Prior to researching for this review, I have to admit my ignorance when it came to Parmigiani Fleurier. Yes, I was aware of their Bugatti line and knew that they produced a range of other watches, but I knew nothing of the respect they command within the horology enthusiast community. As it turns out, Parmigiani is a fascinating brand with niche appeal and commendable chops within the watchmaking world. With the Parmigiani Tonda Metrographe, the brand is reaching for a wider appeal, seeking to share their impressive collection of skills with an audience who might be wholly unaware of how they make watches.
A quick peek under the hood reveals that Parmigiani is the centralized watch brand for a larger company called Manufactures Horologeres de le Foundation (MHF). Within the MHF family, you find a series of distinct groups that come together to produce Parmigiani watches. MHF describes its organization like the fingers of a hand. The digits include Atokalpa (wheels and balances), Edwin (turned components), Quadrance et Habillage (dial making), LAB (case manufacturing) and Vaucher Manufacture (movement creation). Launched in 1996 in the Fleurier municipality of Switzerland, Parmigiani watches are the result of the combined expertise of these five specialized workshops.
MHF is essentially a dream team in watchmaking, with the core being Vaucher Manufacture. If you’re a frequent ABTW reader, you’ll no doubt be aware of Parmigiani’s haute horology pieces which often include movements that are produced in-house via Vaucher. Founded in 2003, Vaucher creates movements for Parmigiani and a number of other high-end brands.
This vertical integration has ensured that Parmigiani was able to make some truly special and exciting watches, but how does it all translate for something a bit more accessible than the Kalpa Tourbillon or Bugatti Super Sport? Parmigiani was kind enough to let me borrow a Parmigiani Tonda Metrographe, and having had the watch for some time, I feel that it undoubtedly deserves a closer look.
While it’s simple enough to suggest that Parmigiani is most widely known for its high end and complicated watches, educating buyers about some of their more accessible models is a challenging task. Our own David Bredan went hand’s on with the Parmigiani Tonda Metrographe some time ago, and he noted that it is intended for a younger customer base and should serve as an entry point to the Parmigiani brand. I think the Parmigiani Tonda Metrographe succeeds in both of these avenues, and it does so with a surprisingly individualistic appeal.
As the photos will attest, I have the Parmigiani Tonda Metrographe in steel with a grained white dial with rose gold applied markers and matching hands. The case is 40mm wide with a thickness of just 12.2mm (pretty good for a modular chronograph). I think the 40mm width is a bit deceiving, as the lugs, at 24mm, are very wide, and the watch wears a bit larger than its case width might suggest.
The Parmigiani Tonda Metrographe’s short but ornate lugs meet the case with a slight asymmetry that nicely accents the circular dial and bezel portion of the case. Polished all around, the lugs are smooth and very nicely finished. The crown and pushers are beautifully integrated into the case and the oval pusher shape works nicely with the curvy lines established by the design. Due to the relation of the case size along with the sloping lugs, the Parmigiani Tonda Metrographe wears as though the case were curved. It sits low on my wrist and is impressively comfortable, especially on the included Hermes leather strap.
That’s right, Parmigiani does outsource the strap, in a partnership with none other than Hermes. The strap on my loaner Parmigiani Tonda Metrographe is a lovely light honey tan color with white contrast stitching and red detailing on the sides. The strap is 24mm wide to accommodate the wide-set lugs, and it features a very nice steel deployant buckle. Soft and comfortable, I think the strap perfectly echoes the luxurious and expensive feel of the Parmigiani Tonda Metrographe and helps to balance the strong presence of the lugs. I was somewhat disappointed to see that the sharp under-edge of the lugs cuts into the red edging on the strap as it rotates on the spring bar. While this might simply be the break-in process for the strap, I do think it’s a bit of an oversight for a watch at this price point.
The dial is lovely and host to a number of nicely finished eye-catching details. The chronograph registers (at six and nine) are highlighted with an “8” shape that can be found on many of Parmigiani’s chronographs. With a max measure of 12 hours and an included date display in the larger six o’clock register, the chronograph is quite useable, and legibility is good. The markers are applied and, along with the hands, are rendered in rose gold. Within the offset chronograph “8,” Parmigiani has decorated the sub dials with a granular snailed finishing, a nice touch that further distinguishes this element of the dial design.
