This year, in January, was the SIHH, the Geneva Watch Fair. And we’ve seen some very nice watches there – see here. And then, there was a movement. Not that the watch that is around is not worthy of being explained but clearly, the beauty of the caseback transcends all the rest. This watch is the Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda Chronor Anniversaire and inside ticks what is certainly one of the most spectacular recent integrated split-seconds chronograph movements – and certainly one of the most spectacular movements, whatever the complications, the functions or the manufacturer. We can tell you, this rattrapante chronograph movement is mega! Function-wise, technology-wise and finishing-wise… This is why we love watches.
Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda Chronor – why integration matters?
Building a chronograph is a very complex task. Like we explained to you in our dedicated technical column, a chronograph is amongst the most difficult complications around. A perpetual calendar is complex, but mainly because of the number of parts required. A tourbillon has the same kind of issues, but it remains a known technical solution. A chronograph is even more complex, for two reasons. First, it requires many parts: levers, gears, clutch, dedicated gear trains for the seconds, the minutes or the hours timed, a mechanism for the pushers and a activation device – a cam when done simply or a column-wheel when done traditionally. But this amount of parts is just about machining and assembling. Time-consuming but not highly complex for good watchmakers. The main issue comes from the adjustment and the integration in the movement.
The chronograph relies on kinematics with a chain of actions, each one determining and triggering the next, and each sequence precisely synchronized and adjusted. Even the tiniest imperfection has a knock-on effect, traveling down the line like a series of dominoes, disrupting the entire movement. From the action of pressing a pusher to the start of the second hand of the chronograph, it is a serious amount of parts engaged. All have to be perfectly conceived, assembled and adjusted to perfectly run together. Then there’s the ultimate issue: timekeeping. As being a second gear train added to a movement, a chronograph can actually ruin the entire precision of a movement. Resistance, frictions, numbers of parts to move… nothing is the same when the chronograph is activated or not. This remains rather problematic for a modular movement, as the base was not designed to receive such a module. And this is why integration is key.
The Calibre PF 361 of the Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda Chronor is the first integrated chronograph movement of the brand. Of course, Parmigiani already had in-house chronograph movements in the collection, but until now, they were modular ones – a chronograph module added on the top of a normal (3 hands) movement – and as we told you, this can be problematic for the kinematics of the chronograph and timekeeping. Here, everything has been conceived and design from scratch and integrated into the movement. All the complications, including the rattrapante function or even the big date, are into the movement and not being additional modules. What does it means? A better integration and interaction of the parts, less possible negative effects on timekeeping and a best looking movement – ok, this is quite subjective.
Technically, the PF 361 of the Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda Chronor is a split-seconds / rattrapante chronograph movement with big date. Thus, it features 2 column-wheels, one actuating the normal chronograph function, the other used to split the time or to catch up (rattraper in French) the timing session. These column-wheels are linked to a vertical clutch, which solves the problem of the initial jolts on certain lower-end chronographs – the second hand will start smoothly and won’t do this small jump that can be seen on a 7750 for instance (again, look at our dedicated technical column for more details about column-wheels and clutches). Finally, and this rare enough to be mentioned, it is a high-beat movement, beating at 5Hz or 36,000 beats per hours – and high-beat means virtually better chronometric results. Thus, this movement is 1. high complex – 2. entirely designed in-house – 3. fully integrated – 4. potentially very precise.
Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda Chronor – a demonstration of haute-horlogerie
This Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda Chronor is an anniversary piece, celebrating the 20 years of the brand. Thus, it seems that Parmigiani wanted to strike hard. We already knew that this manufacture was capable of great finished movements – like the simple Tonda 1950 or, more complex and detailed, the Parmigiani Toric Resonance 3 – but this one is just a demonstration of all the skills they have in stock. Yes, it is a very demonstrative piece. Maybe, just maybe, it just does too much. But in reality, who cares? As a reminder of haute-horlogerie finishing is, check our technical article here.
With the Tonda Chronor, we have a feast of finishing. First, the movement’s main plate and bridges are crafted in solid rose gold. There’s only a few manufactures to do it, including FP Journe. If using gold for the movement won’t bring anything on technical or mechanical sides, it certainly does a lot for the luxurious appeal – and a bit for the longevity of the parts, as gold is insensitive to corrosion and highly durable. The movement feels like being the jewel of the watch. Not very discreet for sure, quite showy but also very desirable. Then, there’s the look. It is very modern, architectural and opened, not the kind of design that PF used us to and not the kind of design that traditional watchmaking usually does. The bridges are shaped like a spider web, with concentric lines starting from the center of the balance wheel. And because of this architecture, you’ll enjoy a view on all the technical parts of this movement – something that is not always the case in modern, integrated chronograph movements (which usually hide their entrails).
Finally, there’s the finishing applied on all the parts. The main bridge on top is… brilliant. Of course the edges are chamfered and polished by hand and the flat surfaces brushed. But there’s also the sharp and pointy angles of the openings, which all show internal angles – and such finishing is only doable by hand and it costs time, a lot. And because of the actual spider web shape of this bridge, there’s a lot of these internal angles. I’ve counted over 60 of them on this movement (and certainly more are hidden…). To contrast with the shiny polished angles, the main plate isn’t circular grained but instead matte frosted. Sinks and screws are polished and bevelled, wheels are finished with a circular pattern, spokes are chamfered, the barrel is engraved and the few steel parts are finished with a straight graining.
Overall, this movement is modern, technically advanced, architectural, deep, with many surfaces and recessed parts and at the same time, it is luxurious, traditional and it really shows the skills of finishers. Some could see in it a bit of pretentiousness or a wish to overdo things. On our side, we clearly enjoyed looking at this movement.
Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda Chronor – wait, there’s a watch around the movement
Of course, there’s a watch… As beautiful this movement is, we should not forget that is encased in a watch – and you’ll clearly see the dial and the case more often than the movement – well, you could also use the watch as desk decoration, but it would be a bit sad, as the Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda Chronor Anniversaire is also a very nice watch.
As being part of the Tonda collection, this watch relies on the typical design of the brand. Around a round central container, you’ll have 4 water-drop shaped lugs, which even if not the most discreet ones, are visually pleasant and distinctive. It gives this case a mix of classical round design and of tonneau shape The case measures 42.1mm – a rather reasonable dimension on paper – but the lugs are rather long. Not so problematic as they are highly curved, but you’ll need to try it first on the wrist. This case is available in pink or white gold. The dial is rather clean for such a watch and all the indications are narrow and very finely printed. The dial is made in grand feu enamel and available in white or dark blue (both for the pink and white gold).
Overall, the Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda Chronor remains classical and elegant. Visually, there’s nothing showy or demonstrative, which contrasts with the opulence of the movement. This watch is clearly a watchmaker’s piece and one made for the horology passionates. Each of the four versions (two dial options, in either white or pink gold) is limited to 25 pieces. Price: 128,600 Euros. More details on www.parmigiani.ch.