From Restoration to Creation
Michel Parmigiani is widely recognised as one of the foremost restorers of vintage clocks and watches. In 1976, in the midst of the Quartz Crisis, he opened his own workshop, where he most notably brought back to life several pieces which now sit in the Patek Philippe Museum in Geneva, building his appreciation and understanding for traditional watchmaking. Interestingly, it was in the Parmigiani workshop that Kari Voutilainen first began his own watchmaking journey, restoring vintage masterpieces for nearly ten years, from 1990 to 1999. It was there that he learnt “everything they don’t teach you at watchmaking school," Voutilainen once commented.
Alongside restoring historic pieces, Parmigiani also began to branch out, attempting more original creations such as minute repeaters, perpetual calendars, and other pieces. In 1996, he established his own manufacture, in Fleurier. Backed by the Sandoz Family Foundation - whose collection of watches and clocks were restored by Parmigiani - he was afforded greater creative freedom through this financial backing, with the foundation also acquiring dial, movement, and case makers to allow for greater freedom and in-house production. Over the 25 years since the brand was created, there have been two distinct design periods – the Toric collection, and the more modern Kalpa and Tonda series.
A Rite of Passage
With a tourbillon, the escapement and balance wheel are mounted within a rotating cage, the purpose of which is to counteract the disruption caused by gravity. This regular rotation is intended to average out any positional errors and maintain greater accuracy. Tackling the complication has become a sort of rite of passage for many independent watchmakers looking to make a name for themselves. The visual appeal of the complication, its storied past and the skill needed to assemble one according to more traditional methods have all contributed to this.
Introduced around 2000, the Toric Tourbillon was the first tourbillon released by the young brand. In the first days of the manufacture, Parmigiani chose to rely on high-quality ébauches, which were modified, assembled and finished in house. This reference 2840 makes use of a Girard-Perregaux "Three Bridges" 9900 ébauche. Initially created for pocket watches, this movement has a historic lineage that stretches back to the 19th century, when it won first place in the 1867 and 1889 Paris World Exhibitions as well as the Neuchatêl Observatory Prize in 1911 – one of the most prestigious competitions to determine the accuracy of certain timepieces. The movement was miniaturised to wristwatch size in 1986 and presented at Baselworld five years later.
The Parmigiani Fleurier “Toric” collection is inspired by the work of Abraham-Louis Breguet and features a range of classic complications, alongside more inventive ones. Its name is derived from the geometric shape of a torus, evident in its pieces, which have stepped and fluted bezels, a detail inspired by classical Greek and Roman “Doric” columns as well as the curvature of the Golden Ratio.
The Toric Tourbillon exposes the movement through an open-worked dial and sapphire caseback. The ébauche movement was heavily modified and finished in house, displaying the skill of Michel Parmigiani and his team of watchmakers. The main plate features deep Côtes de Genève and subtle bevelling, with even the inserts for the exposed screws displaying meticulous attention to detail. A tourbillon cage at 6 o’clock reveals the circular-grained baseplate with gold-plated wheels, blued screws, and a single jewel in the centre that is symmetrical with the barrel jewel at 12 o’clock, which is a decorative element surrounded by gold chaton screws.
The piece also features heat-blued and polished javelin-style hands, which provide a contrast against the rest of the silvered dial. Rather interestingly, the minute hand sits below the hour hand, which is due to the fact that the movement is an inverted version of the original Girard-Perregaux pocket watch movement from the 19th century. The watch also has bevelled waves, which create a stylised division between the upper and lower halves. Three screws are symmetrically placed on the respective left and right sections of the watch, providing another dimension to the open-worked dial. At 40mm in diameter, the watch is a modern size that sits comfortably on the wrist, but yet, thanks to its minimalist dial, does not overpower the wearer.
This Parmigiani Fleurier Tourbillon Reference 2840 is powered by the calibre PF280, which is a mechanical movement that has 20 jewels, a tourbillon regulator, and a 72-hour power reserve. The reverse of the movement has a combination of hand-chamfered bridges and mechanisms, with circular-graining, straight brushing, and Côtes de Genève, making it equally as attractive as the dial.
If sold within the United Kingdom, this Parmigiani Fleurier Tourbillon will be subject to 20% VAT. Viewings are currently suspended for the time being.