The type of watch many buyers want these days is a piece that is elegant enough to show taste and status but also sporty enough to match today’s high-mobility lifestyle. This helps explain the popularity of products like the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak and the Patek Philippe Nautilus, which are really just dress watches meant to be worn with jeans. Over the last few years, a number of notable high-end watchmakers, including Swiss Parmigiani, have created compelling products to help meet the large market demand in this space. Today timepiece enthusiasts are presented with a rich variety of models that fit this mold, and the fun part is not getting the “hyped models,” but rather the more distinctive watches that help distinguish people’s specific personalities. One such excellent option is the still very new Parmigiani Tonda GT Chronograph, which comes in a swathe of versions, this being the steel and “Granata” burgundy red reference PFC906-1020002-400181.
While this is not a perfect product, I have to admit that this Tonda GT Chronograph really grew on me while I wore it, and I will certainly miss having it on. For years, I think fans have seen interesting aesthetics from Parmigiani but not featured in products that made a lot of sense for what activities most people are doing. Michel Parmigiani was, for years, making really spectacular showpieces and dress watches that simply didn’t fit into the social wearing opportunities presented to many of today’s buyers. This all started to change once Parmigiani appointed Guido Terreni as CEO, who has been working with Mr. Parmigiani on taking the best of the brand’s quality and aesthetics and installing them into far more practical models.
Let me get something confusing out of the way first. Parmigiani has two watch models it currently makes that are both called the Tonda GT Chronograph, even though they have two different movements. The prices are also not entirely different from one another and, to make matters more confusing, the dials even look similar at a glance. It is so confusing that the 18k rose gold version of this watch with the same burgundy dial colors and matching color strap has an entirely different movement: the 5Hz frequency Parmigiani caliber PF071 automatic 12-hour chronograph with a big date complication and 65 hours of power reserve. That, again, is the movement in the 18k rose gold version of this Tonda GT Chronograph with the Granata dial. This steel model has a different movement: the also in-house Parmigiani caliber PF043. This movement operates at 4Hz and is an automatic 12-hour chronograph with a big date and annual calendar complication along with 45 hours of power reserve. In fact, the way Parmigiani seems to be segmenting the collection right now is that the steel-cased Tonda GT Chronograph watches have the 4Hz annual calendar chronograph movement, and the 18k gold models have the 5Hz big date chronograph movement.
You can view the lovingly polished and decorated movement through the sapphire crystal caseback window along with the 18k gold automatic rotor. The case overall is 42mm-wide with a fantastic, comfortable design and small details that give it depth and personality. For example, we have the famed Parmigiani teardrop lugs (with an angle that matches the Fibonacci Curve) and the careful knurling on the bezel. Parmigiani really likes classic textures but also likes to do them in very small, subtle ways so as to maintain a more modern overall composition. The result is a case with modern proportions but with old-world classicism and decorative appeal. There is very little else quite like the Tonda GT case on the market. The case is also water-resistant to 100 meters and has an AR-coated, domed sapphire crystal (with impressively little glare, I might add) over the dial.
Parmigiani does offer versions of the Tonda GT Chronograph on a bracelet, and those pieces look really cool. On the strap, however, the case is more lightweight and also wears a bit more snugly on the wrist, making it ideal for daily wear around town. The strap actually helps enhance the overall shape of the case (by helping to visually emphasize it) in a way that you don’t really feel from Gerald Genta designs (which look strange to me when they aren’t paired with their matching strap). The paired rubber strap matches the “Granata” red colors of the subdials on the face and is of a high quality. The butterfly-style deployant clasp is also high-quality in construction, but a fit finicky to use. This is because the ends aren’t the same length as the clasp, and because one of the rubber strap holds is designed to go on the strap where the metal deployant is, and thus it prevents the strap from opening up all the way until you move it out of the way. Not a big deal, but rather a minor refinement issue.
Parmigiani did a great job with giving the Tonda GT Chronograph dial a mostly modern look that feels as though it is borrowed from a classic watch. That means a lot of excellent proportions and textures, as well as rich depth. The dial design is truly very effective and even remains symmetrical despite the integration of the small month indicator window in the running seconds indicator located at the 3 o’clock position. Under 12 o’clock is a big date indicator window. The window discs are black and do match the accent color on the applied polished metal hour markers, but it feels like a missed opportunity not to render those discs in the same claret wine-colored tone of the subdials that contrast against the otherwise silver face.
The biggest issue I have with the Parmigiani Tonda GT Chronograph watch is the skeletonized hands. While it is true that the dial is mostly legible, in some lights, the hands seem to disappear because much of the unskeletonized parts are polished. Also, there is no luminant on this dial, meaning the black color on the tips of the hands and the hour markers is just for style. That the dial doesn’t have luminant doesn’t really bother me because I like the design very much for what it is. The hands are skeletonized because designers like to do that, as they fear the hands could block a view of the chronograph subdials (that people probably look at way less than the hour and minute hands, anyway). I mean, if Parmigiani would have just used that same black color for the rest of the hands and not skeletonized them, then the dial would have probably been mostly perfect. I’d really like to know if I am the only one who feels this way. Brands obviously make these decisions for commercial reasons so I am curious to know if there is a counter to this argument, and that, despite the legibility issues, watches with skeletonized hands sell better.
What the Parmigiani Tonda GT Chronograph does is inject a lot of class into a segment with a lot of watches that all seem to be trying to be one another. Parmigiani is totally comfortable having its own look and appeal, even if the brand clearly has competitors in its sights when imagining up a watch like the Tonda GT Chronograph. I highly recommend this watch for those people who like artistic density (as opposed to minimalism) in their luxury items, and who, at the same time, never want to be accused of following some other leader. I believe that is what Parmigiani is going for and, for the most part, it has succeeded. While it will refine and change over time, I fully expect a product like the Tonda GT Chronograph to remain an important member of the Parmigiani product family for a while. Price for this reference PFC906-1020002-400181 Parmigiani Tonda GT Chronograph is 19,400 Swiss Francs. Learn more at the Parmigiani website here.
>Model: Tonda GT Chronograph (reference PFC906-1020002-400181 as tested)
>Price: 19,400 Swiss Francs
>Size: 42mm-wide, 13.7mm-thick
>When reviewer would personally wear it: To appreciate the case design and wearing comfort. When the colors match my wardrobe. Or when I just want to make it clear I have high standards but am not interested in being trendy.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Lover of chronograph watch dials seeking a sport-sized, but elegant in design daily wear that isn’t what all of his friends are wearing.
>Best characteristic of watch: Beautiful, well-made, and comfortable case. Excellent dial. Attractive colors. Attractively finished movement.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Hands don’t need to be skeletonized. Strap hold gets caught on deployant when opening it.