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A Closer Look: The Tonda PF, Parmigiani Fleurier CEO’s Proudest Achievement

A Closer Look: The Tonda PF, Parmigiani Fleurier CEO’s Proudest Achievement

7. November 2021

When it comes to expanding Parmigiani Fleurier’s clientele, it seems it’s not all about fast and furious growth. Recently installed CEO Guido Terreni, leading the manufacture since the start of 2021, evidently prides himself upon creating a customer base that is not necessarily far-reaching, but rather fits with the company’s values. “We are choosing an educated customer, who is knowledgable about luxury and looking to indulge themselves through an object that is not ostentatious, but extraordinarily crafted,” Terreni tells Swisswatches Magazine. So how does his first collection since taking the helm reflect this goal?

The Tonda PF collection

The Tonda PF watches are slim, subtle timepieces with pretty sophisticated movements. So far, the new Tonda collection includes a Micro Rotor model and a Chronograph model, each of which is available in steel with a hand-knurled platinum bezel, or in 18-carat rose gold. Additionally, the line also offers an Annual Calendar in rose-gold, as well as a platinum Split Seconds Chronograph limited edition.

The new Tonda collection

So, how would Terreni describe the aesthetic of this seemingly low-key line? “The style that we are leading with when it comes to our new collection is something that we call ‘rich minimalism’,” he replies. “It’s an aesthetic that has to be very pure and essential, yet the making of it is actually incredibly elaborate and rich. The result is something that isn’t in your face, but rather something that is very subtle.” And with that, Terreni began to explain the unobtrusive yet profound details that make these horological creations the most important outcome of the year at Parmigiani Fleurier.

Guido Terreni – CEO of Parmigiani Fleurier

Tonda PF Micro-Rotor: All about simplicity

“Firstly, the Tonda PF Micro-Rotor stands out because of the simplicity of its design,” Terreni begins. “It has just the two hands, and – for the first time – it lacks our usual logo on the dial. Rather, we feature the PF seal at 12 o’clock; a prominent position. Previously, the seal was on the oscillating mass or on the crown, and was almost invisible. But our seal has long been present in the brand, so we decided to place it in an important position to convey that.” I wonder, though, why the CEO shifted from the featuring the recognisable logo to this lesser known seal. “The PF customer is never ostentatious,” explains Terreni. “It’s not about showing off the logo for them. They are very much an insider client. The name “Parmigiani Fleurier” is still present, but now subtly lies on the caseback.”

The bracelet

This seal seems to be taking centre stage; it is also now also on the bracelet for the first time, and it’s a perfect and sophisticated new detail for this muted yet handsome model. “The bracelet is very soft and comfortable,” says Terreni. “The brushing on the bracelet is so soft, you don’t even see the lines, making it almost like silk. It has a very delicate surface, as it is brushed in a very gentle way.”

The dial

“Another very important part of our brand is our guilloche dials,” Terreni tells me. “Usually, the decoration tends to be more present on vintage watches. That is due to the fact that the technique is seen as a bit baroque. However, we wanted to keep it, given it is a part of the brand, but we also wanted to make it more contemporary. Therefore, we looked at the proportions and decided to make it very, very small – to the point that you almost don’t see it.”

He’s right; if it weren’t for the double anti-reflective sapphire crystal, you might never notice the guilloche at all. “It’s more like a texture, giving you richness without being invasive,” he continues. “It is present on two levels; on the minute scale, and then again with the indexes, making it almost like a small step. These details are very subtle; you notice them, but not immediately. This is why we call it ‘rich minimalism’. It is about applying sartorial craft to watchmaking.”

Notably, the dial of both Tonda PF Micro-Rotor models are grey, yet the tone of the rose-gold version makes the dial verge on looking more like brown. Both use Guilloché Grain d’orge decoration; an exquisite yet understated choice for an equally refined timepiece. The only other detail on the dial, alongside the two delta-shaped hands, is a small date window cut out at 6 o’clock.

