Parmigiani Fleurier’s Kalpa collection was given the red-carpet treatment in 2018 and fitted with in-house movements customised to match the shape of its distinctive, tonneau cases. As part of the brand’s mission to obtain “consistency between the contents and the container,” shaped movements will be animating the hearts of all future Kalpa watches.
The Kalpa Chronor upped the ante and dazzled us with the world’s first solid gold, integrated automatic chronograph movement. This dazzling Midas touch, first conferred upon Parmigiani’s anniversary Kalpa XL Hebdomadaire model of 2016, posed extraordinary difficulties to Parmigiani’s watchmakers given gold’s intrinsic malleability and the complexity involved in building an integrated automatic chronograph movement.
Why does Parmigiani Fleurier go to these extremes? Because it can, is the simplest answer. Spending six years of R&D to create an integrated high-frequency automatic column-wheel chronograph movement – considered the holy grail of an independent watch manufacture – to fit inside a tonneau-shaped case, and then notching up the difficulty factor by creating this movement in solid gold, are the kinds of things that get Michel Parmigiani going.
Michel Parmigiani: a Restoration man
As a restorer of antique timepieces since 1976, Michel Parmigiani has rescued clocks, automata, and watches representing over 500 years of watchmaking history from extinction. With a Proustian reverence for the past, Michel Parmigiani’s restoration experience has instilled in him a profound admiration for the art of traditional watchmaking and has been the cornerstone of his watchmaking adventure. With the backing of the Sandoz Family Foundation, Michel Parmigiani’s dream of creating his own brand came true in 1996 and today, the fully-integrated capacities of Parmigiani Fleurier’s manufacture mean that every last component of a watch, with the exception of the leather straps, which are supplied by Hermès, are made in-house.
What came first, the chicken or the egg?
The Kalpa collection, launched in 2001, is signature Parmigiani. With its rectangular profile and distinctive teardrop-shaped lugs, the story behind the design is worth retelling. Having developed his first in-house watch movement in 1998 (PF110), Michel Parmigiani decided to design a case that would echo the tonneau shape of his first 8-day calibre. Instead of executing a frontal sketch for the case, the master watchmaker designed the Kalpa from the side and used the golden number (1:1,168) and the Fibonacci sequence to get the lugs just right.
Revisited in 2018 with tautened lines and resized and realigned lugs, the 18k rose gold case of the Kalpa Chronor has the sleek sensuality, refined curvature and geometric appeal of an Art Deco design. And you can feel it. The weight, the silky surface of the polished rose gold contours, the easy manipulation of the pushers and the dynamic ergonomics of the case give this watch its striking bell’uomo personality.
The use of different decorative motifs on the black dial effectively frame and highlight the action of the chronograph functions. The periphery of the dial has been treated to a braid-like guilloché pattern that intensifies around the six rose gold applied hour markers, which like the delta-shaped hands are treated with luminescent material. The black opaline centre displays the gold snailed chronograph counters, a small seconds sub-dial at 6 o’clock and a large, arched date window at 12 o’clock. In keeping with the golden spirit of the Kalpa Chronor, the first day of every month is sprinkled with gold powder.
Behind the sensual polished surfaces of the case lies the Kalpa Chronor’s true treasure; Parmigiani’s first shaped integrated chronograph movement (PF365) made in the Fleurier manufacture from solid rose gold. Needless to say, working with gold is tricky: gold sticks to tools; it is malleable and deforms easily, and every machine needs to be recalibrated. Arranged on a single main plate, the integrated chronograph is organised around a column wheel instead of a cam offering a much smoother – and less jerky – experience when activating the chronograph functions. Oscillating at 5 Hertz, this high frequency, COSC-certified chronograph can measure elapsed times with accuracy of up to 1/10th of a second and offers a robust power reserve of 65 hours.
The decoration of the movement, requiring more than 50 hours for each watch, is a veritable work of art; even parts that are hidden under the black dial have been finished with loving detail. A golden light suffuses the entire movement and invites the eye to explore every last detail, from the skeletonised satin-brushed bridges to the lavish barley grain guilloché work on the rotor.
The Kalpa Chronor is a limited edition of 50 numbered pieces and comes with a black Hermès alligator strap and a rose gold folding buckle. The watch retails for EUR 85,000. More details on www.parmigiani.com.