Parmigiani Fleurier Bugatti Aerolithe

Angus Davies provides an in-depth review of the Parmigiani Fleurier Bugatti Aerolithe. This handsome watch bears the name of the famous luxury car-marque and features a fly-back chronograph and a captivating blue dial.

This detailed review of the Parmigiani Fleurier Bugatti Aerolithe includes live images, specification details and pricing.

Parmigiani Fleurier Bugatti Aerolithe - in-depth watch review by ESCAPEMENT

The chronograph is a complication which particularly appeals to me. The ability to measure a period of time often proves useful in everyday life. However, as I admire the Parmigiani Fleurier Bugatti Aerolithe it causes me to reflect on the juxtaposition a chronograph confers and indeed the very nature of the two brand names which adorn this particular model.

By its very nature, a chronograph is intended to measure the elapsed time of an event. On many occasions speed is seen as virtuous, fractions of a second are highly prized with much acclaim accorded to those who are the fastest.

However, if we analyse the creation of a fine chronograph, it is not the rapid alacrity of assembly that is held in high-esteem, but the patient, careful manipulation of tools, held in adroit time-served hands, which leads to the production of no-compromise timepieces. Indeed, the production of a haute horlogerie creation typical of Parmigiani Fleurier, is not the product of expedience but the careful distillation of fine materials in the calm hands of an artisan.

Bugatti is an exemplar of high-performance luxury motoring. Its sinuously-shaped Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse can reach 100kph (62 mph) from rest in a mere 2.6 seconds and continue to reach a terminal speed of 375 kph (233 mph). Its incredible ability to propel forwards and devour the road ahead is magnificent.

But, if you look at the creation of the Bugatti, the parallels with fine watchmaking become apparent. Firstly, there is a profound in-house expertise at Bugatti which has allowed it to overcome challenges, insurmountable to lesser companies. Moreover, admiring each element of this automotive composition, one becomes distinctly aware that this is the product of a talented team of craftsmen, based in Molsheim, tirelessly seeking perfection. Indeed, Bugatti cars are not made in a factory, but within the confines of an “atelier” in Alsace. The similarities with Parmigiani Fleurier now seem obvious, both products are made by craftsmen blessed with immense ability.

Sadly, whilst the Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse appeals to me on many levels, piquing my alpha-male character, it is beyond my financial grasp. Conversely, the Parmigiani Fleurier Bugatti Aerolithe, retailing in my native England for a more accessible £20,000, proves to be a more attainable ownership proposition. I recently visited L’Atelier Parmigiani, on London’s prestigious Mount Street, to discover the delights of this blue-hued horological ensemble.

The dial

Delta-shaped hands, an aspect in common with several other models, impart the hours and minutes. They have a highly polished, gleaming appearance which cleanly communicates with the wearer. Gracing the central area of each hand is white luminous coating, enhancing nocturnal readability. Both hands feature a squared-off tip, with the tip of the hour hand appearing to match the leading edge of the hour markers, granting a sense of balance.

Parmigiani Fleurier Bugatti Aerolithe - in-depth watch review by ESCAPEMENT

The rhodium-plated applied hour markers taper as they point towards the fulcrum of the dial, drawing the eyes to the central area.

A bi-compax layout includes a small seconds display at 9 o’clock and a 30-minute chronograph register at 3 o’clock. Each subdial is snailed. The small seconds hand is rhodium plated, deferring in prominence to the vivid red hand of the aforementioned 30-minute chronograph register.

The red tincture is a common theme on the Parmigiani Fleurier Bugatti Aerolithe timepiece. It is successfully employed on the central chronograph seconds hand which advances in ¼ of a second steps and which interfaces with a suitably marked chapter ring. The source of the red detail is the brightly coloured iconic badge which has graced some of the finest cars ever produced.

Above 6 o’clock an elongated, curved aperture, reveals the prevailing date, with the dates before and after also visible.

Parmigiani Fleurier Bugatti Aerolithe - in-depth watch review by ESCAPEMENT

However, there is one other aspect to this dial which arguably usurps all other details and that is its gorgeous blue abyss shade. This rich, deep blue evokes a notable air of luxury and accentuates the beauty of the watch to spellbinding effect. My mother always remarked, “It’s rude to stare”, but mindful of receiving a reprimand, I can’t help but gaze at this majestically attractive dial.

The case

Initially, when I saw the Parmigiani Fleurier Bugatti Aerolithe I wrongly assumed, based on the appearance of several highly polished surfaces, that this was a stainless steel timepiece. It is actually constructed of titanium and white gold.

Parmigiani Fleurier Bugatti Aerolithe - in-depth watch review by ESCAPEMENT

Close examination reveals that not all surfaces of the watch are highly polished, the vertical flanks of the case band, articulated lugs and push-pieces sport a satin finish.

