These days, if it says “Toric” and the watch is a Parmigiani, you can be mostly sure of two things. First, that the watch is more than likely a one-of-a-kind “piece unique“; second, that it is a minute repeater. Parmigiani Fleurier produced series “Toric” models in the past, but today, I believe, these high-end watches are almost exclusively produced as one-of-a-kind art watches to satisfy the brand’s more “esteemed” clientele. Almost each year, Parmigiani comes out with at least one new Toric minute repeater watch, and for 2016, one of them is this Toric Kaleidoscope Prestige that is interesting to observe in action.
I believe my last time going hands-on with one of these piece unique minute repeaters was back in 2013 while examining the Parmigiani Toric Quaestor Labyrinthe watch. In that instance, I found the artistic “labyrinth” maze-style dial to be of note. While most of these watches share the same case with Parmigiani’s distinctive double coined-edge bezel, each has a number of both technical and aesthetic differences.
The Parmigiani Toric Kaleidoscope Prestige watch is noteworthy for at least two reasons. First is the dial design that has a spinning “kaleidoscope” inner dial which operates when the minute repeater is activated. Second is the style of the gongs on the minute repeater which, rather than being a series of circular bars, are actually wavy in their design. Allow me to quickly clarify something now because, if you are doing further research on this watch, you might get a bit confused. In addition to the Parmigiani Toric Kaleidoscope Prestige model as seen here, earlier in 2015 Parmigiani also released the Toric Kaleidoscope (non-Prestige). This also piece unique model shares the kaleidoscope-style dial (though in blue), although it was not as richly decorated and came in an 18k white gold case. More importantly, the non-Prestige Parmigiani Toric Kaleidoscope did not have the serpentine gongs on the minute repeater, but more traditional circular gongs.
According to Parmigiani, the hand-operated machine guilloche engraving on the Parmigiani Toric Kaleidoscope Prestige dial required about 80 hours of work. That sounds like a lot until you see the artisans in action and realize just how many little steps it takes to produce all the little parts, including cutting and polishing. Moreover, there are the upper and lower parts of the kaleidoscope elements of the dial, as well as the main dial itself that have all received the guilloche engraving treatments. The hour and minute hands – with their black-painted inner sections – make for a nice touch, solidifying the masculinity of the overall design.
In static images, the Parmigiani Toric Kaleidoscope Prestige is attractive and cool, but in action, you really see how the movement of the dial asserts itself as “special.” The difficulty in covering “moving art” like timepieces is that still photography doesn’t always cover the majestic sense of wonder one receives from playing with such finely made and decorative expensive toys in one’s own hands.
Before I get to the movement, I want to just briefly talk about the stately-sized Toric case which this and most other similar watches in the Parmigiani Toric piece unique collection share. The case here is in 18k rose gold and sized at 45mm wide by 14.1mm thick. With its sliding minute repeater lever and series of case textures, the case has a definite “bold” feel to it. I wouldn’t call the Parmigiani Toric Kaleidoscope Prestige a comfortable daily wear, but in the scheme of half-a-million-dollar watches, it fares much better than most in terms of basic practicality (if you are even concerned about that). I’d have to say that in terms of avant-garde luxury watches, the Parmigiani Toric Kaleidoscope Prestige has both a distinction factor to it but not a “weird factor” that would make it too controversial for conservative wrists. Parmigiani figured out a nice blend here, in my opinion.
Inside the Parmigiani Toric Kaleidoscope Prestige watch is the in-house-made Parmigiani caliber PF358. Manually wound and operating at 2.5Hz (18,000 bph) with about 40 hours of power reserve, the 374-part movement is very traditional in its construction and offers just the time (hours and minutes) with a full “cathedral chime” minute repeater.
The PF358 movement itself is nice enough. While I would not call it a feat of engineering or decorative excellence, it is a robust and traditionally architected mechanism. My hope is that with Parmigiani’s greater efforts into producing modern, technically interesting movements, we will see a greater focus on brand-new minute repeater mechanisms from them in the future. Once again, for the Parmigiani Toric Kaleidoscope Prestige model, the unique element is the wavy cathedral gongs which encircle the movement. Here, Parmigiani has seemed to dedicate some extra space for sound reverberation, which is probably a good thing. The company claims that the 18k rose gold case has been optimized for sound flow, but in reality, modern water-resistant watch cases don’t lend themselves well for massively impressive sound amplification when it comes to minute repeaters. With that said, the Parmigiani Toric Kaleidoscope’s PR358 movement offers a clear, crisp set of chimes from the hammer and gongs which in a quiet room have a very pleasant sound to them.
Is there a discernible difference between the sounds coming from the serpentine versus traditionally round gongs? To be honest, it was hard to tell – especially in my relatively brief time with the watch in the loud and not exactly sound-friendly trade show environment which is SIHH. I’ll simply consider these more uncommon gongs to be an enhancement of technique and “prestige” in an already rare item. I did actually ask Parmigiani what the more unique gongs were intended to do, and they suggested it was a technique borrowed from some historic pocket watches with minute repeaters. This I don’t doubt, and my guess is that the original inventor of such a concept was attempting to devise a technique to include a longer gong inside of the watch as a means of creating a deeper, louder sound with the zig-zag-pattern gongs.
Attached to a black Hermes alligator strap, the Parmigiani Toric Kaleidoscope Prestige is, once again, a “modele unique” (as Parmigiani puts it on the rear of the case) with just one piece being produced (in this exact form). Price is a lofty $495,000. parmigiani.ch