On a warm, summer evening in London, on September 1st, a group of watch collectors and enthusiasts gathered at the Parmigiani Fleurier boutique on Mount Street in London’s exclusive Mayfair. Surprisingly though it wasn’t watches they had come to see – although there were plenty of nice ones on display – but a man. A man and his Olympic gold medal.
Stepping into the air-conditioned comfort of the boutique it wasn’t hard to spot the evening’s main attraction. At close to 200 cm tall, Parmigiani brand ambassador Tom Ransley stood head and shoulders above pretty much everyone else in the crowd. He was also the only person with a large gold medal hanging around his neck, although that wouldn’t remain the case for long. Following Great Brittain’s stellar performance at the recent Rio Olympics, seasoned collectors and newbies alike – teeming with patriotic pride – lined up to have their photos taken with Tom and his medal. It was a surreal experience watching him casually hand around something he had sacrificed the last 4 years of his life to acquire.
Once the champagne and canapés had circulated a few times and everyone had had at least 2 or 3 selfies with Tom, we settled in to listen to him speak about what it’s like to compete at the highest level and how it feels to win an Olympic gold medal. Not surprisingly the room was immediately enraptured by what he had to say.
By way of background for those who aren’t as familiar with Tom Ransley, the Rio Olympics was actually his second games. His first appearance was of course at the London Olympics in 2012 when Team GB Men’s Rowing 8 came away with the Bronze after being considered one of the favourites to the win the Gold. According to Tom he was initially very disappointed by this outcome as he felt like the team had more to give but in time he came to appreciate his Bronze medal for the incredible achievement it was. Of course it also fueled the fire to get him back out on the water and training harder than ever for the Rio Olympics.
After winning the World Championships in 2015 the Team GB Men’s Rowing 8 were again one of the hot favourites to take out the Gold at Rio. Tom stressed though how important it was that he and his teammates didn’t get distracted by that type of talk. It was critical that they stayed focus and just rowed the best race they could on the day. Easier said than done. Just as in fine watch-making, success in rowing requires discipline, persistence and repetition, repetition, repetition. Being able to stay calm under pressure also doesn’t hurt. Still, as Tom explained, there are no guarantees on the day; “you just never know how fast the other guys out there are going to be on that specific day.”
The race itself was quite an exciting affair and if you didn’t get a chance to watch it at the time I highly recommend checking it out. Team GB was of course victorious, with Germany coming in less than a second behind to claim Silver.
On To The Watches
Once Tom’s talk was over and the raucous applause died down, the festivities resumed and I took the opportunity to slip downstairs and have a look at some of the more exclusive pieces Parmigiani had on display. Chances are if you’re reading this you’re already familiar with the brand so I won’t bore with you the details. Suffice to say they are an independent company that makes exquisite timepieces with a truly impressive level of ingenuity and finishing. My favorite of the night was probably the iconic Ovale Pantograph complete with telescopic arms. I had only seen it in person once before so the opportunity to get hands on again was not one I was willing to pass up.
Next up was the gorgeously understated Tonda 1950 Tourbillon. This time-only piece features a superb ‘extra-thin’ flying tourbillon placed just off-centre at 7 o’clock paired with a gorgeous blue dial and 18ct rose gold case. It wears like a dream on the wrist. Of course if you want something a little more overtly complicated than it’s hard to go past the Pershing Skeleton Tourbillon. The completely open-worked dial allows the 30-second tourbillon to be viewed clearly in action from both the front and back. The 45mm case makes a statement on the wrist but it’s not uncomfortable by any means, although I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this as a daily wearer!
Special thanks to Parmigiani Fleurier for hosting us at this excellent event. It’s not every day you get to meet an Olympic champion or hold a gold medal for that matter.