December 1, 2022
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Parmigiani Fleurier is twenty years old. To celebrate, it has made itself a rather special birthday present. It’s a present that enthusiasts of brand will also be able to enjoy, since 50 of the Tonda Chronor Anniversaire watches will be made. There’s nothing ordinary about this watch. It has been developed with significant input from Michel Parmigiani himself. It’s the most sophisticated innovation that the company has launched for quite some time. And the level of finish, both on the movement and on the dial, is exceptional.

In fact, for comparison’s sake we’ve got some images of the conventional white (non-meteorite) dial steel Tonda 1950 watches (which cost almost half as much), and you may see how challenging it is to see the difference if you didn’t understand what you were looking for.This discussion is watch nerdery in its apex, and I’m OK with this. Why else do you purchase a $10,000+ watch if you don’t obsess over its details? I will, nevertheless, say this to a level, the watch manufacturers have forced us collectors to be this pedantic due to this a glacially slow product refresh cycle. I do however mean that when new versions of this Tonda 1950 instance emerge, do they want to always maintain precisely the exact same finish with the same dial and a few light changes like materials? From the “vintage” times of watches, carrying stuff like this was nearly common practice. I think more variety among watches now (particularly exclusive luxury watches), may lend itself nicely to more motivated consumers as a result of the greater degree of the variety and rarity.The reason the snowy meteorite edition of this Tonda 1950 has real “exotic dial” possible is because the inherent watch is versatile in its usefulness. No, it is not a sports watch or some thing your non-watch-interested peers will agree is a fantastic use of cash, but it is a fantastic all-purpose dress/formal watch. It also happens to come from a decent brand, has a sleek design, and when you turn the case over to flaunt the motion — you never have to worry about buying inexpensive buttocks. Parmigiani proceeds to make truly beautiful movements which are also functional. This one has just the time with subsidiary seconds, and is made to be a comparatively thin automatic motion thanks to the use of a micro-rotor.

Michel Parmigiani is the founder of the brand that bears his name. In recent years, the watchmaker, watch restorer and designer has turned his attention to restoring old pieces, most of them from the Sandoz collection, whose owners also own the brand. Mr Parmigiani personally oversaw the preliminary sketches, design and construction of the Tonda Chronor Anniversaire, tasks that would normally be delegated to production and development managers. But the Chronor is special. It celebrates both the company’s twentieth anniversary, and the immense contribution of its founder. It was therefore only natural that he should be closely involved.

Over the last seven years, Parmigiani has slimmed down its range. After launching a number of grand complication models, including quite a few repeaters and sonneries, the company turned its attention to less complicated pieces, chronographs and ultra-slim models. Chronographs are generally modular, which means that complication plates are slotted on top of a base movement. The Chronor is something else entirely; its PF361 calibre has a completely different technical profile.

First, it grants Parmigiani entry into the exclusive club of fewer than ten brands whose watches run at over 4 Hz. The PF631 calibre runs at 36,000 vibrations per hour, and it doesn’t have a silicon escapement. In old money, this is equivalent to 5 Hz, generally considered a power-hungry frequency. But despite this, the Tonda Chronor offers a 65-hour power reserve on a single modestly sized barrel, a triumph of energy efficiency. What’s more, it has an integral double complication: a dual-disc large date and a split-seconds chronograph. This is the first integrated chronograph Parmigiani has produced. It has two chronograph hands, making it possible to time two separate events, thanks to the coordinated actions of a pusher in the crown, a second column wheel and a vertical clutch. There is barely a double handful of watch brands worldwide that make their own split-seconds mechanisms, which are extremely complex and difficult to produce.

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But the PF361 calibre goes further. It is also made entirely of solid gold, with the exception of a few functional components that need to be made out of steel. All of the gold plates and bridges are skeletonised, producing an effect of concentric circles that radiate out from the nucleus of the movement, the high-frequency balance wheel. The many apertures in the intricate structure of the movement are hand-bevelled and polished, and the plethora of internal angles are phenomenally well executed.

The outside of the Chronor is equally breathtaking. Its 42.10 mm diameter gold case (white or rose gold) measuring 14.6 mm thick, gives it a supremely classic look, underlined by the deep blue or pure white grand feu enamel dial. The fine printed markings are extremely clean, further accentuating the watch’s formal appearance. Legibility and coherence are reinforced by the rose gold of the hour, minute and seconds hands, echoed in the frame around the double date window, while the chronograph hands are in white gold. The finish of the movement and the case decoration are of a standard rarely seen, particularly at this price level.

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It’s worth noting that, with the exception of models that use a modified base calibre, which is true for the majority of cases, a split-seconds chronograph inevitably takes a movement into a much higher price bracket. The Chronor, however, could almost be termed reasonably priced, given its features. At around 150,000 Swiss francs there is no one offering such an accomplished and coherent timepiece. You heard it here first. It may not be for everyone, but it is quite a gift.