February 20, 2014
by Ariel Adams
Prior to SIHH 2014 I previewed the Parmigiani Bugatti Aerolithe Flyback Chronograph watch. In discussing Parmigiani’s latest Bugatti partnership timepiece I was overall impressed with the design and features that were remarkably sober and blended a nice masculine design with a successful combination of both Parmigiani and Bugatti brand DNA. Now that I’ve had some hands-on time with the piece I have to say that this is one of my all-time favorite Parmigiani timepieces.
Compare the Parmigiani Bugatti Aerolithe Chronograph with the previous and much more high-end Parmigiani Bugatti Super Sport (hands-on here from 2010). You can see that while both of the watches celebrate the brand’s relationship with Bugatti, the difference in theme between the watches is night and day. While the Super Sport is a much more exotic and high-end model, the Bugatti Aerolithe is meant to incorporate some exotic Bugatti elements, but also be the type of watch you could easily wear on a regular basis. It also fits in as a flagship model (even though there are differences in the case and movement) to the also new for 2014 Parmigiani Metrographe collection of men’s watches that fits the same foundational design.
In a nutshell, you have two versions of the watch that have 18k white gold and titanium cases, that I don’t believe are part of a limited edition. At 41mm wide with the wide lug structures I think they fit very nicely. That means it wears large, but isn’t a watch that is so large it will make people not want to wear it on a regular basis. The teardrop style curved lugs work well to wrap around your wrist. Overall comfort while wearing the Bugatti Aerolithe is quite high. In fact, that also goes for the whole Metrographe collection.
One of my favorite case design elements are the chronograph pushers that are designed into the lugs on the left side of the case. Perhaps the most famous watches to have the pushers and the crown on opposite sides of the case are many of the late 1960s and 1970s TAG Heuer chronographs. Today you see this separation of chronograph pushers and crown rarely, but I think it works very well here. Especially because the chronograph pushers mimic the tear drop shape of the lugs.
The case execution is really flawless as well. What people need to know about Parmigiani is that in addition to making their own watches they are a true high-end supplier as they also produce dials and cases. For this reason their cases tend to be really well finished and offer a true luxury feel. As you can see on the Aerolithe case there is an attractive combination of polished and brushes surfaces that work really well for the design.
It also helps that Parmigiani is a dial maker. One minor area where this fact becomes so apparent is the date disc. Love or hate the “expanded date” design, what you have to love is the beautiful non-traditional metallic color of the date disc and the attractive font. That is 100% custom and something that would be really difficult to get from a third-party supplier. It is details such as this which allow even the snobbiest of watch lovers to appreciate the attention to detail contained within a timepiece such as this.
Inside the watch is a Parmigiani in-house made automatic movement that is typically beautifully finished. I’ve always said that while some Parmigiani designs are hit and miss for my taste, their movements are almost universally outstanding to look at. As a movement that indicates time and date and has a flyback chronograph movement, the caliber in the Bugatti Aerolithe is comparatively more simple than other Parmigiani mechanisms, but is still very attractive to view through the rear of the watch case.
Dial legibility is very good with appropriately sized hands and luminant for night viewing. As you can see there are two dial colors available. One is a metallic blue (ref. PFP329-3400600) and the other is a metallic champagne color. I prefer the blue with the red trim because I feel that it is both more unique and very well rendered, but both are quite nice. The dial is also one of the rare times I will visually accept dual branding as it has a logo for both Parmigiani as well as Bugatti.
Perhaps the coolest Bugatti-branded element is the deployant clasp on the strap. With the Bugatti name the deployant is meant to look like the grill and front of a Bugatti automobile – actually a little bit like the famed Aerolithe. We discussed the interesting history of the beautiful and flammable (yup) Aerolithe in our initial article about the Parmigiani Bugatti Aerolithe Flyback Chronograph watch (linked to above). For more details you may read that previous post.
Like all Parmigiani watches that come with a strap, the Bugatti Aerolithe has an Hermes alligator leather strap that is as soft as butter and effortlessly conforms to your wrist. Again, these come in either blue or champagne color depending on the version of the watch. They very nicely complete an otherwise highly attractive package. These are sport watches they have a much more sophisticated feel to them compared to your average classy desk diver or high-end racing-themed chronograph. Love them or hate them, Parmigiani continues to do a solid job of imbuing their timepieces with a sort of aristocratic feel that I think is communicated nicely in their overall product range. If you’ve been tempted by the brand and haven’t yet found the right piece for you (and you happen to like cars), this might be the way to go. The Parmigiani Bugatti Aerolithe Flyback Chronograph retails for $27,000. parmigiani.ch