Imagine discovering an haute couture brand that crafted objects of exceptional beauty and quality but which only a few people knew about? This is exactly what happens to many people when they first encounter Parmigiani watches. Fully recognised as an horological star among watch experts, Parmigiani is still – thankfully – a brand that flies under the radar of mass recognition. And the beauty of Parmigiani watches is that they are unlike anything else on the market with a distinct personality and soul.
Tonda: the heart and soul of Parmigiani
The Tonda collection is the very essence of Parmigiani’s watchmaking ethos. Its elegant design, smooth contours and harmonious proportions has “classic-in-the-making” written all over it and is destined to age gracefully over time. Meaning “round” in Italian, the Tonda collection embraces a less is more design philosophy and comprises a large family of models including the sublimely slender Tonda 1950 and the Tonda 1950 Tourbillon, above, the world’s thinnest automatic flying tourbillon.
Tonda 1950 Poppy watch
Radiating optimism and joie de vivre, the Tonda 1950 Poppy watch above has one of the loveliest and most eye-catching dials I can recall. Inspired by the Capri Tonda 1950 model with an electrifying turquoise stone dial, Parmigiani wanted to create another watch with a natural mineral dial, in this case crafted from red aventurine stone. Lean, elegant rose gold-plated hour markers and Delta-shaped hands with a coat of luminescence for enhanced legibility read off the hours and minutes against the stunning red background.
Daring in its colour palette, the vibrant red dial is complemented by a warm 18-carat rose gold case and a bright pink ruby cabochon set in the crown for a final burst of colour. Highlighting the elegant contours of the case, the bezel is set with a halo of diamonds and the lugs, set with tapered diamonds, embrace the gorgeous solid rose gold bracelet. Inside the 39mm case of the two Tonda 1950 models mentioned in this article is Parmigiani’s ultra-thin automatic movement decorated with beautiful haute horlogerie finishes.
A solid sprinkling of diamonds for the dial of the Tonda 1950
Moving up the ladder in the gemstone family, the 39mm Tonda 1950 Clarity watch, above, in rose gold disseminates sparkling light in all directions thanks to its impressive fully pavéd diamond dial. Five different sizes of round diamonds were selected and, instead of arranging them in a static, conventional manner, Parmigiani's artisans sought a sensation of motion and depth by setting the stones in a less orthodox manner, with the smallest at the centre, followed by large ones and then smaller ones again on the perimeter, where the slender hour markers show the time. The dazzling effect allows for a soft, almost natural transition between one circle of diamonds to the next. No fewer than 620 diamonds totalling 2.495 carats have been set in the dial, an arrangement that allows them to “shimmer in a unique, almost violent way”, with a further 84 diamonds on the bezel.
The golden heart of the Kalpa Piccola in a steel case
The Kalpa is the founding father of the Parmigiani watch dynasty and the first commercial wristwatch to grace the brand. Instead of starting with the case, which is standard in the design process of most watches, Michel Parmigiani began with the lugs and used Fibonacci's Golden Ratio, a mathematical property, to elicit their hallmark teardrop-shaped contours. The tonneau (or barrel) shape of the case followed naturally and the flow of the overall design is as natural as it is harmonious.
Being an anniversary year, the Kalpa Piccola Anniversaire, above, celebrates the occasion with a quartz movement made entirely from gold, the brand’s first all-gold quartz movement. The gorgeous brown Tahitian mother-of-pearl dial is engraved with wavy patterns in a mesmerising floral pattern that changes colour according to the light. Diamonds on the lugs and the sides of the elongated case reassert its femininity. It might seem like a contradiction to house a gold quartz movement inside a steel case, but if you think about the carefree maintenance a quartz movement affords along with the practicality of stainless steel, you can deduce that this watch is made to be worn day in, day out. Rest assured, you can always admire the gold movement through the sapphire crystal caseback.
Tonda Metropolitaine Sélène: once in a blue Moon
Unlike many Moon phase watches that depict a cute, glowing white moon with fluffy clouds and stars, this watch takes reality up a notch. The bronze-hued Moon on the Tonda Metropolitaine Sélène is pitted with craters to give it a more realistic appearance. An intricate floral pattern occupies the centre of this dial. Depicting a lotus flower that blooms at night when the moon rises, the bloom is made from slivers of mother-of-pearl set against an abyss blue dial. Along with the nice touch of femininity and realism, the automatic movement also animates the small seconds counter with a useful date function and has a power reserve of 50 hours.
Tonda Metropolitaine: the beauty of asymmetry
Much like looking at an attractive person’s face, a tiny bit of asymmetry goes by unobserved and adds individuality and personality. With its practical stainless steel case, the modern Tonda Metropolitaine above is designed for everyday wear. What many people don’t notice, however, is the fact that the watch has two different profiles and the length of the lugs on the case are not identical. The teardrop lugs on the left side of the case are classic Tonda while those on the right reach to hug the crown. A beautifully iridescent mother-of-pearl dial offers the wearer the hours and minutes along with a small seconds counter placed just above 6 o’clock with a date aperture. The juxtaposition of a stainless steel case with diamonds, gold applied numerals and indices and the pearly light of the dial conspire to create a watch with a unique identity for today’s woman.
Beyond our top five watches there is a broad selection of women's timepieces waiting to be discovered at Parmigiani's atelier on Mount Street in London, including the classic Tonda 1950 in rose gold, below.
A brief history of Parmigiani Fleurier
Twenty years have passed since the birth of the Parmigiani Fleurier watch brand, which was founded by Michel Parmigiani in 1996 with the backing of the Sandoz Family Foundation. What originally started out as an artisanal project, with Michel Parmigiani – a world-renowned restorer of antique clocks – making the watch components himself has blossomed into a fully autonomous manufacture located in Fleurier, Switzerland, where some of the world’s most compelling, complex and beautifully crafted watches are made. Milestones of the brand include the 2014 Tonda 1950 Tourbillon, the world’s thinnest automatic flying tourbillon watch, the amazing Bugatti Super Sport, which is unlike any racing watch you have ever set eyes on, and the Tonda Chronor Anniversaire, Parmigiani's 20th anniversary signature model with a fully integrated chronograph manufactured from solid gold.