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Review: Textures and Colours – The Parmigiani Fleurier Toric Hémisphères Rétrograde Slate

by Frank Chuo on August 19, 2019

Parmigiani Fleurier Toric Hémisphères Rétrograde Slate

Parmigiani Fleurier was founded by Michel Parmigiani in 1996. The very first watch presented by the eponymous brand was the Toric QP Retrograde. The watch had a bezel with alternating gadroons and knurling, a distinctive style that would go on to become one of the brand’s aesthetic hallmarks. In 2017, the Toric Hémisphère Rétrograde was introduced, combining the Toric collection design with an ingenious travel time functionality. The watch deservedly won first prize at the Grand Prix Horlogerie de Geneve that year under the Travel Time category. This year, at SIHH 2019, the Fleurier-based brand revealed arguably the most evocative iteration of its award-winning travel wristwatch yet. Here, we bring you the details and our thoughts on the new Toric Hémisphères Rétrograde Slate.

The Case, Dial, and Hands

The iconic case of the Toric Hémisphères Rétrograde remains unchanged from a design perspective; the signature gadroons and knurling are still there in the new Slate iteration. The material chosen for this year is 18 ct rose gold, the same material as the 2017 award-wining piece. It bears mentioning that there is also a stainless steel version that was released last year, much to the delight of watch collectors. Measuring 42.8 mm x 11.9 mm, the Toric Hémisphères Rétrograde Slate is contemporarily sized.

The Toric Hémisphères Rétrograde has two crowns: one to set the second time zone at 2 o’clock, one to set the first time zone and wind the watch at 4 o’clock.

As fascinating as the Toric case is, it is in fact the dial that steals the show. The new Toric Hémisphères Rétrograde Slate features a slate grey dial with a hand-guilloched surface. The concentric pattern engraved is reminiscent of the arrangement of scales on a pine cone. Combined with the knurling and gadrooning on the case, the watch is a texture fest. Some may find it a bit much, but we personally think it’s stunning and tastefully executed.

The displays and their layout on the dial are unaltered. The second time zone sub-dial resides at 12 o’clock accompanied by its designated day/night indicator, while the seconds sub-dial and first time zone day/night indicator are at the opposite end at 6 o’clock. The date is displayed in an arc and indicated by a red crescent-tipped hand. As the hand moves towards the last days of the month, the hand activates a spring which drives it back to the first day of the month by retracing the arc. The movement is so fast, it cannot be seen by the naked eye. To fit the more modern look of the Toric Hémisphères Rétrograde Slate, the hour and minute javelin hands have been partially skeletonised, leaving only the tips coated with luminescent material.

The multitude of textures on not just the dial but also the case is what makes the Toric Hémisphères Rétrograde Slate so evocative.

The Movement

Powering the Toric Hémisphères Rétrograde Slate is the tried and trusted Calibre PF317. The movement first appeared in the Tonda Hémisphères in 2010 before making its way into the Toric collection. The 316-part, 28-jewel movement – co-developed by Agenhor – has a power reserve of 50 hours and operates at a standard 4 Hz beat rate. The Calibre PF317’s claim to fame is in its ability to display two time zones accurate to the minute. A module is indexed to the main movement in order to govern the second time zone. By pulling out the crown at 2 o’clock, the module in disengaged from the movement, allowing the second time zone to be set independently to the nearest minute. When the crown is pressed back in, the movement and the module re-engage and the second time zone is re-indexed to the first so that they operate simultaneously with the desired time interval. The crown and 4 o’clock can be used to adjust the time of the two paired time zones. This makes the Toric Hémisphères Rétrograde the most sophisticated watch of its kind.

The Calibre PF317 as seen through the sapphire crystal case back.

The Calibre PF317 is visible through a smaller-than-usual, off-centre exhibition case back. Only the base calibre can be seen; the travel time mechanism is hidden from sight. Overall, the movement is attractively finished. The top surface of the bridges are adorned with Geneva waves while their edges have been chamfered and polished. The base is decorated with perlage and the screw heads have been polished to a sheen. The 22 carat gold rotor – the most eye-catching part of the movement – is gorgeously guilloched, leaving a medallion in the centre with the brand’s logo.

The Competitive Landscape

It wouldn’t be absurd to say that the Toric Hémisphères Rétrograde Slate is the most beautiful variant of the series. The combination of the grey of the dial and the rose gold of the case is very pleasing to the eye. Plus, the multiple, immaculate textures of the watch perfectly showcases the talent of Parmigiani Fleurier’s finisseurs and engravers. Paired with a brown alligator leather strap by Hermès, the Toric Hémisphères Rétrograde Slate retails for CHF32,000.

In spite of its modern proportions, the Toric Hémisphères Rétrograde will still slide under all but the tightest cuffs.

Travel time watches are by no means uncommon. That said, ones that are as exquisite as the Toric are still a rare treat. One travel time watch that has always been at the top of the hierarchy since its debut in 2005 is the A. Lange & Söhne Lange 1 Time Zone. The Lange 1 Time Zone isn’t able to set its second time zone to the minute like the Toric, but it does have have a more practical quick-set function. Where it really shines, though, is in its movement finishing. It goes without saying that it is top notch, superior to even the Calibre PF317. Many variants of the Lange 1 Time Zone have been introduced since its first appearance in 2005, from yellow gold to white gold to even the brand’s proprietary honey gold. Priced in the ballpark of around USD50,000 for the pink gold variant, the Lange 1 Time Zone is the gold standard for an ultra-high end travel time watch in the industry.

Lange 1 Time Zone Dresden Edition in honey gold.

For something a little more Swiss, one need not look further than the Vacheron Constantin Overseas Dual Time. The Overseas Dual Time is arguably the most versatile and pragmatic travel time watch there is. With a 15 bar water resistance rating and substantial anti-magnetic protection, the watch can endure much, much more than either the Toric or the Lange 1. Thanks to its proprietary strap quick-release mechanism, the owner can also swap between an all-purpose rubber strap and a dressy leather strap – both of which are included at purchase – without a tool. Going from the boardroom to the beach has never been so easy. Priced at USD39,500 for the rose gold variant, the Overseas Dual Time is perfect for anyone looking for an all-terrain travel watch. The stainless steel variant of the Overseas Dual Time, at USD24,700, brings the most value for money to the table and comes with an additional full stainless steel bracelet.

The Overseas Dual Time is part of the third generation of Overseas sports watches that also features other complications such as the perpetual calendar and the world time.

Final Thoughts

The Toric Hémisphères Rétrograde Slate is the watch lover’s travel time watch. It’s got craftsmanship, it’s got the technical specs, and it’s also won the Oscars of watchmaking. It may not have the most well-finished movement, or be the most versatile, but it is one of the most innovative travel time watches to have graced contemporary watchmaking in the past decade.

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