clock Blue Note and its exceptional dial
This type of piece has marked out the watchmaking pathway of Michel Parmigiani. In the 70s, students from watchmaking schools were working on school clocks very close centering-wise. In the last decade of the 20th Century, when Michel Parmigiani moved from restoration to the manufacture of modern pieces, his first creations were small clocks. Manufacturing table clocks has become of one the hearts of jobs of PF, just as recently illustrated by Cat and Mouse, The Dragon & the Pearl of Wisdom and the brand new The Falcon and the Bustard (included in the family named Pieces of Exception).
The Parmigiani Fleurier 15 Days Clock Blue Noteowns a mass volume close to that of water. The rhodium-plated sterling silver case and the spaces between the glasses and the movements have compensated the calibre’s weight and its heavy barrel’s.
This mass (around one kilo) is equally useful for stabilizing the piece while being wound up. In general, particular attention is given to the user’s sensations, which are well present: it is quite heavy and one requires some strength to wind the barrel, so that the experience of the bi-monthly winding is as amazing as ever.
Focus on the in house calibre
The advantage is that its low frequency of 18000 vibrations per hour and its big barrel compose a perfect tuning-fork clock.
The manufacturing of such a table clock takes about four months, counting the accumulated working hours. The pressing and finishing operations are distributed among the exterior craftsmen and the firms of the Parmigiani Fleurier industry, namely the Manufacture Horlogère de la Fondation (MHF). The metallic elements are first machined and decorated; then, they go through several treatments, in particular an electrochemical polishing.
The decoration is exceptional. The unusual scale of the finishes disturbs the finishers. Even the supposedly simplest finishes, such as basic anglings, are in fact more complicated due to two factors: on the one hand, it is very delicate to perfectly angle on large surfaces and on the other hand, this work requires a craftsmanship and endangered boxwood buff wheels.
Once the pieces are completed, the next step is the assembly and the exquisite development of the powerful energy system. This work is fully assured by one and only one watchmaker, who will take two weeks to assemble its clock. At the technical as well as security level, the challenge is the big barrel assembly.
Focus on the 15 days Clock calibre
It has to be admitted that generally, watchmaking is not a risky profession. The pieces are light, the rare machines are small and harmless and Val de Travers (Fleurier’s lies) is one of the safest places on earth; it is unlikely that one will be attacked by a hooded buff at a red light.
As a precaution against accidents, the movement has been equipped with a technology typical of the 21st Century: a barrel flanging system through a Geneva drive allowing it to progressively unwind.
This Geneva drive has many tricks up its sleeve: obviously it ensures the increase in chronometrical performances while guaranteeing the arrival of controlled energy.
However, its most important asset resides in the fact that it paved the way for the development of a new power reserve system display as exclusive through its technical procedure as through the positioning of its four hands. Spider hands overlap the barrel cylinder to allow the power reserve to be visible whatever the angle.
The result is paradoxical since Parmigiani has designed a complex, exclusive and patented system (composed of 13 pieces for the whole of the spider hands) to obtain the simplest power reserve display!
Zoom on the Parmigiani's patented system
To ensure utmost precision of the ancient architecture clock, the Geneva drive regulation system has been lined with a constant force escapement system. Well-trained eyes will see a second balance-spring on top of the escape wheel.
To sum it up, it is a technical feat, which consists of making steam engine function with the punctuality of a TGV.
This version, dedicated to music (Parmigiani is in partnership with the Montreux Jazz Festival), has been ornamented with a representation of musical instruments in Pietr Mondrian’s style, famous for being one of the pioneers of abstraction. Marquetry consists of assembling pieces of natural or stained wood veneer to obtain motifs. Each piece is cut and stained individually before being assembled; a task as precise as the assembly of a watch movement!
Back of the Parmigiani 15 days Clock
The Parmigiani Fleurier Toric Tecnica Minos
The SIHH2013 has been the opportunity for many prestigious companies to introduce quite innovative great complications, with the three-dimensional escapement being the central theme. However, Parmigiani Fleurier has secretly introduced a more-than-classical great complication watch: the Toric Minos.
This watch will however only be on display since it had been a custom order and is thus already sold. It is marvelous as much for its technicality as for its aesthetics.
Let’s focus on the technique first. Being a great complication, it combines:
A minute repeater.
A perpetual calendar
A tourbillon (even if it is not exactly a complication)
A power reserve display
Parmigiani Fleurier Toric Tecnica Minos is a custom order
At the 12 o’clock position, the watch displays the date and the power reserve. The day of the week is displayed at the 3 o’clock position and the date at the 9 o’clock position. As for the tourbillon at the 6 o’clock position, it rotates in 30 seconds.
The movement measures 13 lignes for 12.3mm width. Its frequency is 21600 beat per hour for a 43 hours power reserve.
The dial’s finishes are part of the elements contributing to making this watch extraordinary. For example, the dial embodies the labyrinth of the mythological Minotaur. The maze walls are in locked polished white gold, a contrast with the ground made in sanded white gold. The edges of the Perpetual Calendar indicators are made in satiny pink gold.
The combinations of contrasts among these elements make up an exceptional visual with the dial shimmering under the light and the amazing tourbillon are a true pleasure for the eyes. One of the greatest dial ever produced !
Zoom on the dial of the Toric Tecnica Minos
For the movement’s part, the «labyrinth» motif is slightly less demonstrative, but usually one will be absorbed by the hammers’ repetition work. The sound is both clear and musical and the volume is quite correct.
Using gold for the case turns out to be not quite penalizing as it would first seem. In fact, the metal’s density is not the only factor affecting the resounding vibration. The other factor concerns the essence of the alloy, which ensures a good sound diffusion: the pink gold consists of copper as well, metal equally adapted to resonance.
The back of the Toric Minos engraved with the mythical labyrinth
Moreover, an interior milling ensures the hollowing out of matter on the inside of the case, to further improve resonance…
The demarcating line between this watch and other watches of great complications is that it perfectly fits one’s wrist. Everything is just fine when you wear this watch from the case’s dimensions to the labyrinth decoration, which extends up to the middle.
Parmigiani Fleurier Toric Minos zoom on the dial
As for the dimensions, the two glass sapphires are ultra-fine because the watch is only 13.2mm thick for 45mm wide. Despite its dimensions, it perfectly fits one’s wrist!
A homogeneous, equilibrated, complete piece, which above all is equipped with a fabulous dial!
This SIHH2013 was for Parmigiani undoubtedly a power display of Quadrance (the dial manufacturer of MHF) finishing work as well as the workshop Haute Horlogerie of Parmigiani Fleurier. While others are favoring sensationalism, the Fleurier firm stays connected to continuity and perpetuate horology history through a contemporary prism. A firm which prefers interacting with informed watchmakers over «prestigious» brands’ zealots.