Parmigiani Fleurier has recently launched the Ovale range including the Pantographe with ingenious telescopic hands
In 2012, I visited the five factories which form Les Manufactures Horlogères de la Fondation (MHF). These factories between them create the numerous components which beautifully coalesce to form a Parmigiani Fleurier timepiece.
The highlight of my time spent with my host from Parmigiani Fleurier was visiting the Restorations Department. Here I was granted the privilege of seeing many incredible horological delicacies to whet my appetite.
The specialist team in the Restorations Department work on significant clocks, automata and watches. Several of these are displayed in prestigious museums around the globe. Restoration does not mean mere repair. Parmigiani Fleurier define the restoration process in their literature:
“Restoration is an exercise in rebuilding; it is the act of perfectly recapturing a piece’s original nature, freeing it from the ravages of time and, very often, rescuing it from the cumulative effects of unskilled repairs or renovation work”.
Sadly the incapable and inexperienced have butchered some timepieces losing the essence of their original creation. Whilst commercially the Restorations Department is a small profit centre for the business, it is hugely important to the company as it captures the spirit of the brand and sits at the epicentre of its paradigm.
The origins of Parmigiani Fleurier can be traced back to the restoration work performed by Michel Parmigiani and his work for the Sandoz Family Foundation. It was whilst undertaking this sympathetic restoration of timepieces that he met Pierre Landolt, President of the Sandoz Family Foundation. Ultimately, Mr Landolt showed his confidence in Mr Parmigiani, supporting Michel when he created a brand which would bear his name.
Whilst Parmigiani Fleurier has grown into a highly regarded watch and clock brand since its inception in 1996, it has never ceased exhibiting its immense talents in restoring rare and valuable horological works of art.
A prestigious oval shaped watch, with telescopic hands, created by Vardon and Stedmann arrived at the Restorations Department in 1997. It was this model which provided the inspiration for a new range of oval shaped timepieces. Ironically, when I was shown the historical watch last year, I did not realise the significance at the time and how it helped form part of brands plan for the future.
The hands of the oval shaped pocket watch by the English jewellers, Vardon and Stedman are telescopic and follow the contours of the case with their length altering to suit. The complication is referred to as the pantograph but their profile reminds me of a scissor-like action.
Once again, Parmigiani have shown a unique mien which differentiates them from other brands. There are several models within the Ovale range including a Tourbillon, but it is the Pantographe which is the focus of this review.
The dial features a barley grain motif that pays due reverence to historical timepieces. I particularly like the way it creates areas of light and shade, imparting a three dimensional quality.
The telescopic hands are blued titanium. Whilst blued hands have been traditionally employed within the watch industry for generations. Laser-cutting techniques, which use water and nitrogen have been utilised, to achieve infinitesimally small tolerances. It took a year of testing at the Lausanne Institute of Technology to achieve the knowledge and accuracy necessary for the faultless operation of the hands.
There is much expertise harnessed behind the beguiling hands of the Ovale Pantographe, however, it is the enchanting motion of the hands which leads to my adoration. They traverse the dial, increasing and decreasing in length, to suit the profile of the case. Reliable operation is a given, this is after all, a Parmigiani Fleurier watch, crafted by one of the finest maisons in existence.
Hours are marked with blued steel Arabic numerals at 3 o’clock, 6 o’clock, 9 o’clock and noon. The intervening hours are marked with blue steel, batons. Their shape resembling elongated isosceles triangles.
Below noon is a power reserve indicator, presented in arc-like form, with a cartouche underneath stating a highly impressive maximum power reserve of 192 hours or eight days.
Above 6 o’clock, an extended aperture reveals the date. Its curved profile echoes the contours of the case.
Historically, oval shaped cases have had feminine overtones. However, somehow through adept styling, Parmigiani Fleurier have conferred a masculine persona to this watch. The case dimensions are 45.0 mm by 37.6 mm reaffirming its intended target, a timepiece for a male audience.
The case is available in two materials 18-carat rose gold and 18-carat white gold. I adore both finishes and feel a sense of ambivalence as to which is my preferred finish. If I was purchasing this watch, a possibility I would not rule out, then I would suspect many hours of deliberation would ensue.
I am pleased to see the articulated lug design of the Tonda and Kalpa features once more on the Ovale. Indeed, it has become part of the house style. Whilst the iconic lugs have been adopted, their design has been adapted to suit the oval case shape and they do not unduly protrude. The lugs sit harmoniously with other elements of the watch case.
A barrel-shaped sapphire glass features on the caseback. It reveals the recherché movement within. Michel Parmigiani is a perfectionist and it pleases me to see him conform to horological etiquette by only revealing the movement when the mainplate emulates the profile of the case. The hand-wound PF 111 communicates its many charms to the fortunate wearer.
The caseback is secured with six special screws. These necessitate removal by an authorised Parmigiani Fleurier watchmaker, hopefully avoiding any damage owing to incompetence, this mitigating the need for future restoration work.
The hand-wound calibre PF 111 has a 8-day power reserve courtesy of the two series coupled barrels.
There are few movements to usurp the finishing of this handsomely presented calibre with expertly applied Côtes de Genève appearing on the bridges. The PF 111 is an object lesson in finissage with hand-bevelled bridges beautifully exampled. The curvaceous form of some sections of bridgework, especially adjacent jewels, show the prowess of the adroit craftsmanship.
There are 28 jewels present within the movement, several of which are visible on the bridges. Their polished sinks reinforce the sense of no-compromise construction.
As you admire the movement via the caseback, you can see the peerless perlage on the mainplate and the swan-neck regulator adjacent the balance wheel. This is a movement which will appeal to purists.
I am smitten. The enchanting telescopic hands of this model distinguish this timepiece as something a little special.
The Ovale Pantographe is suited to those who seek discreet ownership. It will appeal to the discerning buyer drawn to matchless finishing and magnificent craftsmanship. Those who are seduced by the more familiar nomens that ubiquitous brand awareness confers, may seek an alternative marque, but that would be their loss.
This is a remarkable timepiece which will appeal to the cognoscenti and those who can appreciate the pioneering spirit of the creative minds employed in Fleurier.
Model: Parmigiani Fleurier Ovale Pantographe
Case: 18-carat rose gold or 18-carat white; dimensions 45.00 mm x 37.60 mm; height 12.00 mm; water resistant to 3 bar (30 metres); sapphire crystal to front and caseback.
Functions: Hours; minutes; power reserve; date.
Movement: PF 111, hand-wound movement; frequency 21,600 vph (3 Hz); 28 jewels; power reserve 192 hours; 227 parts.
Strap: Indigo alligator leather strap with 18-carat gold ardillon buckle to match case.
Angus is a self-confessed watch addict and is frequently asked to contribute to various printed magazines and websites around the globe. He also writes for individual watch companies on matters of horology and has appeared on television and radio as an industry expert.