Hands-On: Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda PF GMT Rattrapante — Reinventing A Grand Complication
Parmigiani Fleurier was one of the esteemed independent brands in Haute Horlogerie whose credentials preceded its name. Everyone in the industry knows it. Its imposing presence at SIHH was inescapable, yet its annual output was only in the thousands. For many years, this Fleurier (hence the name), Neuchâtel-native with a top-notch manufacturing base was the kind of “hidden gem” that I would keep away from the uninitiated. How selfish of me. But sometimes, when your collector friends and clients know more about the sensational big-name brands than you do, you just want to keep something special to yourself.
Alas, it was not to last. With Parmigiani’s collections getting sleeker and more contemporary in recent years, it was only a matter of time before it would turn a few (more) heads. Not least of which was my own, as the Swiss watchmaker unveiled the Tonda PF with a GMT Rattrapante complication this year during Watches And Wonders.
I have had my fair share of wearing mechanical GMT watches. You know, the kind where you read the two/three time zones with a bezel, a GMT hand, and lots of markings. It’s been there for decades and we respect the conventional wisdom of how it should work and look. But while I like the function I have never cared for the style. Granted, if the Tonda PF GMT Rattrapante wasn’t staring right at me, I would have never imagined it to exist in such refined and minimalist elegance. And to reimagine a “grand complication” in this novel yet intuitive way? Bravo to the ingenious team behind it.
Surprise! It’s not a chronograph
Since we are already here, let us start with the mechanical marvel. At the heart of the new Tonda PF is the caliber PF051, developed by Parmigiani’s very own Swiss watchmaking center’s engineering powerhouse Vaucher Manufacture Fleurier. And let us leave no room for debate on this point. Having walked the floor of Vaucher, I consider it in-house. This self-winding movement features a patented complication to operate the split-GMT function, which is a world-first.
The dual time-setting is activated through a pusher at 8 o’clock. That means, instead of ruining my gorgeously polished nails to fiddle with the crown, I can now effortlessly adjust to the local timezone by moving the hour hand forward with each push of the button. As that happens, the rose gold hour hand beneath reveals itself to stay on my home time. And that is just half the fun. When I’m back home with no need for a second timezone, I simply press the rose gold pushbutton protruding from the crown. This sets the travel-time hand to rattrapante (“catch up” in French) mode, and it flies back on top of the rose gold hour hand. The hour hands then move in unison to keep the time display clean and clear.
This self-winding caliber PF051 comprises 207 components and 31 jewels, including a free-sprung balance with adjustable weights. The bridges and base plate feature Côtes de Genève and perlage respectively, while all the visible parts are highly finished and decorated as per Parimigiani’s exemplary standards. The movement beats at a frequency of 21,600vph (3Hz) and generates up to 48 hours of power reserve with a stunning 22K rosegold micro-rotor.
This diminutive oscillating weight donning Grain d’Orge guilloché and the PF logo was the star of the eponymous Tonda PF Micro Rotor most recently. Fratello’s own Andreas is a happy owner of that watch and eloquently shares his thoughts in this article. The most delightful aspect of this micro-rotor is not its obvious good looks but where it sits. Its entire body fits into the cavity on top of the base plate rather than adding another layer to the movement. This construction lends itself to the slim profile of the 40mm watch case, which measures only 10.7mm in height.
The mostly brushed stainless steel case comes with a stepped platinum bezel featuring a knurled edge. This knurling was one of Parmigiani’s aesthetic signatures from the beginning and an ever-present characteristic of its Toric line. The bezel here is also refined with polished chamfers for enhanced definition. The case contour flows sensuously with paisley-shaped lugs draping down the integrated bracelet. The three-link bracelet is polished and satin-finished and is secured with a deployant buckle sporting a PF logo. While I remember already seeing integrated bracelets in Parmigiani’s lineup many years ago (one of them was the Tonda Métrographe featured by RJ back in 2014), the clean lines in the latest Tonda PFs are even more seductive.
Easy on the eye
As a complement to the sleek casing, Parmigiani has pared the dial down to the bone. Set on the Grain d’Orge guilloché dial plate in “Milano blue” are nothing more than the skeletonized handset, the logo, indexes, minute markers, and the “Swiss Made” designation. The hands and indexes are hand-applied and rhodium-plated 18K gold (except for the 18K rose gold hour hand). There is no date, no 24-hour track, and no idle GMT hand to clutter the dial. It is simply a dream to read given constant information overload in this day and age. To top it off, Parmigiani is touting the use of an ARunic sapphire for its excellent colorless anti-reflection on both sides.
The brand’s venerable founder, Michel Parmigiani, has famously embedded the “golden ratio” in the design of all Parmigiani creations. The golden ratio is the divine proportion that occurs in nature and appeals to the human eye as “beauty”. And we clever humans have derived the mathematics to apply it to aesthetically pleasing compositions. For me, with or without the golden ratio, the Tonda PF GMT Rattrapante is hitting the right spot.
One of the reasons I love niche/boutique independents is that I don’t need validation from anyone about my choices. Only I need to know how special they are and what they mean to me. The Tonda PF GMT Rattrapante is the epitome of quiet confidence. Parmigiani even removes its wordmark completely while still presenting all of its signature design hallmarks. The watch carries itself with considerably more grace than the “recognizable” (or did I say sensational?) brands. If you can spot a “PF”, kudos to you. And you’ll get a knowing wink from me too.
The Parmigiani Tonda PF GMT Rattrapante retails for CHF 26,000 including VAT. Considering the annual production capacity mentioned at the start of this article, availability may have eluded you.
For more information, visit Parmigiani Fleurier’s website.