October 19, 2017
by Ariel Adams
Here is an interesting watch that will no doubt be extremely appealing to a very niche group of watch enthusiasts. It isn’t that the Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda 1950 product itself is a niche-appeal item (quite the opposite actually), but rather this meteorite snowflake version of it will be among the rarer and arguably more exotic variants. The Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda 1950 Meteorite is so rare, we saw it almost a year ago and it still isn’t on the brand’s website (at the time of writing).
In the vintage watch world, the word “exotic” is used a lot, but rarely explained. More often than not, exotic is used to describe a dial versus an entire watch. In fact, very few truly exotic (from a total design standpoint) vintage watches are ever really that popular (most are laughed at – and perhaps justifiably so). Is it really true that all vintage watches look the same and are highly conservative in fashion? Of course not. People oddly fetishize many of the most ordinary, pedestrian designs when it comes to a great number of vintage timepieces. What often separates a more “interesting” from “classic” watch are mere colors alone. It is, therefore, the fact that most “exotic” watches in the vintage sense are otherwise ordinary or well-received watches with different dials and/or colors. This is about as exotic as many of the more conservative collectors seem to get (as far as I see it). I sometimes wish I saw more “bravery” in watch tastes. Though, I do respect not wishing to be brave considering today’s prices.
On this note, you’ll understand what I mean when I say that this Parmigiani Tonda 1950 Meteorite white dial (debuted on aBlogtoWatch here) is going to be considered a future (as well as a contemporary) exotic dial for the Tonda 1950 collection. Parmigiani overall is excellent at making piece unique or otherwise uncommon versions of their watches, slowly seeding the world with more and more exotic watch dials (and they do make some of the coolest ones out there). This watch already knows its future (the one it hopes for) because it says “Edition Speciale” on the back of the case, just as a good bottle of tequila might.
Forget not that Parmigiani also makes this titanium-cased version of the 39mm wide Tonda 1950 with other meteorite dial colors including black and a metallic blue (which also comes in a gold case if you prefer). This white-dialed model might be the runt of the litter, but it still has potential when you want a light dial color that isn’t grey. White-colored meteorite isn’t common most likely because seeing the dial details isn’t as easy with the lower-contrasting colors of a white dial. Thus, it might be reasonable for a watchmaker to not expect as much demand for a subtle version of a dial that people buy for its visual pattern.
If there is yet another thing Grand Seiko has taught us, it is that watch lovers, even today, love subtle details on a dial that are not always apparent from afar. I am speaking of course of the Grand Seiko “Snowflake” dial, which is white with a light texture that is invisible from a few feet away. There are going to be those collectors who appreciate the attractive geometric geography of sliced meteorite, but who at the same time value a bit of discretion and privacy. I’m not sure I could pick that type of person out of a crowd, but I know them to be out there.
In fact, for comparison’s sake we have some images of the standard white (non-meteorite) dial steel Tonda 1950 watches (which cost almost half as much), and you can see how challenging it would be to spot the difference if you didn’t know what you were looking for.
This discussion is watch nerdery at its apex, and I’m OK with that. Why else do you buy a $10,000+ watch if you do not obsess over its details? I will, however, say that to a degree, the watch brands have forced us collectors to be this pedantic because of such a glacially slow product refresh cycle. In fact, compared to most, Parmigiani comes out with brand new stuff all the time. I do however mean that when new versions of the Tonda 1950 case come out, do they need to always be in the same finish with the same dial and some light changes such as materials? In the “vintage” days of watches, doing stuff like that was almost common practice. I think more variety among watches today (especially exclusive luxury watches), might lend itself well to more motivated consumers thanks to the increased level of both variety and rarity.
The reason why the white meteorite version of the Tonda 1950 has real “exotic dial” potential is again because the underlying watch is so versatile in its utility. No, it isn’t a sports watch or something your non-watch-interested peers would agree is a good use of money, but it is a good all-purpose dress/formal watch. It also happens to come from a decent brand, has a slick design, and when you flip the case over to show off the movement – you never need to worry about looking like a cheap bum. Parmigiani continues to make truly beautiful movements which are also practical. This one has just the time with subsidiary seconds, and is designed to be a relatively thin automatic movement thanks to the use of a micro-rotor.
The movement is the in-house made Parmigiani PF701 that operates at 3Hz (21,600bph) with a power reserve of 42 hours. It won’t beat a Porsche in a quarter mile, but it will look nice making its way to the finish line. In addition to having immaculate detailing on the dial, movement, and case, did I mention that the case is in titanium? It looks like steel but is lighter and is less common in a dress watch and you’d be forgiven for thinking that the case was steel, because of how nicely Parmigiani polishes it. Getting titanium to look like this is hard. I am not even sure Grand Seiko would have the patience to get it this fluid (they are better at hard lines).
While I saw this watch personally, in the pictures we have it on another team member’s wrist. I’m taken aback at how equally simple and also elegant the Tonda 1950 presentation is, while being a high-end watch without pretension. This is Swiss discretion at its finest, so discreet it needs to actually be pointed out. I’m not even sure that I have enough reason to wear a Tonda 1950 often enough to consider getting one just yet, though models like this make me wonder how much I’d enjoy showing it off to just the right people. Though, I’d have to say that the black meteorite dial is for me (same titanium case) and I’m more of a dark dial dress watch kinda guy (unless the dial is gold). Price for the Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda 1950 Meteorite watch is $19,500. parmigiani.ch