Another idea behind the Parmigiani Fleurier’s new line of watches is that one should not be distracted when reading the time; according to Terreni, in reality, you simply need the hands and nothing else. This is why the watchmaker chose to have very small indexes on the outside, in order to open up the dial in a very pure way. Although small, the indexes are also polished and faceted. As a result, they powerfully reflect the light, making them easily legible despite their size.

The case

This subtle approach to craftsmanship is also evident on the 40 mm case, which is water-resistant to 100 m. “We chose a platinum bezel for the steel case,” says Terreni. “This is because platinum is of course whiter, thus reflecting the light in a better way. Also, we polish it by hand, giving it a very smooth feel while still remaining very artisanal. The polished and brushed finishing also make the case more detailed. Not everyone notices the watch’s outline overall, but not only is it very expensive to make, but it also gives a rich finish in a very discreet way.”

“You will also notice with the lugs that the chamfering gets progressively thinner,” Terreni continues. “This is also extremely hard to create. So it’s all about the details. Not everybody notices them.” He is right; the Tonda PF Micro-Rotor is a watch which demands more than a glance; it needs a closer look and some good lighting to do it justice. In this sense, its design makes it feel like a timepiece that is not there to be flashed conspicuously at dinner; it feels like a watch for the owner alone.

An all-encompassing watch

“The Tonda PF Micro-Rotor is really for every use,” concludes Terreni. “It is also extremely elegant, yet suitable for everything; you can wear it in a tuxedo, to the beach, or anywhere else as you please.” Its fluidity also spans beyond the realm of appropriate attire in any location; both the aesthetics and dimensions of the watch also allow for the Tonda PF Micro-Rotor to qualify as a truly unisex piece. “Despite a 40 mm case, it also fits very well on women; the case follows the wrist,” Terreni elaborates. “It was born as a male watch, but we soon realised how well it fits for women, too. The watch is therefore gender neutral. This was a nice surprise given that it was for men upon its conception.”

The movement

Last but not least, there’s the calibre, which is visible through the caseback; the automatic PF703. This ultra-slim, 3.07 mm thick movement features a full platinum micro-rotor. Interestingly, it is integrated inside the movement’s structure, rather than lying on top of it. The result of the incredibly thin calibre is that the Tonda PF Micro-Rotor measures a mere 7.8 mm overall. As well as showcasing fine decoration in the form of Côtes de Genève and perlage, the PF703 beats at a frequency of 3 Hz and has a 48-hour power reserve.

It’s also worth mentioning the Vaucher Manufacture Fleurier, which, while strictly speaking does not belong to Parmigiani, nevertheless makes movements for Parmigiani (alongside other watch brands). Vaucher is Parmigiani Fleurier’s movement manufacture, based only a few streets away. The manufacture initially creates basic calibres that Parmigiani Fleurier can then request to embellish, with all individual parts being decorated, polished and assembled by hand.

The price

The most affordable of the new collection, the Tonda PF Micro-Rotor in steel and platinum costs 21,000 euros, while the price of the 18-carat rose-gold edition is 49,000 euros. In the metal, it is the latter version that stands out. However, the material of the former makes it not only an everyday option, but also more likely to withstand trends. That is, after all, one of the aims of the Tonda PF.

Tonda PF Split Seconds Chronograph

The dial

While retaining the DNA of the collection’s main model, the Tonda PF Micro-Rotor, this flyback chronograph watch, the Tonda PF Split Seconds Chronograph, is something else. This watch celebrates 25 years of the manufacture. The most beautiful thing for me personally is its sandblasted dial. The matte-looking Sablé fin finishing is favoured in the world of special editions right now, bringing to mind models such as the Audemars Piguet Selfwinding Flying Tourbillon in titanium, or the 2021 Vacheron Constantin Historiques Platinum American 1921. Sandblasted dials are always highly contemporary looking, and this model verges on looking explicitly futuristic.

