Introduced about two years ago at SIHH 2017, the Parmigiani Fleurier Toric Hémisphères Rétrograde watch line has been the brand’s finest foray into the increasingly desirable market of high-end travel watches to date. The version I spent some time with was this rose gold case with white dial (ref. PFC493-1002400-HA1442) that won the GPHG Travel Time Watch Prize in 2017. The watch is available in two other versions, a guilloché slate dial version with the same rose gold case (ref. PFC493-1000200-HA1242) and, perhaps even more compelling, a steel case variant with black dial (ref. PFC493-0001400-XA1442).
What makes the Toric Hémisphères Rétrograde stand out is that it allows the second time zone (indicated at the 12 o’clock subdial with its own AM/PM indicator) to be set to the minute by a dedicated crown at 2 o’clock.
Assuming not everyone wants to wear a watch with the dial information density of a world timer, the vast majority of travel watches with GMT or dual time zone functions allow the wearer to adjust the second time zone in one-hour increments. However, we all know that there are thirteen places globally that are in time zones with 30 or 45 minute time differences from Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). In fact, I learned that about 20.25% of the world’s population lives in one of these regions, making most “travel watches” useless if you want to track the time in any part of India, Sri Lanka, Iran, Myanmar, or Nepal, as well as parts of Australia that use Australian Central Standard Time (this includes Adelaide during the summer months), among others.
Sure, India makes up the vast share above, but considering how much business is done with and from India, that’s a big potential market to leave on the table, especially when you consider the rapid pace of globalized business in that country.
The movement behind the Toric Hémisphères Rétrograde is the Calibre PF317 which has a 50-hour power reserve and operates at 28,800 vph. Made of 316 components, the PF317 takes the base COSC Chronometer-certified in-house Calibre PF331 and adds an Agenhor module that controls the second time zone function. If you’re not aware, Agenhor is the family-owned movement manufacture in Geneva that’s responsible for helping brands like MB&F, Harry Winston, and Van Cleef & Arpels create watches they would otherwise be unable to make, as well as the “AgenGraphe” chronograph movement.
The module is disengaged by pulling the 2 o’clock crown that controls it and allows the wearer to independently adjust the second time zone to the minute. Once you set the time and push the crown back in, the second time zone automatically “re-indexes” itself to run in tandem with the local time with whatever time interval the wearer sets.
The AM/PM indicator for the second time zone juts out of the left side of the sub-dial, which I believe is done for reasons involving the economy of the dial real estate, as well as not wanting to create any confusion as to which time zone this is associated with. For local time, the AM/PM indicator is within the seconds subdial at 6 o’clock.
The PF317 also has a retrograde calendar function, which uses the red-crescent tipped central hand. Parmigiani accurately claims that when the retrograde date hand does the 240° movement from the 31st back to the 1st, the change is done with enough force from its spring that the naked eye can’t notice it. I tried to both watch and carefully listen for the swift change of the hand, but really couldn’t notice either. Then again, I have to wear glasses and used to blast my headphones way too loud, so neither my eyes nor my ears are in peak condition.
Turning the watch over reveals the whimsical asymmetrical caseback with an off-center sapphire exhibition display. This is done so as to only reveal the base PF331 portion of the movement, which is similar to that found on the Toric Chronometre watch. It’s hand-finished with perlage and Côtes de Genève, and, of course, that stunning 22k rose gold rotor with guilloché pattern and PF logo.
The movement here dictates the size of the watch, which, at 42.8mm-wide and 11.9mm-thick is larger than most Parmigiani Fleurier pieces, due to the addition of the second time zone module. For comparison’s sake, the standard PF331 measures 25.6mm-wide and 3.5mm-thick, while the PF317 increases in size to 35.6mm-wide and 5.4mm-thick.
The case is composed of three distinct aspects: the bezel, the case middle, and the lugs. The Toric case is subtle but characteristically masterful in its execution. The sloped lugs are unlike the larger teardrop-shaped lugs you’ll see on Tonda or Ovale watches, which helps keep the lug-width down.
Of course, the knurled bezel is the highlight of the case. This decorative bezel design is apparently inspired by Doric and Ionic columns found in ancient Greek architecture. The Toric knurled bezel was found on Michel Parmigiani’s first watch concept back in 1996, and that same artisan still does the knurling by hand on each and every Toric watch to this day.
I’ve touched on most parts of the dial when discussing the second time zone sub-dial at 12 o’clock with adjacent AM/PM indicator, the seconds sub-dial at 6 o’clock with local time AM/PM indicator within it, and that central retrograde date hand with red crescent tip. Relevant to this model (though not the black dial variants) is the special treatment that Parmigiani gives to its white grain finishing on dials. The grain texture is done by rubbing silver powder on a brass plate and finishing by hand with a horsehair brush. This is all done at Quadrance et Habillage, which is Parmigiani’s dial-making department.
The Toric Hémisphères Rétrograde in rose gold case with white dial (ref. PFC493-1002400-HA1442) is priced at $29,500. The price is slightly higher, at $29,700, for the guilloché slate dial model with gold case (ref. PFC493-1000200-HA1242), while the steel case variant with black dial (ref. PFC493-0001400-XA1442) is priced at $18,400. You can learn more at parmigiani.com