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Sunday, May 19, 2024

The Handsome, Elegant Parmigiani Toric Small Seconds

Coinciding with the arrival of Guido Terreni as CEO of the brand, respectable watchmaker Parmigiani Fleurier has undergone a complete restructuring for the past years. This move was initiated by the launch of a significant collection, the Tonda PF, which not only modernized the vision we had of PF but also pushed it into a new dimension (business-wise). Still, a brand cannot live on one collection alone, and Parmigiani Fleurier has an equally important name in its catalogues: Toric. An essential part of the brand’s history, the Toric was Michel Parmigiani‘s first venture into the world of wristwatches. This year, this elegant collection is back… Time to see if the new Toric Small Seconds lives up to its name. 

Concise history of PF and the Toric Collection

Parmigiani Fleurier has not always been about making wristwatches. In fact, the story of the brand and its founder, which we have covered at length in this portrait, started with the restoration of old clocks and pocket watches – which was the way to go back in the mid-1970s, when the mechanical wristwatch wasn’t in vogue anymore. There weren’t many opportunities for highly skilled watchmakers in those days, and it was thanks to his patrons, the Sandoz family, that Michel Parmigiani could practice his art. Then, in a story that unfolds in the Fleurier region, a certain Karl-Friedrich Scheufele of Chopard commissioned the development of an automatic double-barrel movement – an important calibre known as the L.U.C 96.01.

Guido Terreni (CEO) and Michel Parmigiani (Founder) of Parmigiani Fleurier

At the same time, Michel Parmigiani decided it was time for him to fly solo and start his eponymous brand, later known as Parmigiani Fleurier. With the return of mechanical watchmaking, Michel launched Parmigiani Fleurier in 1996 with a collection of 52 references combining straightforward and complicated timepieces. The QP Rétrograde, the first wristwatch from the Parmigiani Fleurier brand, debuted in 1996, establishing the gadroons and detailed knurling on the case as signature in-house traits. The Toric became a collection in 1998, with the introduction of a simpler, more focused model named Memory Time.

All Toric watches featured shared design cues, starting with volumes and proportions based on the Golden Ratio, double-stepped or single-stepped bezels with knurling and javelin-shaped hands. The Memory Time was an odd watch altogether, as it featured a jumping hour mechanism that could be used as a dual-time function. But what’s important, more than the mechanics based on a Lemania ébauche (regarded as the best way to do things back in the mid-1990s) or the weird display, was the design, which defined the collection for the decades to come.

Parmigiani Fleurier Toric Memory TimeParmigiani Fleurier Toric Memory Time
One of Michel Parmigiani’s first “Parmigiani Fleurier”, the Toric Memory Time (Credits: Antiquorum)

The slightly Baroque approach, which was inherent to most creations of Michel Parmigiani, was inspired by Roman architecture and the Golden Ratio (which, as an anecdote, has been one of the key inspirations for Terreni when he was at the head of Bulgari watches). There are also multiple references in the work of Michel to some of the greatest names of watchmaking history, such as AL Breguet, with finely guilloché dials or traditional high-end complications – which makes sense since Parmigiani restored many antique Breguet pieces, such as the Breguet Pendule Sympathique.

One of the latest pre-revamp Toric watches, the Toric Heritage for Michel Parmigiani’s 70th Anniversary

While neo-vintage and early versions of the Toric have recently gained in collectability, the contemporary collection was losing traction and, since Terreni’s arrival, was somehow left on the side. But that was until this year, because now the Parmigiani Fleurier Toric collection is back.

The new Toric Small Seconds

After reshaping the collection with the Tonda PF and Tonda PF Sport, two modern watches with integrated designs, Terreni looks back at the brand’s history and relaunches Parmigiani’s most significant watch, the Toric. Presented earlier this year at Watches & Wonders Geneva, the collection is, for the moment, compact, with only three references—two small seconds models forming the permanent collection and one limited edition Rattrapante.

Today, we’ll focus on the all-important Parmigiani Fleurier Toric Small Seconds. But what is the Toric, and specifically, what is the new Toric? In a nutshell, it is the brand’s vision of a dress watch and a tribute to its roots. As Terrini said in the interview we conducted here, “a dress watch has to fit an outfit as you’re dressing up“. However, in modern days, the dress watch has changed simply because fashion and style have changed too. Even though it respects the codes of the collection, the Toric has become a statement of modern elegance. Discreet, textured and subdued, the sartorial codes and restrained touch of colours blend well with contemporary outfits. Like fine clothing, the branding is kept to a minimum, and the fabric is of high quality and timeless.

