Parmigiani Fleurier Tondagraphe - Complex simplicity for the cognoscenti
By Angus Davies for Parmigiani Fleurier.
New found wealth can sometimes lead the foolish into conspicuous consumption with no modicum of restraint. Some, with readily amassed pecuniary means, will make questionable purchasing decisions, embracing the vulgar and acquiring the grotesque.
Indeed, in the hands of the naive, good taste and wealth can prove to be uneasy bedfellows. As education permeates the psyche of the misguided, discerning selection improves and fewer mistakes ensue.
Items selected with wisdom should have intrinsic worth. They should comprise of constituent elements which synergistically fuse into an ensemble of excellence. A prudent purchase will retain relevance, despite the onset of years and its appeal should remain unabated irrespective of the subsequent period it finds itself within. Those who successfully attain this goal can look forward to the long term pleasure of ownership, safe in the knowledge that post-purchase dissonance will not rear its ugly head.
Recently I cosseted a sublime timepiece at the L’Atelier Parmigiani, located on London’s prestigious Mount Street. I placed the Tondagraphe on my welcoming wrist. Here was a watch which harnessed a profusion of virtues, made without any sign of compromise and imparting time with clarity and grace. Moreover, there was a distinct absence of brash showmanship. Instead, the timepiece was a subtle exhibition of elevated watchmaking prowess.
The hours and minutes are conveyed with rose gold hands, lined with luminescent coating. They convey time with eloquence, clearly imparting information with their highly legible lines.
The dial is presented in a sultry black hue, although, a chaste virgin variant in white is available. It is the black version which caught my attention in London and seduced my eyes with its beguiling appearance.
Arabic numerals convey the hours. They are white gold and applied to the dial, standing proud and proffering a three dimensional allure. The font chosen has subtle serifs and does not appear excessively married to one period, helping the watch remain unsullied by the fickle fate of fashion.
The central area of the dial is snailed and provides a comely canvas on which to present the various functions of the watch.
At 3 o’clock a 30-minute chronograph counter features. It is framed with a white gold circlet, neatly marked with black strokes. The inner area of the subdial is presented in black with Arabic numerals located at each 10-minute integer.
Located opposite the 30-minute chronograph counter is a subsidiary seconds display. It is smaller in scale but echoes the design language of its larger sibling save for using a rose gold hand rather than a white gold version.
At the southern aspect of the dial is the tourbillon. It encourages eyes to admire the screwed balance wheel, oscillating to and fro. The regulating organ revolves on its axis every 60 seconds. It appears to embrace the world with its naked, lustrous limbs. Indeed, the tourbillon has an organic-like character, breathing and pulsing with life.
The two tourbillon bridges require 20 hours of patient polishing and the cage nearly 40 hours. There is no evidence of expedience, everything is distilled to perfection. Compromise is not part of the lexicon employed by the artisans who work at the maison in Fleurier.
Adjacent the whirlwind, overlapping circles can be seen. Horological voyeurs will appreciate this view of the perlage visible on the exposed mainplate. It further exhibits the matchless finissage within the case and connects the wearer with the engine which drives this powerful example of high-end watchmaking.
Beneath noon a power reserve indicator resides. Its arc-like scale shows the energy stored within the spring barrel, courtesy of a rose gold hand. Underneath the power reserve indicator, a near-facsimile of the tourbillon cage is presented. Residing below the beautiful bridges is the barrel cover, charmingly decorated with perlage.
The craftsmanship exampled on the dial is an object lesson in no-compromise rarefied watch fabrication.
Parmigiani Fleurier have avoided excessively oversized archietecture. The diameter of the case is 43 mm and the height is 13.3 mm. In recent years the popularity of oversized watches has increased. However, I do anticipate that at some point in the future this trend will change. The beauty of this particular watch is that its proportions are neither too large nor too small, sidestepping the intrinsic obsolecence of some behemoth watches.
The articulated lug design, seen on other Parmigiani Fleurier models, is repeated on the Tondagraphe. Indeed, they have become synonymous with Parmigiani Fleurier timepieces. It is a design aspect which is particularly attractive and allows the strap to readily envelope the arm with a comfortable embrace.
An exhibition caseback allows the wearer to experience each facet of the finely executed movement. This watch is like a fine wine, it shouldn’t be quaffed with abandon but slowly savoured. Every nuance of its bouquet and each note of its flavour is the result of patient endeavour.
The PF354 is a hand-wound chronograph movement with a tourbillon centre-stage. It consists of 295 components coalescing to produce a scintillating ensemble which exceeds the perfunctory and usurps the majority of movements available elsewhere.
This is a manufacture movement, created in the Haute Horlogerie Department based in Fleurier. Many hours of work are required to bring this movement to fruition.
The tourbillon was originally conceived to counter the negative effects of gravity on the rate keeping of a pocket watch movement. In reality, it is a complication which contributes little to the accuracy of a modern day watch. However, readers should not misconstrue, it is the ultimate expression of the watchmaker’s skill. Few will ever be able to work at this altitudinal level. It requires much skill and perseverance to craft a movement with a whirlwind at its heart.
In recent times, some celebrities have chosen to purchase a tourbillon merely based on its high price. They like the idea of brandishing an outré watch, in public, as a token of their perceived success and importance. However, this timepiece is not about foolish boasts but quiet, unassuming enjoyment.
The concept of this watch is to deliver essential information without extraneous details which would otherwise distract the wearer. Time is conveyed with clarity in a user-friendly format.
The Parmigiani Fleurier Tondagraphe is incredibly complicated in its manifestation. However, it bestows time in a simple to understand, elegant form courtesy of appealing design and uncompromising creation. This watch is designed to meet the exacting requirements of the cognoscenti and in this regard it is a resounding success.
- Model: Parmigiani Fleurier Tondagraphe
- Case: 18-carat white gold; diameter 43.00 mm; height 13.30 mm; water resistant to 35 bar (30 metres); sapphire crystal to front and caseback.
- Functions: Hours; minutes; subsidiary seconds; power-reserve indicator; chronograph.
- Movement: PF354, hand-wound movement; frequency 21,600 vph (3Hz); 29 jewels; power reserve 72 hours; 295 parts
- Strap: Hermès alligator leather strap with 18-carat white gold pin buckle.
- Limited edition: 10 pieces