Parmigiani Fleurier Is Redefining What an 'Everyday Watch' Can Be

·2 min read
Photo credit: Courtesy
Photo credit: Courtesy

Welcome to Dialed In, Esquire's weekly column bringing you horological happenings and the most essential news from the watch world since March 2020.

Twenty-five years ago, Michel Parmigiani, a noted watch and clock restorer from the Swiss town of Fleurier, set out to launch a brand-new watch brand with a distinct difference. Parmigiani Fleurier intended do what very few watch brands were even thinking about at the time: create a vertically integrated, independent company to build watches using only in-house parts. Parmigiani was miles ahead of the curve. Twenty-five years later, “in-house” is a buzzword in watchmaking and a goal for any serious brand worth its salt.

Parmigiani was able to launch his watchmaking ”manufacture” thanks to the energetic support of one of his key clients, the Sandoz Family Foundation, whose collection of priceless watches, clocks, and automatons Parmigiani maintained and restored. In fact, Sandoz—which backed Parmigiani—was so into it that the foundation went on a buying spree to snap up a string of smaller specialist makers including Vaucher (movements), Atokalpa (gears), Quadrance et Habillage (dials), and Les Artisans Boitiers (cases). In Parmigiani’s case, “in-house” means drawing on these sister brands under the Sandoz umbrella for about 90 percent of its parts and assembly.

After three years in development, Parmigiani Fleurier’s first watch emerged in 1999, instantly establishing a very particular design language unique to the brand and one that has characterized its style ever since. With more than two decades of work restoring and maintaining pocket watches, mostly from the 18th and 19th century, for the Sandoz Family Foundation, much of the granular-level craftsmanship of those eras clearly rubbed off on Parmigiani.

More recently, that elevated style has broadened to encompass a more day-to-day, functional aesthetic without letting go of the highest levels of finish and materials. In 2020, the house launched its sportiest-looking watch yet, the Tondagraph GT, a 42mm reverse panda in steel with a black dial and silvered sub dials. This week, it followed up with a panda version (a silver dial with black sub dials) that looks and wears like your daily beater. But, as with all Parmigiani watches, to call it a sport watch is like calling a Bugatti Veyron a runabout.

These steel beauties are all about details worked to the nth degree. The dial is engraved all over with diamond shaped “clous de Paris,” a decorative guilloché technique used historically for at least the last two and a half centuries. Inside, too, the watch is rather more than a chronograph. Its PF043 movement is also an annual calendar, with the unusual running seconds counter sharing the space with a window displaying the day. As an annual calendar, this watch only needs to be reset once a year to account for February’s 28 days (29 on a leap year). A much pricier rose gold version sports a different chronometer-rated movement that comes without the annual calendar, but it adds a whole lot of glamor. Bring a yacht.

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