Suppose you’re looking for a dress watch. Not just a dress watch but it has to be a pure, thoroughbred dress watch and it has to be among the best that money can buy. So you focus your (online) search queries on Haute Horlogerie, or high-end watches, and dress watch and hope you will find what you’re looking for. Unfortunately Google serves you too many results that simply do not apply. At least they don’t apply according to our standards. Today we’re going to show you an example that does qualify, and easily holds its own with the biggest names in the industry. We’re talking about the superbly elegant Parmigiani Tonda 1950.
When talking dress watches, we are not always straight in our classification, we have to admit that. Sometimes we classify an elegant watch that features a moon phase and date as dress watch, while in its purest form a dress watch should only indicates time with two or three hands (with or without seconds). There’s a lot of choice, especially when you look at prices starting around a thousand Euros, going up to several tens of thousands. There’s for instance the affordable Montblanc Heritage Chronometrie Ultra Slim, which starts around 2k for the steel version, and on the other end of the spectrum there’s the Patek Calatrava, which is regarded by many as the mother of all dress watches. It retails for around twenty thousand Euros, the Calatrava actually sets the dress watch benchmark. So let’s take that as starting point for looking at the Parmigiani Tonda 1950.
The Fleurier-based brand Parmigiani flies a bit under the radar, however once people get to know this brand, it is hard to ignore the impeccable finishing of the movement, the case, dial and hands. Everything is made in-house, since Parmigiani is fully vertically integrated. Together with Hermès they own the movement manufacture Vaucher (Parmigiani holds a majority share). They also own a case manufacture, dial manufacture and several other manufactures that produce smaller parts, for Parmigiani and also for many other prestigious watch brands.
[bctt tweet=”Did you know that Parmigiani named the Tonda 1950, after Michel Parmigiani’s year of birth, 1950? “]
The Tonda collection comprises of several round shaped watches, with various complcations; there is for instance the Tonda 1950 Squelette (fully skeletonized movement) and the Tonda 1950 Tourbillon, featuring the world’s thinnest automatic flying tourbillon. The brand that is named after master watchmaker Michel Parmigiani, who is still at the helm of technical developments and the restoration department, has many more impressive timepieces in the collection. We especially like the Bugatti pieces that all feature a movement that looks almost like the engine of a Bugatti Veyron. Enough about the brand, now let’s focus on what we consider to be one of the best looking and best finished dress watches on the market.
At first glance the Tonda 1950 is a thoroughbred dress watch, with classic looks and dimensions, a clean crisp dial, no date to disturb the esthetics and the balance of the dial, and a beautiful crafted leather strap. It retails for approx. € 15,000 Euros and comes in either 18K white or red gold. The beautiful leather strap comes from Hermès, who make the straps for all Parmigiani watches, and the quality is quite simply superb.
What stood out after wearing the Tonda 1950 for some weeks is actually that there were nothing that really stood out negatively. Usually with even the most prestigious brands/watches there’s a bit of a sharp edge on the case, or clasp, or the legibility is actually kind of poor. None of that here! The Tonda 1950 is actually superbly made, finished and features some very nice details.
The case and strap
At Parmigiani, timepieces with a round case are not the standard. Right from the very start, they created timepieces with different shapes and that is what makes their timepieces so unique. And despite the Tonda 1950 features a round case, Parmigiani managed to keep the recognizable looks. The lugs feature their characteristic design that can be found on almost every Parmigiani wrist watch. These shaped lugs are one of the characteristic Parmigiani features that give the classic round Tonda 1950 that ‘special touch’.
The case measures 39 mm in diameter and is 7.8 mm thick, and therefore certainly qualify as a dress watch. Due to the short, downward sloping lugs, the Tonda wears very comfortable. Suppose the lugs would be straight instead of downward sloping, it would have a much different balance on the wrist. With these ergonomics the Tonda 1950 is a sheer pleasure to wear. Finishing is of the highest level and everything feels (and looks) smooth.
The strap, as already mentioned, is made in the Hermès ateliers, and is closed with a tang buckle that is executed in the same colour gold as the case.
Dial and hands
Both dial colours have a matte look; the off-white dial has a very fine grained finish, while the dial that could be mistaken for black actually is deep graphite. This matte look is just one of the subtle features that really determine the looks of the Tonda 1950. The classic dial features diamond polished applied hour markers, which are rose or white gold plated, and an applied Parmigiani Fleurier logo. At the lower half of the dial is the off-centre second sub dial, which is slightly recessed. For the rest the dial is uncluttered, clean and extremely classy.
The hands are slightly out of the ordinary for a classical dress watch. The delta-shaped hands feature a luminescent coating, which make it easy to read the time during the darker hour of the day and even at night. Not that the luminescent material is as strong as on most diver watches, yet it is strong enough to tell the time. The small second hand is without luminescent material, and is either rose or white gold plated.
Movement Calibre PF701
When the watch is turned over, a see-through case back shows the intricate beauty of caliber PF701. A sight that will impress not only laymen, but also the seasoned watch collector. And rightfully so, because this movement features a micro-rotor that ‘harvests’ the energy of your wrist movements and transfers that to winding the main spring. Due to their nature, the winding mass of a micro-rotor movement does not overlap the beautiful movement and everything is still fully visible to be admired. And there’s a lot to admire!
The in-house designed, developed and manufactured movement delivers 42 hours of autonomy, when fully wound. The main plate features a circular graining (also called pèrlage), the bridges are adorned with Côte de Genève and their edges are chamfered and polished by hand. The micro-rotor has beautiful hand-made decoration as well, and the design of the bridges is very beautiful and I’d almost say that it’s typical Fleurier style. The movement’s finishing is exemplary of a full-fledged high-end timepiece. Add to that the screw balance with poising weights and you really know that this is a high-end masterpiece.
Parmigiani Tonda 1950 – Conclusion
All together the Parmigiani Tonda 1950 is one of the finest examples of a thoroughbred dress watch that is currently available on the market. The superb finishing on virtually all parts, including case, dial and hands, is just a feat to look at and to feel. The qualities of this watch easily hold up to the benchmark, however it has a more attractive price point. Certainly we cannot deny that it does not have the ‘gleam’ of the Patek name on the dial, however it sports a relatively unknown name. But that can change! It’s fair to say that you can get one of the best dress watches on the market, priced well below the benchmark, with a quality that is at least equal to the benchmark.
Thanks to Ace Jewelers in Amsterdam for the beautiful photos!