For some reason, Parmigiani Fleurier remains an under rated brand. But for those in the know, the maison represents the crème de la crème, and is one of the few who are truly independent. From the ability through their sister companies within the group, they are able to make movement parts including hairsprings and special components, dials, cases, movements, as well as haute horologie timepieces. They also have a well established restoration department. The Permigiani Tonda Métrograph we are reviewing today is not totally new, but a facelifted edition, introduced just before SIHH 2017. We examine the white dialed version in detail. A version is also available in a black dial.
Parmigiani Fleurier tonda Métrographe
The case, dial and hands
The case is elegant, and refined, and is made by Les Artisans Boîtiers, a case specialist within Parmigiani Fleurier. The lugs are reminiscent of the fancy lugs, often called corne de vache (bull horns) in vintage watches. The lugs are very elegant, and taper off in sweeping curves into the nearly the middle of the case. On the crown side, the chronograph pushers, which are also feature a streamlined look of a elongated oval, are integrated neatly into the lugs. We find the entire ensemble to be very smart and exudes a sophisticated air.
The dial is where the main facelift has been performed. The white dial looks radiant, paired nicely with the blued hand of the chronograph. The main hour and minute hands are in white gold, and in-filled with Superluminova for better visibility in the dark. The chronograph counters are nicely proportioned and stylized to form a figure of 8 formed by a slightly raised section. Small details abound on the dial. The appliques for the hour markers are in white gold, and laid over a snailed decoration. This same decoration is also found in the inside of the counters, and is achieved by using a chasing tool to remove a small amount of material to make concentric patterns, and improves the depth perception as one gazes on the dial.
A subtle red number “1” on the date is a small touch, and a hint that indeed some lengthy thought has been spent on its design and the dial custom manufactured. Indeed the dial is made by another of Parmigiani’s companies – Quadrance & Habillage, who also supply high quality dial to other great maisons in the business.
The dial now carries a tachymeter track surrounding the hour markers, and somehow this added detail focuses the design and we feel it differentiates this dial from its predecessors.
Activating the chronograph reveals a nice smooth pressure needed to start, stop and reset which is typical to a well designed column wheel system.
The movement: PF 315
From the case back, the sapphire glass reveals the movement. As is usual with Parmigiani movements, the finishing is quite good, though in our view is not that the finissage is not at the highly decorative finishing which attracts so many of us. But the finish is done par excellence, to a very high engineering standard. All the i’s are dotted and the t’s crossed, and Parmigiani demonstrates their savoir faire here. However, we do note that though we have observed Parmigiani featuring highly decorative, and drop dead gorgeous finishing on some of their watches (see the Hepdomadaire here for an example of exquisite finishing), they have restrained themselves for the Tonda Métrographe. Perhaps as the Métrographe is targetted at a specific price point, they have to forgo the ultra high end finishing.
Perhaps the greatest criticism we have on the movement is not the finishing, though as some of our readers will know, the author is sometimes known to have nazi-like tendencies on this particular aspect. But in the fact that Parmigiani decides to hide the chronograph below the dial, and not to show the chronograph works on the back. We feel this is a great opportunity which is missed. Witness the Lange Datorgraph as a contrary alternative. But even the Parmigiani Tonda Chronor 20th Anniversary chronograph, which is the showcase of their expertise, also hide the chronograph works. The movement plates from the back are perforated, to only a peek into the two column wheels of the split second chronograph.
At S$19,000 with GST for an independent manufactured in-house chronograph, we think the Tonda Métrographe is remarkable value for money. The landscape is not sparse at all, with inhabitants ranging from the Rolex Daytona to Zenith El Primero, to Montblanc, and perhaps even TAG. We consider a few.
Perhaps the first to come to mind is the iconic Rolex Cosmograph Daytona (S$16,660 with GST in Stainless steel with bracelet). What the Rolex has going is the pedigree is impeccable. The historical prices achieved for vintage peices, led by the earth shattering Paul Newman Daytonas, lead the charge. The latest iteration is currently back-ordered in most countries, with waiting times from months to years. It is in extremely high demand. And crafted beautifully.
Zenith El Primero is another which begs comparison. There are many to choose from. Including vintage ones dwelling within the Rolex Daytona to those of newer vintage carrying the Zenith flag. Their latest offering is rather interesting Defy El Primero 21, combining a 1/1000th measurement resolution to an otherwise traditional chronograph. The Defy El Primero is keenly priced at S$ 15,100 for the solid dial titanium case, S$ 16,600 for the open dial with titanium case and S$ 18,000 for the ceramicised aluminium case with open worked dial. As we said in the detailed review linked, eminently fair pricing. Of course, in addition, El Primero is a high beat movement, and blessed with the time tested movement layout, proven to be reliable and accurate.
Before we leave the price level of below S$20k, we consider the Grand Seiko Spring Drive Chronographs. A prime example is the GS SD Black Ceramic Edition introduced (retail ¥ 1,400,000 or about S$17,000) in 2016. Here Seiko produces a tour de force chronograph based on their spring drive technology for a magnificent watch. The GS SD Chrono is available in other variants as well, starting from ¥ 800,000 or about S$9,800) and represent excellent value for money for the quality of the watches. These chronographs are well thought out, well designed and excellently finished.
From Montblanc, we ponder over their 1858 Chronograph as a prime candidate. But at S$37,800 incl GST retail, it is rather more pricey. The movement is spectacular, and can be admired through the sapphire glass back. Finishing is remarkable for its excellence, falling only short of the big haute horologie boys like Lange and Vacheron Constantin (we particularly liked the VC Historiques Corne de Vache), but the big hitters also hit big time wallet side, so perhaps out of consideration for many.
And as a concluding muse, we take the TAG Heuer 02T Tourbillon Chronograph. At CHF 19,900, it is the reigning class leader for value. For that price, TAG includes a tourbillon over the column wheel chronograph. The TAG will appeal to those who are looking for a more sporty chronograph…though in a sense all chronographs are sports instruments.
We think this is an excellent effort by Parmigiani to lower the cost of entry into their world of rather exquisite watches. Granted the Tonda Métrographe is built to a price point, one very skillfully tuned to market needs, and thus forgo some of the exquisite finishing that Parmigiani is able to deliver. But we still think it packs a punch to be worthy of consideration in its price class. A classically designed chronograph with a smooth activating chronograph at below S$20,000 is a good buy.
The watch is very elegant in its aesthetics, with sensible choice of details on the dial to make it look quite 3 dimensional and still retain good legibility. Design is excellent. Finish is good. Salut to Michel Parmigiani for pulling this one off.
Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda Metrograph Technical Specifications
Total dimensions: 12 ½’’’ – Ø 28.0 mm
Thickness: 6.07 mm
Frequency: 4 Hz – 28,800 Vib/h
Power reserve: 42 hours
No. of components: 351
No. of jewels: 46
Small seconds at 3 o’clock
1/4 sec chronograph, large seconds,
30 min and 12 hour counters
Dimensions: Ø 40 mm
Thickness: 11.7 mm
Water resistance: 30 m
Crystal: Anti-reflective sapphire
Colour: White silver
Indices: Rhodium-plated appliques
with luminescent coating
Finish: Opaline, snailed counters
Hands: Delta shaped with luminescent coating
S$19,000 with GST.