The Parmigiani Fleurier Kalpa Chronor watch hands-on
Every time I hear someone mention this brand, I prepare myself to be amazed, to see something that will leave me speechless, especially if the opportunity that presents itself is the SIHH, where the maisons of fine watchmaking present the best they have to offer. For the second consecutive year, the biggest novelty presented by the Parmigiani maison is a chronograph. You might be wondering why an exclusive and prestigious brand is focusing on a complication that has now become canonical if not standard, I dare say, among the most accredited manufacturers. A moment of patience and I will give you the answer.
The watch we are talking about today is the Parmigiani Fleurier Kalpa Chronor (Ref. PFH187-1001400-HA1442) belonging, as the name indeed implies, to the Kalpa collection. The tonneau shape of the case and the teardrop lugs are typical of the collection and, were it not for the use of 18kt gold, which certainly embellishes it, to an inexperienced eye it might appear like a "simple" chrono of the series that we grew to appreciate and to know, throughout the course of the 20 years of Parmigiani Fleurier's history. It is not like that at all.
Among all the complications, that of the automatic chronograph has been the last to appear on the market (1969) because of the many pitfalls it hides, especially if, as in this case, we are talking about an integrated movement, i.e. designed with the aim of having the chronograph function, without the addition of an extra module. There is therefore very little that is "simple". Furthermore, the development of watch with a non-round case is a courageous choice.
It is expensive, it requires a lot of time, it presents the great unknown of the possible difficulty of appreciation from the public and, therefore, does not tolerate mistakes. Several historic maisons took years to succeed through a watch with a non-round case. Let's consider, for example, Jaeger-LeCoultre's Reverso: despite being a model of incredible actuality and with almost 90 years on its shoulders (1931), there are those who still cannot wear it, because they struggle to get used to its forms.
The reason why Parmigiani wanted to design a watch that is more difficult to appreciate (if we are not talking about an icon), and with a complication that is anything but trivial, is that it wants in my opinion to win a challenge with watchmaking itself. To win where many have failed, to win to demonstrate one's own qualities and value, both on a technical and an aesthetic level. Observing, then, the philosophy on which Michael Parmigiani has founded his company, i.e. the observance of consistency between container and content, the choice we just described appears even clearer and more understandable.
From an aesthetic point of view, the Parmigiani Fleurier Kalpa Chronor presents a case of 48.2 x 40.4 x 14mm totally in 18kt pink gold, with two large buttons at 2 and 4 o'clock for the chronograph functions surrounding the crown. The dial has a gold base, but is then covered with black opaline, except for the counters, which are glazed. At 12 o'clock we find the date window, while at 6 there is the seconds' counter, which differs from the other two thanks to the black color, as well as the use of a double hand that operates over 180° instead of the more canonical 360°. On the spheres and on the indexes, also in gold, luminescent materials is applied.
Around the latter there is an interesting guilloché technique (or similar), that creates a nice contrast with the central glossy area, highlighting it. This process, in fact, seems to converge towards the center of the dial, as if one wanted to concentrate the observer's attention on this specific part. In this way it is possible to exploit in a clever way all the 48 millimeters of length of the case, which would otherwise present excessively "dead" and uninteresting areas. Overall the dial is well made, neat and easy to read. To underline the great quality of the construction, the supplied strap is in black alligator leather by Hermès.
At the back, on the other hand, one can admire the real work of art: it is the integrated self-winding movement PF365 made entirely in gold and in-house. It fully reflects the potential of the new Parmigiani manufacturing center. The entire caliber is organized around a column wheel that represents the chronograph's central nerve, and makes the activation and the operation of the complication itself quite smoother. Creating a movement with these characteristics is very difficult and requires a great experience, especially if you add the fact that it is totally in gold, reaching very high levels of watchmaking.
The processing of gold for mechanical and structural purposes is something that is rarely seen. Its ductility, malleability and deformability require a total recalibration of the machine tools that are used, as well as a detailed study of the manufacturing parameters, such as the average chip thickness or the spindle rotation speed. This should give you an idea of the level of technical preparation and know-how achieved by the Fleurier based maison and, moreover, the caliber is integrated, meaning that it has been designed to occupy all the space provided by the box and to perfectly adapt to its forms. It is tailor-made. Lastly, the manufacturing hours required to complete each individual movement are more than 50, and those for manual processing have not yet been included!
On a technical level, this movement presents a high oscillation speed (5Hz, 36000 vibrations/p.h), very rare for a chronograph; it also guarantees the accuracy of 1/10 of a second, and is even COSC (Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres) certified; this means that it is certified by the Swiss chronograph agency that ensures an average difference between -3 and +6 seconds per day at different temperatures of use. The complete engineering of the watch, not surprisingly, has required 6 years for its development.
The Parmigiani Fleurier Kalpa Chronor is the first integrated gold movement chronograph in history, it is amazing and has some unique characteristics. If you can spend €85,000, it is a great investment. You will have a watch of undeniable quality and of exquisite elegance. A 5Hz frequency gold bar that summarizes all the experience and originality of the "Maestro". Many congratulations to Michel Parmigiani.
(Photo credit: Horbiter®'s proprietary photo-shooting)
Andrea Frigerio @Horbiter®