At SIHH 2015, Parmigiani quietly debuted a duo of skeletonized watches for “him and her” in the Tonda collection known as the Parmigiani Tonda 1950 Squelette watches (aBlogtoWatch debut here). At the time, Parmigiani only mentioned the 18k white gold version for men and the 18k rose gold model with the diamond-decorated bezel with frosted dial for women. It appears as though Parmigiani decided to produce two variations of the watch for men as well as three variations of the Parmigiani Tonda 1950 Squelette for women.
Of course, these timepieces all begin with the still very successful Parmigiani Tonda 1950 case which we enjoyed ever since Parmigiani debuted it a few years ago. While there are some larger versions of the case, the 39mm-wide Parmigiani Tonda 1950 is still the most versatile model, offering a truly unisex look that, depending on the decoration and dial, looks great on both men and women. What is added in the Parmigiani Tonda 1950 Squelette watches is a skeletonized version of Parmigiani’s popular and very attractive in-house-made automatic micro-rotor-based movement.
Skeletonized luxury watches are becoming more and more popular for good reason, and it signals the fact that when it comes to paying big bucks for a mechanical timepiece, collectors are deeply interested in the movement. They are so interested that they not only want to view the movements, but they also want to see them generously decorated. There is a reason we sometimes use the term “movement porn” to describe the view of a wonderful mechanical movement – especially when it has been lovingly skeletonized. Seeing stuff like this can be a very intense emotional experience, showcasing the glorious operation of what is actually a very simple machine in a way that is very attractive.
People don’t often tend to give enough credit to movement decoration. I would feel comfortable saying that at least 50% (if not more) of the appeal of a mechanical movement is the decoration. That means less decorated mechanical movements are far less appealing, while wonderfully decorated movements are much more appealing. Take, for example, the famed work of Philippe Dufour – prized almost exclusively for the fact that his finishing is legendary.
Yes, we love movements and movement finishing, and I think people need to be more cognizant of this. Finishing is also one of those rare areas that remains tightly within the luxury space. The time and effort required to meticulously hand-finish and decorate most of the tiny metal pieces that go into a mechanical movement isn’t something that you can rush or do on the cheap. I don’t care what functionality or complexity less expensive mechanical movements can replicate, high-end finishing is something that will always come with a premium price. I would venture so far as to suggest that in many high-end watches, most of the time involved in actually producing that watch is in finishing and decoration.
Getting back to the Parmigiani Tonda 1950 Squelette watches, I’d like to point out the high level of careful finishing and polish on these movements, done in a way that is not over the top but really emphasizes the inherent beauty of industrial finishes such as brushed or polishes surfaces. Thanks to some very close-up photography, you can identify small imperfections and lines that only a human could make. A trained eye can often immediately tell you whether a watch movement has been finished by hand or machine – and the human effort is almost universally more attractive. Perhaps, there is something innately attractive about seeing that work is “human.” That is, after, all the fantasy of buying luxury timepieces – that someone skilled and far away dedicated intense amounts of time to put it together… for your wearing pleasure.
After viewing the Parmigiani Tonda 1950 Squelette watches, I was much more impressed than my initial (positive) reaction. I really feel that the particular style and design is stunning – mixing legibility with a fantastic view of the skeletonized movements. Part of this is thanks to a thin transparent dial that sits over the movement which has been applied with thin tapered hour markers and lume-filled hands. On two of the women’s models of the Parmigiani Tonda 1950 Squelette, Parmigiani has included a white frosted dial that in reality looks amazingly interesting and feminine. The idea there is to offer a glimpse at the skeletonized movement powering the watch without that element being the main focus.