February 14, 2022
by Ariel Adams
Under still-new leadership from Mr. Guido Terreni (formerly of Bulgari), Parmigiani Fleurier is trying to be the anti-Rolex, anti-Patek Philippe luxury watch brand. Celebrating 25 years of existence after having been founded by the extremely talented Mr. Michel Parmigiani, the Swiss brand today is focusing its virtues around a watch collection known as the Parmigiani Tonda PF. This collection includes a novel case and bracelet design, which is paired to a few watch models that begin with the Tonda PF Micro-Rotor, a simple two-hand with date model equipped with one of the brand’s thin and beautiful in-house micro-rotor-based automatic movements.
Parmigiani currently offers the Tonda PF Micro-Rotor watch in both a steel and 18k rose gold version. aBlogtoWatch recently did a full profile of the Parmigiani Tonda PF Micro-Rotor Steel watch here. In that article, we talk more about the background of the Tonda PF collection, what it means to Parmigiani, and what the entry-level (still $2o,000+) steel version of the Tonda PF is all about. Today, I step it up and talk about the reference PFC914-2020001-200182 Parmigiani Tonda PF Micro-Rotor Rose Gold watches that are more than double the price with a case and bracelet produced from precious metal.
When I said earlier that Parmigiani wants to be an “anti-Patek” of sorts, the implication is that Parmigiani isn’t trying to be a trendy watch or a choice for those who are merely looking to be temporarily fashionable. Parmigiani has always done well with “free-thinkers” who represent the rebels of luxury purchasers who get the most enjoyment from wearing something lovely and distinctive, as opposed to something well-known and popular. Debate if you will the design merits of the Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711, but no one can debate the fact that wearing one comes with a lot of “social recognition” in the form of “look at you showing off your expensive watch.” Parmigiani doesn’t want any part of this because the idea is that people are wearing the Patek to flex their wealth, not their culture. According to Parmigiani, people who wear its watches are instead flexing their culture and education.
It is for this reason that among the many brand virtues of Parmigiani, one is a focus on the sensitive art of subtlety — the values and qualities inherent in the watches aren’t immediately obvious and in many instances require close inspection to appreciate. Perhaps the best example in the Tonda PF Micro-Rotor watches is the dials. The dials are actually produced using a hand-operated guilloché engraving machine process that has historical merit and is highly regarded among collectors. The texture (which on this dial is a style the brand calls “Guilloché Grain d’orge”) produced by guilloché machine engraving is usually a bit deeper and more visually obvious. Michel Parmigiani wanted to go the opposite route. He wanted to make a dial for the Tonda PF Micro-Rotor that required close inspection to see the delicate curves of the engraved lines. He wanted the experience of appreciating the craft in each Tonda PF to be a very personal experience. In a sense, this is a manifestation of the “luxury for you, but not for everyone” mentality that a lot of seasoned luxury shoppers do appreciate.
As you can see, small, deliberate textures are a big deal in this watch whether it be the small and precise “coin-edging” on the case bezel or the way in which the hour markers are shaped and designed. The dial is a beautiful exercise in combining modern minimalist taste preferences with old-world techniques designed to promote legibility and visual beauty. I’ve heard that some people think the hour markers are proportionally too small on the dial. I suppose I can appreciate that sentiment, but the feeling more or less disappears when you wear the Tonda PF Micro-Rotor watches for any period of time and appreciate the effectiveness of the dial. The tool-watch lover in me does miss the availability of a seconds hand, but the design lover in me very much appreciates the symmetry and focus of the Tonda PF Micro-Rotor face; even the date window contributes positively to the overall composition.
There are also complaints that the Tonda PF dials are too minimalistic from a text perspective. Accordingly, the dial has no spelled-out brand name (just the graphical “PF” logo), and the only other text on the dial is the “Swiss Made” label. None of this bothers me. If you want to know what brand made this watch all you need to do is flip the case over. Parmigiani rather enjoys the idea that not everyone seeing this timepiece on someone’s wrist will know what “PF” stands for. This goes to the ethos that Parmigiani watches aren’t for everyone and that appreciating the brand and the ideas of Mr. Parmigiani himself requires culture and sophistication. Parmigiani is entirely non-apologetic about wanting to appeal to “those in the know,” as opposed to novice luxury buyers. In other words, the focus of the brand will be to produce watches for those who have the experience to appreciate what Parmigiani creates, and not “familiar-looking” luxury products meant to appeal to the mainstream. I think it happens to be a wise move.
That said, the overall form and case profile of the 40mm-wide (7.8mm-thick) Tonda PF Micro-Rotor case fits within the now-popular “integrated bracelet” watch trend. Parmigiani is offering its own take on this popular luxury watch genre. Much of the consumer behavior is focused around steel-based watches in this category (which Parmigiani makes and that we reviewed in the link above), but gold is oftentimes an even better option. Why, exactly? One good reason is that many of the popular steel watches in this watch style category are selling for gold watch prices. Gold has a color and allure that many people prefer over steel (if given a choice). So for about the same money, why not just go with a gold watch? I, for one, relish any opportunity to wear a gold watch on a bracelet, and what a comfortable wearing experience Parmigiani has created for us with the Tonda PF Micro-Rotor.
Wearing comfort and practicality earn very high ranks with the Tonda PF. The case is comfortable, the bracelet is easy to live with, and the case is water-resistant to 100 meters. As our David Bredan pointed out when reviewing the steel version of the Tonda PF, it isn’t a sports watch, but it also isn’t a fragile watch at all. Rather, this is meant to be a high-sophistication daily wear watch that can go from casual attire to a formal setting easily. This wearing versatility is precisely why integrated bracelet watches are so popular for men these days. Few people will probably like my description, but the best way to understand this style of watches is as daily-wear functional jewelry for men.
Inside the watch and visible through the sapphire crystal caseback is the in-house Parmigiani caliber PF703 automatic movement. At only about 3mm-thick, this very thin micro-rotor-based automatic movement is comprised of 160 parts and features a lavish volume of polishing and decoration, including more guilloché work on the rotor. The movement operates at 3Hz with a power reserve of 48 hours. Indicators include the time with just hours and minutes, as well as a date indicator window positioned at 6 o’clock on the dial.
The fact that wearing a Tonda PF allows timepiece lovers to focus on the watch itself and the design it presents, as opposed to its difficulty to get or the status wearing it implies, is frankly very refreshing. I love a Patek Philippe Nautilus or an Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, but I seem to be among the growing ranks of collectors who resent the message that wearing one (let alone trying to get one) implies about wearing those watches. That said, I have no way of knowing what the demand will be for the Tonda PF, and interest might outstrip production given that Parmigiani Fleurier is still an exclusive luxury watchmaker that has practical limits on the number of watches it can deliver. Already at the outset of the Tonda PF collection, Parmigiani is struggling to meet demand.
For anyone who has liked Parmigiani in the past but felt that the brand’s offerings were too avant-garde, the Tonda PF Micro-Rotor is a great choice. It combines so much of why the brand is worth liking and the shapes associated with Mr. Parmigiani’s design ethos with a very practical and wearable experience that most timepiece enthusiasts can wrap their minds around. For those who want even more complexity in such a model, Parmigiani produces a few other versions of the Tonda PF, including an annual calendar with moonphase model, a chronograph, and also a highly complicated 5Hz split-second chronograph. Price for the reference PFC914-2020001-200182 Parmigiani Tonda PF Micro Rotor Rose Gold watch is 49,000 Swiss Francs. Learn more at the Parmigiani watches website here.