The Parmigiani Tonda PF; welcome to the party!
The Geneva Watch Days are a great venue, but not as powerful and covered as the global watch fairs; yet, they've been a chance for Parmigiani Fleurier to celebrate their first 25th anniversary. Parmigiani's pedigree is so quintessentially old-school Swiss Made that it comes with no surprise that most people usually associate it with the brands gathered under the AHCI (independent watchmakers). A glimpse at the brand's timepieces, calibres, and sales volumes proves it is super-exclusive, apart from the Tonda GT, which is Parmigiani's take on the premium luxury sports watch. That experience somehow affected the kind of unique, distinctive fusion of technical prowess, gracious style and craftsmanship we were used to while discovering any new Parmigiani watch. While I praise the brand for exploring uncharted territory, I also think the GT is below the standard you'd expect from a timepiece whose name is associated with watchmaking this excellent, inside and out. Here is where the new company's leadership began the product portfolio's overhaul.
The premium luxury sports watch in steel is a must-have, for any mainstream or niche watchmaker; it involves brand image and bottom line, first and foremost, and covers all markets. If we exclude unconventional brands like MB&F or Urwerk, to cite a few, you won't miss a luxury sports watch in steel in your collection if you're a standard manufacturer; the Streamliner is a stunning success to brands like H. Moser & Cie. as it is the Antarctique to Czapek Genève. Get it right, and you'll find new customers knocking at your door.
The Tonda GT is a good concept, not the final stage for the refined Parmigiani customer. Guido Terreni, the new CEO, is a key piece in the new puzzle, and the man who's been given the task to steer Parmigiani towards new excellence, while, first things first, fixing the areas where Parmigiani is weak; case in point, the luxury sports watch can count on Terreni's terrific background.
The "Micro-rotor" names aims at pure refinement and comes with a "Less is more" approach. The new collection's pillars are a sleek no-frills design, insane attention to details and proportions. With the flamboyant "Parmigiani Fleurier" wording removed, the only hallmark you'll find is the gold-applied PF logo either on the dial and clasp; it looks smooth, refined, pleasing.
The dial showcases a finicky engine turning with a Barley pattern, paired with a contrasting and slightly recessed outer ring whose small gap against the sapphire crystal is outstanding. Gold multi-faceted indexes are applied across the two surfaces. It comes with an understated, refined dark grey, a bit too dark for me. I hope future range extenders adopt more vivid tones to help the wearer enjoy the painstaking engine-turning decoration to a greater extent.
The case to dial to bracelet combo has undergone a thorough redesign: the bezel is thin and comes in platinum (on the steel model), showcasing knurled and polished finish; the dial ends up looking broader than ever before. The Parmigiani-styled hour and minute hands are in white gold too. From a specification point of view, it measures 40 mm across and just 7.8 mm in thickness; it means the new Tonda PF Micro-rotor thus joins the exclusive club of high-end ultra-thin watches, once ruled by two, now-discontinued (or about to be discontinued) timepieces, the Nautilus and the 15202.
With Vacheron Constantin oddly not offering an ultra-thin Overseas in steel, the Tonda PF's fiercest challenger is the Bulgari Octo Finissimo (engineered by Mr Terreni), which cannot provide a comparable level of decorative refinement to the most discerning watch connoisseur. The Tonda PF Micro-rotor adopts the 3-mm thick PF 703 calibre. The micro-rotor is in platinum, either on the steel or rose gold versions, and adorned with a guilloché "grain d'orge" design. I appreciate Parmigiani's ubiquitous human touch to set the PF apart from its entirely industrially crafted sibling.
The devil is the details, as with the case back see-through crystal, for instance: it is slightly cambered to enhance comfort once on your wrist. Paired with the Parmigiani lightened integrated bracelet, let's expect the Tonda PF Micro-rotor to gently taper the wrist, something I'm eager to find out anytime soon. Also, take a look at how classy is the rose gold option. Sticker prices are 21,000 Euros for the Tonda PF in steel, and 49,000 Euros for the rose gold PF.
The chronograph preserves the slim PF's design cues. It draws style and proportions from the collection's "talking piece," details and guilloche while replacing the grey with a more attractive deep blue Pantone. With that said, it's a whole different watch; at 12.4 mm in thickness and 42 mm in diameter, the Tonda PF Chronograph is an ordinary Chrono from a size perspective and far more attractive as we scroll down the specs' sheet.
The calibre PF 070 is a stunning integrated chronograph movement operating at 5 Hz and with 65 hours of power reserve when fully wound, as technically seductive as aesthetically pleasing. The redesigned winding mass' PF logo is unique: the "P" and "F" float inside the oval external ring thanks to a tiny sapphire crystal applied in between.
The talking point is the stunning chronograph movement; the overall design is sleek but nothing short of ordinary, the biggest letdown being it's a hefty and big watch, and far more so if you decide to opt for the gold one. The Parmigiani Tonda PF Chronograph retails for 28,000 Euros in steel and 63,000 Euros in pink gold.
Here is the Tonda PF Annual Calendar, the last technical and aesthetic take on the new design code, whose origin, the Barley pattern, is not unknown but once adopted on the luxurious Ovale Pantograph 'Guilloche' Barley Grain Dial. The Annual Calendar is a fully analogue calendar watch with a retrograde pointer date display.
I love the layout since there's no window date at all, something I'd appreciate on the PF chronograph too. All in all, the most wanted luxury chronograph has no date display. A double-hemisphere 122-year moon-phase display is a nice touch and makes the PF Annual Calendar look and feel like a perpetual calendar.
My only concern is that the calibre is too small in such a case, as you can spot via the rearview, which makes the overall design less compelling than the chronograph. The Parmigiani Tonda PF Annual Calendar costs 35,000 Euros in steel and 70,000 Euros in pink gold.
Overall, the new Parmigiani Tonda PF collection marks a massive step up and is a stronger contender in the luxury sports class of products. The Tonda GT remains a brand enabler in the lower class; the new ones are far more refined, technically and esthetically, and pricey. I do not foresee a great future for the standard GT collection if you ask me. The Tonda PF is the first pillar of a more straightforward, sophisticated approach to Haute Horlogerie at Parmigiani.
From a product perspective, the Tonda PF Micro-rotor is a winner and is, as stated above, a free player with no significant competitors and a long list of buyers looking for the ultimate ultra-thin watch on a bracelet, with few or no options at all. Therefore, the choice to opt for all things ultra-thin is an intelligent move by Parmigiani to extend its appeal further and grow the brand. Scrolling down the collection, I reckon both the chronograph and the annual calendar are good options, but not game-changers. I'd pick the Chrono from a technical standpoint; it is the most luxurious 5Hz chronograph on sale (Zenith's positioning is different and lower), but I'd take the PF Annual Calendar instead, as long as sleekness concerns.
(Photo credit: courtesy Parmigiani Fleurier)
Gaetano C @Horbiter®