Whilst the case is predominantly polished, it never feels outré or excessive. Indeed, the restrained dimensions of the watch, with is case diameter of 41mm and height of 12.55mm, reinforce the sense of elegance and refinement, typical of many products made by Parmigiani Fleurier.

If one looks at the dorsal area of the Bugatti Veyron, the car features a retractable spoiler. It does not mar the graceful lines of the vehicle and only makes its presence known when required to increase necessary downforce. Parallels to this can be seen with the Parmigiani Fleurier Bugatti Aérolithe. When looking at the watch from the front, the chronograph push-pieces are barely noticeable. They are neatly integrated into the asymmetric lugs, preserving the watch’s purity of line.

Inspecting the case from the side, the profile of the pushpieces can be ascertained more easily. They are tear shaped, emulating the profile of the asymmetric lugs and imbuing the product with an appreciable style.

Parmigiani Fleurier Bugatti Aerolithe - in-depth watch review by ESCAPEMENT

Arguably the most overt demonstration of this watch’s mechanical virtue can be discerned by admiring the case back. A round sapphire crystal allows the wearer to see the engine of this horological thoroughbred, an aspect I will return to later.

Parmigiani Fleurier Bugatti Aerolithe - in-depth watch review by ESCAPEMENT

The blue Hermès calfskin strap has a vivid flourish of red gracing its edge and begs to be touched, such is its exquisite tactile feel. The folding clasp features a Bugatti motif, framed in what resembles a miniature facsimile of the iconic grille gracing the Veyron. The attention to detail is breathtaking and stands testament to the talented design team based in Fleurier.

Parmigiani Fleurier Bugatti Aerolithe - in-depth watch review by ESCAPEMENT

The movement

The Calibre PF335 is a self-winding flyback chronograph. The additional functionality of the flyback function will not be lost on those wearers who need to repeatedly measure consecutive events.

Parmigiani Fleurier Bugatti Aerolithe - in-depth watch review by ESCAPEMENT

The movement draws on the expertise of the various companies within the Parmigiani stable. The degree of vertical integration and in-house expertise has been discussed at great length on Le Blog and can be readily seen on this fine calibre.

The finissage is outstanding and, once again, reaffirms why this maison is regarded by many as one of the finest exemplars of haute horlogerie. The open-worked oscillating mass allows the bridges and micro-components to be observed beneath.

Colimaçon adorns the oscillating mass, which features the brand’s logo centre stage. Côtes de Genève motif graces the upper surface of the bridges. However, whilst an increasing number of watches feature this motif, those on this Parmigiani timepiece are particularly impressive. The parallel lines are clearly defined, but exhibit a smoothness to their surface. The jewels sinks are highly polished, another telltale sign of high-end watchmaking.

I am a self-confessed purist and it is the maison’s elevated finishing which engenders a smile of appreciation on my face. The anglage is magnificent, with the bevelled edges of the bridge imparting a brilliant sparkle which accentuates their beauty. Quite simply, this is a gorgeous movement.

Beyond the beauty of the movement, the push-pieces have a pleasing feel, conferring a positive action. Twin barrels collaborate to deliver a 50 hour power reserve and the parts count of the movement totals a bewildering 311 components, some barely visible to the naked eye.

The towering technical accomplishment of the Calibre PF335 cannot be overstated.

Closing remarks

The Bugatti name is iconic and the cars which bear this nomenclature are, deservedly, regarded as some of the finest ever created. They are a technical tour de force, produced by a prestigious company where no countenance is given to the notion of “compromise”. The fact that such an illustrious brand has chosen to be associated with Parmigiani Fleurier reaffirms something I already knew, that the watches which feature the letters “PF” engraved on their movements are shining examples of watchmaking perfection.

Finally, I return to the aforementioned juxtaposition which initially captured my interest. Whilst reviewing the Parmigiani Fleurier Bugatti Aerolithe, I have come to realise that those who wish to embrace speed and a fast paced life, inevitably require other individuals to work slowly and carefully to craft the high performance cars or chronographs they desire.

Technical Specification

  • Model: Parmigiani Fleurier Bugatti Aérolithe
  • Reference: PFC329-3400600 
  • Case: Titanium and white gold; diameter 41 mm; height 12.55 mm; water resistant to 3 bar (30 metres); sapphire crystal to front and case back.
  • Functions: Hours; minutes; small seconds; date; chronograph.
  • Movement: Calibre PF335, self-winding movement; frequency 28,800 vph (4 Hz), 68 jewels; power reserve 50 hours; 315 components
  • Strap: Malta blue Hermès calfskin strap presented on a folding clasp.
  • Price: £20,000 (as at 20.8.2014)

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