With the Toric Small Seconds, Parmigiani Fleurier is redefining its time-only dress watch by using the codes of modern elegance. It’s not a mere remake of the existing models, yet it feels instantly Toric. The watch is all about masculine elegance and sophistication – and I know that, by saying such words, I might sound a bit pompous, but it is a reality in the present context. It is even more present in the colour palette chosen by the brand, which has a genuine sense of discreet originality and refinement. The choice of materials, with almost all parts made of precious metals, also aligns with this long-lasting vision.

Let’s start by looking at the case. The Toric Small Seconds is offered in two versions, rose gold or platinum, each being a mirror image of the other in the chosen tones for the dial and strap. The case, measuring 40.6mm in diameter (quite large on paper, far less on the wrist due to the wide bezel), is still inspired by Doric columns and antique architecture. The style has evolved from the original collection, with more modernity and simplicity, toning down the Baroque elements. Sleeker, softer and less complex, the case combines gentle curves, without protrusions or aggressive angles, with the refined texture of the knurled bezel. Its thin silhouette of 8.8mm is a modern vision of a dress watch with classic PF codes, but it does feel far more contemporary. It also exudes a real sense of restrained luxury through its finishing and weight on the wrist.

Let’s talk about colours here, as the choice of the two models plays an extremely important role in the appeal of this collection. The two models are, as said above, mirror images with identical colours used at different positions of the watch. The Toric is all about subtility and modern sartorial tones, using a canvas of neutral greys and beiges and a complete absence of harshness in the contrasts. Subdued is the keyword here. The platinum model combines its cold metallic colour with a Celadon Grey dial, which produces slightly green reflections, and a matte sand-coloured nubuck strap. The rose gold watch pairs its warm case with a Sand Gold dial and a Celadon Grey strap, again using cold and warm contrasts rather than dark and bright tones.

Like the rest of the watch, the dial of the Toric has been streamlined to the maximum without compromising the quality. Following the direction of the Tonda PF, the faceted hour markers are minimal, the brand’s name has been removed and replaced by a logo positioned in an oval cartouche, and a matte surface has replaced the guilloché texture. Simple and sleek at first sight, the dials are actually complex in execution. Made from solid white or rose gold, with a polished bevel on the periphery to mark the chapter ring, these are fitted with solid gold applied indices and hands, all polished to bring contrast. The surface of the dial is the result of a traditional graining technique.

As the brand explained, “this method, rediscovered through the perseverance and expertise of master watchmakers such as Michel Parmigiani, involves the careful application of a special mixture on the dial, composed of cream of tartar, crushed sea salt, and silver, mixed with demineralized water to create a homogeneous paste. The application of this paste, followed by delicate polishing with specific brushes, generates a regular and soft surface“. Also, the dials are not flat but so-called chevé, as their edges drop slightly to rest against the inner face of the case.

Moving to the other side of the watch, the movement is also worthy of mention. A new internal development, this new calibre PF780 is both visually appealing, technically clever in its architecture, and far more opulent than the rest of the watch – which is in line with the whole spirit, as luxury is something you don’t show to the world but enjoy for yourself. First, this hand-wound movement is a deliberate design statement, with asymmetry and geometry at the heart of its conception. The two barrels, which will provide stable torque and extended power, are elegantly positioned under two openworked, polished steel bridges. The graphic layout is also visible in the straight-cut bridge next to the regulating organ, also held in place by an openworked, transversal polished steel bridge.

As said, this movement is opulent, primarily due to 18k rose gold bridges. Contrasting with the polished bevels is a new finishing technique called Côtes de Fleurier, creating a fine, almost fabric-like texture enhanced by the sandblasted mainplate. Running at 4Hz, it boasts 60 hours of power reserve.

Thoughts, Availability & Price

After serious consideration and talking with the rest of the team, we agreed that the new Parmigiani Fleurier Toric Small Seconds had made a strong impression on us. The choice of colours, the discreet sense of luxury, the contrast between the relative simplicity of the watch and its opulent materials, the modernity of the approach… The new Toric certainly feels like a carefully considered watch. I particularly love the subdued style of the exterior parts compared to this slightly exuberant and demonstrative movement. As said, those who know will know…

If I had one comment about the new Parmigiani Fleurier Toric collection, it would be the price. I understand that using precious metals on almost all parts comes at a cost. I understand that there are time-consuming finishing techniques all around. Yet, with a starting price above EUR 50k, the Toric enters a very restrained circle of high-end time-only watches, with fierce competition from independent watchmakers and a handful of highly established brands. I’m not saying that the price isn’t justified, but I’m expressing concerns regarding the positioning. Ultimately, the market will give us the answer. However, I can confidently state that the new Toric Small Seconds is one of the most elegant yet contemporary dress watches of the last few years. It is delightful.

Available in September 2024 and not limited, the Parmigiani Fleurier Toric Small Seconds in rose gold retails for CHF 45,000 or EUR 50,600, while the platinum version retails for CHF 52,000 or EUR 58,400. For more details, please visit www.parmigiani.com.


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