Aesthetics are key

“For the chronograph, we wanted to use colours in the same palette – colours that are very subdued and discreet, yet still exciting,” explains Terreni. “The overall tone of grey on this special edition make it look very elegant and sophisticated.” The 42 mm watch is full platinum, including both the dial and bracelet (aside from a white-gold clasp), which, according to a thoughtful Terreni, brings out “the sobriety of the aesthetic”. Meanwhile, everything related to the chronograph and rattrapante is conveniently gold, while the hour, minute, and second hands are in white-gold. The effect is that the highly complex watch maintains an air of purism and simplicity despite its various functions.

The movement

Powering the Tonda PF Split Seconds Chronograph is Parmigiani Fleurier’s first integrated chronograph, calibre PF361. The manual-winding movement includes a chronograph, split-seconds function and a large date, all on a single main plate. The rattrapante allows the wearer to time two events starting at the same time, down to the 10th of a second. Furthermore, the highly accurate solid gold rattrapante movement oscillates at 5 Hz – a rarity for such a complication – and has a 65-hour power reserve.

Finished to the highest level, the calibre showcases satin-finished open worked bridges and hand-beveled edges. “We have also added a detail on the oscillating mass, with a completely new design,” adds Terreni. “The PF logo lies in the middle, while the letters appear to be flying around the movement. This is done by inserting them in a sapphire element. Again, these are expensive details to include, but they uncompromisingly please our customer.” And so they should; the price of this indisputably exquisite timepiece is 155,000 euros.

Tonda PF Annual Calendar

A new dial layout

A more sultry piece than the Tonda PF Split Seconds Chronograph, the new Tonda PF Annual Calendar also presents the hours, minutes, seconds, retrograde annual calendar and moonphase in an impressively clear design. “We decided to do things differently with this model,” elaborates Terreni. “We have opened up the dial and have the retrograde date outside of the indices, in order to provide the wearer with the perfect level of readability.”

The Tonda PF Annual Calendar is obviously a highly complicated watch. According to Parmigiani Fleurier, this put the very nature of the design of the purist, timeless collection at stake. Therefore, by pushing the date outwards onto the minute track and using discretely outlined counters on the warm grey guilloché dial, the watchmaker was able to balance the pared-down design with the watch’s advanced complications. The eye is drawn to the moonphase, in particular, which uses the natural element aventurine to evoke the sky. Additionally, the 122-year moonphase complication displays the phase of the moon as it is visible in both hemispheres, as is signalled with an N (North) and S (South).

The movement

Powering the Tonda PF Annual Calendar is the automatic calibre PF339. This movement integrates a skeletonised 22-carat rose-gold oscillating mass that is specially adapted to match the dimensions of the movement. The mass, beating at a frequency of 4 Hz, is also both sand-blasted and polished. Decorated with Côtes de Genève, beveled bridges and perlage, the wearer can admire the movement via the caseback. Additionally, it offers a power reserve of 50 hours.

The case

The watch is available in either a 42 mm steel (with a platinum bezel) or rose-gold case alongside a matching bracelet, and ensures water-resistance to 100 m. The rose-gold version’s bracelet particularly stands out, using an impressive mix of brushing and polishing. “The contrast of the two finishing techniques is very visible,” supplements Terreni. “It reflects the light in a way that is very rare.” The price of the steel version is 35,000 euros, while the rose-gold edition costs 70,000 euros.

Tonda PF Chronograph

The dial

The 42 mm Tonda PF Chronograph displays three subdial counters as well as a date window. As was the case with the Annual Calendar, then, the challenge facing the watchmaker was to maintain the finesse of the collection’s design code. This is achieved through the inclusion of a discrete dark blue dial with guilloché, as well as a thinly sandblasted minute track. Furthermore, the silhouette of the case is pretty streamlined, with the pushers fusing into the profile of the lugs.

The movement

As was the case with the Tonda PF Annual Calendar, the timepiece features the horology house’s new rose-gold, open-worked oscillating weight, featuring the PF logo in the centre. Beating at a frequency of 5 Hz, the calibre PF070 is an integrated high frequency column wheel movement. It displays hours, minutes, as well as a 12-hour counter, 30-minute counter, and small seconds. The self-winding movement has a 65-hour power reserve. The steel version with a hand-knurled platinum bezel is 28,000 euros, while the rose-gold edition is 63,000 euros.

