Achieving a record thinness is one of the watchmakers’ favorite games. We’ve seen the world’s thinnest watch being launched recently (that also is a skeletonized one), we’ve seen the world’s thinnest tourbillon arriving on the market and finally the world’s thinnest hand-wound flyback chronograph. Brands are clearly pushing the boundaries of watchmaking with these ultra-thin movements and cases. Such thinness is extremely complicated to achieve (and mostly to combine with reliability). In terms of world’s records, there’s another one that has to be mentioned, as the watch you’re looking at now is the world’s thinnest automatic flying tourbillon. Hands-on with the Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda 1950 Tourbillon.
Ultra-thin watches are interesting for 2 reasons. The first one could be seen as a marketing gimmick. Having the world’s thinnest watch, the world’s thinnest tourbillon or the world’s thinnest minute repeater is good for the ego of the brand and good for sales. However, beyond these material considerations, you have to understand the complexity hidden behind such type of watches. It requires ultra-thin parts and specifically designed cases – but without losing the point of a watch: being reliable and solid enough to be worn on a daily basis. Ultra-thin watches are complex not because of the display or the functions but because it forces watchmakers to find innovative solutions. The second reason to love ultra-thin watches is for their natural elegance. A dress watch has to be slim. Period! Thus, the slimmer, the more elegant a watch is (theoretically of course). The watch we’re looking at today breaks the record for the world’s thinnest automatic flying tourbillon with micro-rotor. Quite a specific record you’ll admit. Whatever the statement behind this watch, it has much more to offer than just this.
The Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda 1950 Tourbillon is based on the normal edition of the Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda 1950, a watch that we love here, at Monochrome-Watches. In our recent review, our editor-in-chief, Frank Geelen, stated this: “the Parmigiani Tonda 1950 is one of the finest examples of a thoroughbred dress watch that is currently available on the market. (…) 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.” Knowing the foundations used and adding to that a superbly finished, ultra-thin, automatic tourbillon movement and you’ll easily understand that the Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda 1950 Tourbillon is a both elegant and technically advanced timepiece.
When we first showed you the Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda 1950 Tourbillon at the time of its introduction, we presented to you the 4 editions available for men: white gold with black jade dial, pink gold with blue stripped dial, pink gold with grained off-white dial and finally white gold with white jade dial. We chose to show you the latter for its understated look (that perfectly fits the entire feel of the watch) that however hides an interesting and almost hidden texture on its dial.
Let’s get back on numbers. Parmigiani Fleurier claims that this Tonda 1950 Tourbillon is the thinnest automatic flying tourbillon. This means that that it is not the thinnest tourbillon movement in the world. This goes to the Bvlgari Octo Finissimo Tourbillon, with a movement measuring 1.95 mm. However, this is a hand-wound watch, meaning no rotor that adds some thickness to the movement. In terms of thinness, we could also mention the Breguet Classique Tourbillon Extra-Thin Automatic 5377, that is automatic, with a peripheral rotor (to gain in height). It measures 7mm overall and 3mm only for the movement. However it is not a flying tourbillon, but a classical one, with bridges on top and on the back. There’s also Arnold & Son with the UTTE, a watch that overall measures 8.34mm. However, it’s a hand-wound timepiece.
As for the question of the thinnest automatic tourbillon, the title holder is still the 1986 Audermars Piguet Calibre 2870, an automatic tourbillon watch that overall measure 4.8mm (so less than the Bvlgari), making it also the thinnest tourbillon watch ever. We know, it’s a matter of perspective and numbers… Movement vs. case / automatic vs. manual / flying vs. normal tourbillon…
How does the Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda 1950 Tourbillon stack up in the crowd? Pay attention to the words: it is the thinnest automatic flying tourbillon with micro-rotor. Remove one of the words and you won’t have a record watch anymore. So, the Tonda 1950 Tourbillon has a case measuring 8.65mm overall and a movement with a 3.4mm height (also note that Parmigiani claims to have created the world’s lightest tourbillon cage. The entire cage is crafted from titanium and weighs only 0.255 grams). Well, are these numbers the most important factor? I don’t think so and whatever the thinnest or the not-thinnest, this Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda 1950 Tourbillon is an exceptionally slim watch, with superb elegance. Its movement is also superb in its finishing (as usual with Parmigiani, which can claim to have one of the best executions). The movement features highly polished bevelled angles, interesting shapes, circular Geneva stripes, fine circular graining, wheels spokes that are finished with chamfers and an engraved micro-rotor.
The one-minute tourbillon is elegantly off-centered at 7 on the dial. It comprises a small second indicator (the most natural position for a small second on a tourbillon…) and the cage is, like the rest of the movement, superbly finished. The balance wheel is a variable inertia one instead of a screwed one. Variable inertia are small weights that can be rotated, in order to poise the balance, and thus regulate the rhythm of the balance. With a screw-balance, the small screws serve the same purpose as the poising weights, however these small screws protrude outwards and catch more ‘air’. The use of variable inertia offers a more streamlined structure, giving the tourbillon more stability throughout its operation. Also note that this is a flying tourbillon, meaning that rather than being supported by a bridge at both the top and bottom of the movement, the flying tourbillon is cantilevered, being only supported from one side (something that also participates to the thinness of the movement).
Overall, this movement features 205 parts, runs at a 3Hz frequency (21,600 vph) and boasts 42 hours of power reserve from a single barrel.
The Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda 1950 Tourbillon is superior elegance. It features the same overall design than the normal (read without tourbillon) Tonda 1950, however with a slightly larger and thicker case (the normal one measures 39mm x 7.8mm). The diameter of the Tonda Tourbillon remains very subtle at 40.20mm, a size that, regarding the actual standards, is clearly under the average size of such complicated watches – and that’s something we highly encourage. The round case is livened up by the typical Tonda lugs that differentiate this watch from the rest of the crowd. Overall, this Tonda Tourbillon perfectly qualifies as an elegant, understated dress watch – however, with the right amount of uniqueness. Comfort on the wrist is perfect.
The specificity of this edition of the Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda 1950 Tourbillon is to feature a textured dial. At first, you’ll only notice a plain white disc. However, the dial is made of polished white jade that reveals some nice inclusions in certain angles. Then again, this is understated luxury. The hands and the indexes are made with great care and perfectly polished (using the same design as the classical Tonda 1950).
Overall, this Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda 1950 Tourbillon is the definition of restrained luxury, a watch made for the old money and not featured with an ounce of show-off. It cleverly mixes a complicated movement (yes, it isn’t the slimmest tourbillon but whatever), with a superb execution in a watch that is discreet for the non-aficionado but that reveals more when looked closely: a textured dial made of a nice stone (jade), a slim profile that requires a complicated movement and a classical design that however stands out of the crowd. As the 3-hand edition, the Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda 1950 Tourbillon is one of the best examples of complicated elegance.
Price: 123,800 Euros (for the 4 editions). More on www.parmigiani.fr.