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Parmigiani’s Tonda PF Marks a New Chapter for the Independent Watchmaker

Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda PF Micro-Rotor rose gold

Parmigiani Tonda PF Micro Rotor Rose Gold, CHF 49,000

Logically, I know that Parmigiani have always made damn fine watches. Their Fleurier manufacturer is a tour de force in independent vertical integration, the artisan crafts employed are always flawless and the calibres more than just mechanically sound. The problem is, watches aren’t really about logic. Otherwise, we’d all wear Apples.

That’s a long-winded way of saying that I’ve never really connected to Parmigiani as anything more than a metal exercise. In the past it’s always been hard to put my finger on precisely why. I would – and have – happily have worn a Tonda 1950 but buying one never really entered into my mind.

Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda PF Annual Calendar rose gold

Parmigiani Tonda PF Annual Calendar Rose Gold, CHF 70,000

Granted, their price tags are beyond my means (as are most things just after tax season), but I still dream of owning a Moser & Cie Streamliner; why not a Parmigiani? Thankfully, it’s an enigma that the watchmaker themselves have answered – because the Tonda PF is everything that, to me, Parmigiani never was.

Now, the Tonda PF isn’t drastically different to anything the watchmaker has done before. We’re not talking a reboot here, more a reinterpretation, largely thanks to Mr. Guido Terreni.

Terrini has a record with watch design; he was one of the names behind the Octo Finissimo, an industrial chic creation that’s been a godsend for Bulgari’s ascent into serious watchmaking. Still, where that was building on the existing Octo and refining it into an ultra-thin masterpiece, the Tonda PF is, to all intents and purposes, a brand reboot.

So why PF? Well, that was a seal that has traditionally always been engraved on Parmigiani bridges and rotors, as a kind of horological hallmark. The thinking therefore is that these new Tonda models are the new flagship for the brand. Before the PF denoted quality; now it’s a mnemonic for Parmigiani as a whole.

Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda PF Chronograph stainless steel

Parmigiani Tonda PF Chronograph Steel, CHF 28,000

Given the steel case and pared-back dial, it’d be easy to throw the Tonda PF in with the raft of sports elegance pieces out there, from your Nautili to your Alpine Eagles. It makes sense that Terreni would kick things off with an entry into that particular sub-genre; it’s more on-trend than a plant-based NFT, especially when it’s done well.

But while yes, the PF has an integrated bracelet and yes, it’s nicely streamlined in a yacht-to-bar kind of way, just tagging it ‘sports elegance’ to feed the algorithm gods is a few keystrokes short of lazy. There’s a hell of a lot more going on here.

The PF is all about detail. I don’t mean overly ornate guilloche or the kind of gunmaker engravings fit for a medieval tapestry, but simple elements done to perfection. The most obvious example of that is the dial. We’ve seen grain d’orge before, and it’s normally pretty eye-catching. Here though, the dial has used a CNC machine to create it at the smallest possible scale. The result is that it’s more a background texture than a statement engraving, and the watch is all the better for it.

Parmigiani Tonda PF dial
Parmigiani Tonda PF dial

The minute track around the edge isn’t just contrast brushed; it’s actively sunken. The indexes aren’t just applied batons, they’re three-dimensional, faceted trapezoids. Even the PF logo at 12 o’clock is applied in two completely separate parts. Are any of these details immediately noticeable at a glance? Not really. But once you start looking beyond the sports elegance surface, there’s an iceberg of similar touches to admire.

In fact, it’s a running theme that’s been taken to an illogical extreme. Look at the lugs. You see where they meet the caseband? That tiny stretch of metal on the inside curve that you can barely see? That’s been painstakingly mirror polished. Why? By this point, I assume because they can.

There are still classic Parmigiani touches, like the fluted and polished two-layered bezel, which still holds to Michel Parmigiani’s original obsession with the golden ratio of Grecian columns. But it’s subtler than it ever was in the Toric; a side dish rather than an entrée and deliciously complimentary.

Parmigiani Tonda PF Chronograph Steel lifestyle
Parmigiani Tonda PF Micro Rotor lifestyle

And that’s the crux of what makes the Tonda PF so much different than the days of Parmigiani past. Previously, they wore their expertise on their sleeve, as all good watchmakers are tempted to do. But that was their entire focus without a strong, holistic design to back it up. They shouted when they should have whispered. And the way the PF whispers would make a killing on the ASMR scene.

It’s also a pretty versatile platform. It’s let Parmigiani bake a decent range of complications into the recipe, ranging from an integrated chrono to a phenomenally cool split seconds via way of an annual calendar. They’re all the same layout – making me look forward to a bit more variety come their 2022 release slate – but for all the excellence therein, it’s the simplest model that’s the best.

Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda PF Micro-Rotor stainless steel

Parmigiani Tonda PF Micro Rotor Steel, CHF 21,000

The time-and-date Micro-Rotor is an avatar for the new direction of Parmigiani, emphasising small, almost unnoticeable details over complications. Equipped with the newest base movement for the watchmaker, the PF703, the platinum rotor dropped down into the movement means the entire thing is just 3mm thick. Terreni obviously has a thing for slim watches. After trying this out on the wrist, I’m inclined to agree.

40mm wide and rising to 7.8mm off the wrist, the Micro-Rotor is downright lovely to wear. The relatively wide bracelet sits snugly and, once you start recognising the various, under-the-radar design flourishes that have gone into the PF, it’s hard to keep your eyes off.

So while the expertise that Parmigiani have honed over decades is still in full effect, and while they’re still the independent manufacturer they’ve always been, the PF is a welcome soft reboot for their watchmaking franchise – and I’m already looking forward to the sequel. Am I emotionally invested now? You bet I am.

More details at Parmigiani.

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About the author

Sam Kessler

Legend has it that Sam’s first word was ‘escapement’ and, while he might have started that legend himself, he’s been in the watch world long enough that it makes little difference. As the editor of Oracle Time, he’s our leading man for all things horological – even if he does love yellow dials to a worrying degree. Owns a Pogue; doesn’t own an Oyster Perpetual. Yet.