“So, this is the work that we’ve been doing,” Terreni says proudly, as our conversation nears an end. “It is setting a new level for the brand. We are counting a lot on this new collection to really explain us as a brand. We created this collection in a pretty short time frame, but we proved that we had the ability to develop the collection together, as a team, with speed and success.”

Guido Terreni: First year as CEO

Terreni is perhaps still best-known for his previous position as Head of Bulgari watches, overseeing the introduction of the distinctive Serpenti line as well as the already iconic Octo collection. But, I want to know, how does his new position at Parmigiani Fleurier, a drastically different brand, compare? “There are similarities with my previous occupation, where I also had the opportunity to have an integrated manufacture,” muses Terreni. “It was a nice journey. But now, of course, the client is completely different. The clients at Parmigiani Fleurier have a real passion for watchmaking.”

Of course, Parmigiani Fleurier has not only a different clientele, but is also a very different company. “I also like that at the company itself, there is a real sense of confidence in the air,” explains Terreni. “You can really do what you want, and I think that what was missing before my arrival was an aesthetic direction. I think I bring this as the CEO with my personal background, along with the ability to interpret the soul of the brand.”

The legacy of Michel Parmigiani

As fans of the brand will know, the watchmaker was founded by Michele Parmigiani in Fleurier, Switzerland, back in May 1996. Despite stepping down, he remains involved in his company – and that includes working closely with its CEO. Today, Michel is an honorary member of the company and even lives next door. “He still pops in, a little like a grandfather, and we just chat,” says Terreni.

“It’s not someone to whom you ask specific things to, but rather it involves longer conversations where you have to grasp the meaning,” reflects Terreni. “We get along very well and he is very happy with how we are interpreting his DNA. It is a complimentary relationship, and he gives us a lot of hints with watchmaking; how to look at the watch in a different light. I still learn a lot from him, even though I have been in the industry for 20 years myself. There are always more tricks that he can teach me. I think we also have the same vision and philosophy.”

He continues, “Michel knows all of the heritage that is behind his brand, and I want to inject that into today’s pieces. This is also something that needed to be better clarified prior to my arrival. But in any case, Michel is very happy with the Tonda PF. Also, the fact that he is still with us allows me to get to know the man while trying to make Parmigiani Fleurier a brand that is contemporary and relevant. I have always felt strange that the public of today, nine out ten times, will be wearing watches that are not designed by their generation but rather from their father or grandfathers’ generation. I want to give something to the generation of today, as an indication of a time in which they are actually living.

Tonda PF: Future icon?

“To me, the Tonda PF can become an icon for Parmigiani”, concludes Terreni. “A niche brand can grow, but it takes time. At the moment, we consist of about 80 people, with 50 to 55 people in Switzerland. Yet I don’t measure luxury by the size or turnover, but rather the ideas that you are putting out there. We are now focusing on the technical side; primarily the movements. As you can see in the Tonda PF Micro Rotor, for example, we have a platinum micro rotor, and with it comes the best possible level of finishing. With the whole collection, we brought all of our cultural understanding of watchmaking techniques together and applied it to absolutely everything.”

So, is he right? Could the Tonda PF line be the timepiece of today that will be passed down to future generations? According to Terreni, the watch should be seen as similar to a tailored suit; its dimensions and sense of style should mean that it does not become outdated over time. Certainly, its streamlined, minimalist aesthetic works in its favour. Furthermore, it holds something absolutely contemporary from the perspective of someone living in the 2020s, from the simple yet distinctive dial to the neatly finished, compact integrated bracelet. One can imagine this modernism (by today’s standards) becoming something charming and unmistakable as the decades go by.

Finally, Parmigiani Fleurier brings something new with this collection; the world of horology is often about displaying complications, brand logos, and famous models in plain sight, yet the aim of this new line is quite the opposite. These watches aren’t simply there to flaunt their technological feats or finesse; the refined yet resplendent Tonda PF is truly a watch for the wearer.