Luminous treatment is something used with flare on many Parmigiani models and this Parmigiani Tonda Metrographe had nicely lumed hands and pips at each hour. The Parmigiani Tonda Metrographe is finished with an anti-reflective sapphire crystal up front and a sapphire display case back in the rear. Through this case back, you can see Parmigiani’s PF315 automatic chronograph movement. The PF315 is not an entirely in-house movement, but rather the combination of a base in-house caliber from Parmigiani (the PF331) with a chronograph module from Dubois-Depraz. The development of a in-house automatic chronograph movement is no small task, but Parmigiani has confirmed they are working with Vaucher to accomplish this feat in the foreseeable future.
With 351 components, including 46 jewels, the PF315 is a 4hz movement using two barrels to provide 42 hours of power reserve. While twin barrels are capable of providing far more than 42 hours reserve, Parmigiani has opted to use a series-coupled design that ensures the optimal supply of power to the movement, ensuring no loss of accuracy when the mainspring torque decreases as it winds down.
As mentioned, on wrist, the Parmigiani Tonda Metrographe’s mix of smaller case size, wide lugs, and supple strap make for a decidedly appealing wrist presence. While certainly fancier than my normal fare, the Parmigiani Tonda Metrographe has a decidedly young and modern vibe that works well with varied level of dress. The aspect that repeatedly struck me while wearing the Parmigiani Tonda Metrographe is that it feels expensive. Don’t get me wrong, it is a very expensive watch, but I am not speaking to the reality of it’s price tag, and rather the impression that it provides in person.
It’s difficult to describe, but when I inform a normal person (not a watch enthusiast) of the price of a watch, they are generally surprised and usually handle the watch differently (with more care) or quickly hand it back to me. With the Parmigiani Tonda Metrographe, casual audiences adapted their grip upon being handed the watch, as though they intrinsically knew it was expensive. The most common response when I told them the price? A simple nod of respect or, perhaps, a “yeah.”
The Parmigiani Tonda Metrographe leaves an impression; it has a swagger. I’ve seen this response to haute-horology pieces from the likes of De Bethune or even watches like the Bugatti Super Sport, but those are pure theater. Why I noticed it with the Parmigiani Tonda Metrographe is that it’s a watch you could wear everyday. It’s not huge, strange, wild, or especially showy, but it automatically commands a certain level of respect.
Impressions aside, the Parmigiani Tonda Metrographe as seen here costs a stately $12,200 USD. For an in-house based modular chronograph, we all have to admit the Parmigiani Tonda Metrographe has some fierce competition. Within a small window of price (+/- $1000) we find the Omega Speedmaster Dark Side of the Moon, the Rolex Daytona, Ulysse Nardin’s Marine Chronograph Manufacture, Cartier’s Calibre de Cartier Chronograph, many Zenith El Primero options, and more. While I don’t think the Metrograph competes directly with sporty options like the Daytona and the DSotM, it does have to contend with the likes of the UN and the Cartier as well as the more affordable pieces from Zenith. Where the Parmigiani Tonda Metrographe really shines is in its finishing, fine details, and rather individualist presence. I think that success in this segment will take some time, as Parmigiani is not instantly recognizable at this price point, despite having the chops to compete for your dollar. Luckily, the Parmigiani Tonda Metrographe, with its original design, quality movement, and distinctive yet appealing wrist presence offers an attractive and youthful introduction to an impressive brand that is in the midst of expanding their game. parmigiani.ch
>Model: Tonda Metrographe
>Price: $12,200 USD
>Size: 40 mm
>Would reviewer personally wear it: Yes
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Avid watch enthusiast looking for something uncommon or wanting an entry point to the Parmigiani line up
>Best characteristic of watch: Fine details and finishing
>Worst characteristic of watch: Modular chronograph movement instead of an in-house (which would simply be more fitting for this very capable brand).