With Geneva Watch Days officially kicking off tomorrow, Parmigiani Fleurier has fired the starting pistol by unveiling a refresh of its Tonda collection, just in time for the company’s 25-year anniversary.
In 1996, Michel Parmigiani – a world-renowned restorationist and dedicated supporter of Fleurisian watchmaking – founded his namesake firm with the financial support of the affluent Sandoz family, who Michel had already been working with, in his capacity as a restorationist. For 25 years, Parmigiani Fleuer has operated in a silo of Swiss watchmaking, producing some of the most intricate and detailed watches under its own name, while also growing its operation in scope and scale to include an array of smaller in-house factories that produce everything from hairsprings (Atokalpa) and screws (Elwin) to cases (Les Artisans Boîtiers) and dials (Quadrance & Habillage).
With the help of these facilities, Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda PF has created over 30 in-house movements in 25 years – an incredible pace for what first appears to be a small-time player in the watch industry. But that’s what makes the company one of the watch world’s true hidden gems – not only does Atokalpa create hairsprings for Parmigiani Fleurier timepieces, but also for any Swiss watch brand that seeks a higher-end alternative to the hegemony of ETA and Sellita.
As a result of Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda PF dedication to its founder’s individual perspective and worldview, many of its watches have remained under the radar, skipping mainstream success for true indie charm. But after 25 years, Parmigiani Fleurier is looking to go bigger and bolder. The company hired away the Head of Watches at Bulgari, Guido Terreni – one of the masterminds behind the Octo Finissimo – to be its new CEO (check out our interview with him from earlier this year, here).
This week at Geneva Watch Days, Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda PF will reveal its first collection under Terreni’s hand – the new, all-expansive Tonda PF line. It’s a refresh of the company’s long-running Tonda collection that consists of seven total watches, in four styles, to start, each with an integrated bracelet, including a two-hander, a high-beat chronograph, an annual calendar with retrograde date, and – the star of the show – a high-beat split-seconds chronograph cased in solid platinum.
I’ve long considered myself the resident Parmigiani champion on the HODINKEE staff. Michel was the first serious independent watchmaker I met when I started my career in the watch industry back in 2015ish, and I was able to visit the restoration workshop in 2019, where I promptly fell even deeper in love with the company’s approach. Its off-kilter design language and all-encompassing outlook on watchmaking has even influenced how I look at other independent watchmakers in this space – that’s how lost in the Parmigiani sauce I am.
I say all this because even I, a full-throated supporter of the company’s endeavors, recognized that Parmigiani needed someone with a critical eye to come in and determine what’s next for the brand, or how it can break into the next tier of watch brands with even broader recognition. It’s great to be an indie darling, but that’s not what pays the bills these days.
So I was excited to see what Terreni’s strategy would look like, and we finally have it. To me, this looks like a continuation of what the company started last year with the Tondagraphe models, but a more streamlined, less ornamental take on the integrated bracelet phenomenon. It all starts with the introduction of a new dial emblem – the “PF” logo now appears in an applied vertical oval at 12 o’clock on each dial. A Grain d’Orge guilloché dial pattern is consistent across all seven watches in the new series, as are the solid-gold openworked hands, the multi-finish bezel taken from the original Tonda line, and applied hour markers set across two levels of the dial. The case bears a distinctive silhouette, flowing in a bassiné fashion, to wear ergonomically on the wrist.
From there, the four model variants differ. The entry-point into the new collection is the Tonda PF Micro-Rotor, a pair of simple, well-proportioned pieces that measure 40mm × 7.88mm. Available in stainless steel or 18k rose gold, with a matching integrated bracelet and a warm grey dial, the two watches are the most direct responses to the traditional time-only champions of this category of watchmaking. Parmigiani updated one of its flagship movements, the platinum micro-rotor-equipped caliber PF703, to integrate the minute oscillating weight inside the movement rather than locating it in its typical place, laying on top of it.
The first thing I notice here is the lack of verbiage on the dial. Save for the applied 12 o’clock PF logo, there is absolutely no text, branding, or numerals. Looking at the press images it almost looks incomplete, but I’m sure in person it’s a welcome adjustment.
The Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda PF Chronograph, an integrated high-beat chronograph operating at 5 Hz, is the next release in the collection. Available in stainless steel or rose gold (sense a theme yet?), the 42mm × 12.4mm pair of chronographs have a rich dark blue dial with sub-dials in the three, six, and nine o’clock arrangement. The caliber PF070 inside is operated by a column wheel, and I particularly enjoy the use of cushion-shaped pushers here as a complement to the flowing curvature of the case design. Parmigiani says that this choice was made to “fuse with the profile of the Tonda PF Chronograph’s lugs.” A new openworked oscillating weight with a central PF medallion in 22ct rose gold was also developed for these watches.
A visual sibling to the Tonda PF Chronograph, the new Tonda PF Annual Calendar updates the visual language that has so far been associated with the company’s signature calendar complication. We have a retrograde date, day, month, and 122-year moon-phase (as visible in both hemispheres), with central hour, minute, and seconds hands. Also available in steel and rose gold, with a warm grey dial, this is, in my opinion, the most classic Parmigiani of the bunch – an expert take on a complication, rendered in an idiosyncratic orientation.
Finally, the hero piece for the company’s 25th anniversary is the Tonda PF Split Seconds Chronograph, a limited edition of 25 watches, naturally. This model is, in many ways, a continuation of the visual identity started by the GPHG-winningTonda Chronor Anniversaire, released in 2016 for its 20th anniversary. This time around, Parmigiani has ditched the big date window at 12 o’clock and replaced the grand feu enamel dial with the characteristics of the rest of the new Tonda PF line and cased it all up in a lovely platinum case and matching bracelet. Surprisingly, the silver dial is also crafted from solid platinum.
Oh, and this movement is an absolute dream: The caliber PF361 is an integrated split-seconds chronograph that stands as one of Parmigiani’s most complicated movements. The main-plate and bridges are both solid rose gold, extensively openworked, and satin-finished and beveled by hand. It offers 65 hours of running autonomy, and (!) runs in 5 Hz.
It should surprise no one that I’m a fan of each of the watches that make up the new Tonda PF line. Part of me wishes that Terreni had jumped off by creating an all-new line with no connection to the past of the brand, but I also can’t fault what we ended up with. My recent preoccupation with split-seconds chronographs is well-documented on these pages, so the high-beat Tonda PF Split Seconds Chronograph is an obvious highlight for me here. Given its limited edition status, it wouldn’t surprise me if all 25 of those are snapped up in a hurry, but I’m hoping we’ll get a chance to see it at HODINKEE HQ in the near future. If not, I think at least one member of the new collection is due for a proper Hands-On treatment.