Parmigiani Fleurier, the brand founded by revered watchmaker Michel Parmigiani, marked its 20th anniversary in 2016 with the unveiling of the Tonda Chronor Anniversaire, a captivating timepiece housing the brand’s new in-house hand-wound split-seconds chronograph movement of extraordinary aesthetics, the calibre PF361. Limited to 25 pieces, the Chronor Anniversaire paved the way for subsequent iterations, like the show-stopping Tonda PF Split-Seconds Chronograph (2021) in platinum with a matching bracelet, sharing the PF361 movement, but without the date complication. The Tonda PF Split-Seconds Chronograph Rose Gold Grey continued the legacy in 2023 with an 18k rose gold case and bracelet. Having had hands-on experience with this magnificent timepiece, we are excited to share our insights.
The Opulent Frame
The Tonda PF Split-Seconds Chronograph is undeniably a substantial watch that radiates importance and meaning, with a 42mm diameter case and bracelet seamlessly connecting to the Tonda’s familiar teardrop-style lugs, all crafted from solid rose gold.
The case, adorned with the signature hand-knurled bezel, exhibits contrasting hand-brushed and hand-polished finishes. Noteworthy are the teardrop-shaped pushers for starting/stopping and resetting the chronograph, the large (7.2mm diameter) screw-in crown with an integrated button for the split-seconds function, and the shiny polish on the lugs and external part of the bracelet, while the internal links of the bracelet and the caseband sport a satin finish. Despite the inherent opulence of a full-gold timepiece, the Tonda PF Split-Seconds Chronograph Rose Gold Grey quite strangely maintains an element of understated elegance, particularly on the dial side.
The Elegantly Austere Dial
The Tonda PF series embodies “rich minimalism,” as described by Guido Terreni, the head of Parmigiani Fleurier since 2021, who spearheaded the new Tonda PF collection, and by default, we apply this to describe the grey dial of the Tonda PF Split-Seconds Chronograph Rose Gold. Pure yet highly detailed, the sandblasted dial, with a textured touch on the solid platinum base, maintains a uniform matte feel even on the recessed portions of the sub-dials and periphery, the latter featuring a pulsometer scale calibrated to 30 pulsations. Twelve hand-applied rose gold indices connect the concave peripheral ring with the base, adding depth to the image, their miniature surfaces reflecting light beautifully.
The sub-dials – 30-minute counter at 3, running seconds at 6, and 12-hour counter at 9 o’clock – bear printed black Arabic numerals and markings. The skeletonized, delta-shaped hour and minute hands are crafted from gold, with the central chronograph hand and the hands of the 30-minute and 12-hour counters made of steel and gold-plated. In contrast, the steel rattrapante hand and the small seconds hand are rhodium-plated, a clever way to distinguish the functions. The applied gold PF logo, based on a drawing made by Michel Parmigiani in the 1990s, is positioned above the centre, contributing to the dial’s design and understated feel despite sitting within a heavy gold frame.
The Smooth Function
Operating the Tonda PF Split-Seconds Chronograph is a joy, with buttons responding swiftly and nicely to the commands. When the chronograph is started by pressing the pusher at 2 o’clock, the precisely lined up superimposed rose-gold-plated central seconds hand and the rhodium-plated split-second hand begin to move. After a predetermined interval, which could be as little as a tenth of a second (the Calibre PF361 is running at 36,000 vibrations/hour, I will get to it later), the upper split-second hand can be stopped via the actuator button co-axial with the crown while the central seconds hand continues to move.
This allows you to read the elapsed time of the first event. Once the first event has been timed, the split-second hand can be released by another push of the crown button and catch up to the central seconds hand, performing the “rattrapante”. You can then use the split-second hand to time the second event while the main seconds hand continues to run and measure the total elapsed time; pressing the 10 o’clock pusher will stop the chronograph. The push-piece at 4 o’clock is for resetting the chronograph, split-second and counter hands.
The Exquisite Rattrapante Movement
We all can spend a lot of time admiring the dial, but the true gem is the movement. To design a perfect chronograph movement is not a trivial task; to make it as beautiful as the Parmigiani Fleurier PF361 is genuinely a challenge. Parmigiani had in-house chronograph movements in the collection before 2016, but they were modular. What is remarkable about the PF361 Parmigiani chose to create a new integrated rattrapante chronograph, more complex and delicate than a regular chronograph – not so much in terms of the number of components, but rather in terms of precision and adjustment, from scratch. The PF361 features two column wheels, one actuating the normal chronograph function, the other to split the time or catch up with the event’s timing, and the wheels are linked to a vertical clutch, which ensures the smooth functioning we experienced.
The two-layer, spiderweb-like open architecture of this calibre allows us to enjoy the view of many technical parts of this movement, something scarce in integrated chronograph movements. The movement’s main plate and bridges are crafted in solid rose gold, also a rare occurrence, which adds to the elegant overall presentation. The main plate is matte frosted, while the pierced bridges, in contrast, have brushed surfaces, their chamfered edges and sharp edges polished by hand. The sheer number of exterior and interior angles on the bridges that are delicately hand-finished is insane. The sinks and screws are polished and bevelled, the wheels are finished with a circular pattern, and the existing steel parts have straight graining.
In the images, you can also see part of the mainspring barrel with teardrop shapes and Michel Parmigiani’s signature, look to the left of the PF logo. For the things you can’t see, the calibre PF361 is made from 309 components and has a power reserve of 65 hours, and operates at 36,000 vibrations/hour, or 5Hz, which is an important characteristic for any chronograph for it allows to time 1/10 second intervals, compared to 1/8 second with a chronograph beating at 4 Hz.
Availability & Price
The Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda PF Split-Seconds Chronograph Rose Gold is a limited edition of 30, with a hefty price of EUR 155,000 or CHF 155,000. The bracelet can be changed to an alligator leather strap (supplied, but no quick-release system), should you wish to downplay the luxury radiance a bit, and this is what brings us to concluding thoughts.
The rose gold edition of the Tonda PF Split-Seconds Chronograph is one of the most understated solid-gold timepieces that exist, thanks to the exceptionally clever design of the dial, the choice of alloy and the dominating satin finish on the bracelet. It is 100% Swiss-made, with most of its components produced by manufacturers affiliated with Parmigiani Fleurier and united under the imaginary roof of the Watchmaking Centre, including Atokalpa and Elwin for the components, Les Artisans Boîtiers for the cases, Quadrance & Habillage for the dials, and Vaucher Manufacture Fleurier for the movements. Tonda PF Split-Seconds Chronograph is equipped with one of the best and most beautiful integrated chronograph movements – calibre PF361, which is a testament to a never-ending quest for horological excellence which drives Michel Parmigiani and his brand since 1996. All this adds a lot of different kinds of weight to the Tonda PF Split-Seconds Chronograph Rose Gold, something I believe lucky owners of this magnificent watch will be happy to carry around.
For more information, please visit parmigiani.com.