Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda 1950 Stone-set
The Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda 1950 Stone-set range consists of three watches, each based on the brand’s classical Tonda 1950 but enlivened with numerous gems, providing a sumptuous mien. Angus Davies examines the dazzling haute joaillerie models at close quarters.
Image – Tonda 1950 Rainbow Ref. PFC288-1063302-HA3121 – CHF 60,000
The Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda 1950 has always been a byword for understated luxury and sophistication. The name ‘Tonda’ is a reference to the model’s round case while ‘1950’ is the year Michel Parmigiani, founder of the eponymous Maison, was born.
Image – Tonda 1950 Ref. PFC288-1002401-HA1242 – CHF 19,500
Despite exuding a notable timelessness, the Tonda 1950 received a subtle facelift a few months ago. The most significant change was to the design of the Delta-shaped hour and minute hands. Now, the graceful hands have eschewed mass, embracing an openworked design. However, despite a few minor tweaks, the essence of the original Tonda 1950 continues to shine brightly.
At SIHH 2019, the watch firm from Val-de-Travers showcased a plethora of new models, including the Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda 1950 Stone-set range which comprised of two models endowed with diamond-set bezels and one further model with a bezel embellished with a myriad of precious stones. This latter watch, the Tonda 1950 Rainbow features 36 baguette-cut stones, each seemingly the same size and appearing devoid of settings. Part of the allure of the Tonda 1950 Rainbow is that each stone appears just one shade lighter / darker than its neighbour, a testament to the skilled procurement of the gems and their expert setting. By its very nature, the Tonda 1950 Rainbow is flamboyant and could never be described as a shrinking violet.
Image – Tonda 1950 Rainbow Ref. PFC288-1063302-HA3121 – CHF 60,000
Image – Tonda 1950 Stone-set Ref. PFC288-1063301-HA1421 – CHF 32,000
Image – Tonda 1950 Stone-set Ref. PFC288-1064300-HA4021 – CHF 30,000
The two diamond-set options exhibit a slightly more restrained character. One version features a mother-of-pearl dial, while the other is equipped with a ‘pinkish pearl colour’ dial. It is this latter model that I have chosen to focus upon in this review.
While Parmigiani Fleurier describe the dial of my preferred model as ‘pinkish pearl’, it often resembles a creamy beige. Irrespective of how you choose to categorise the shade of the dial, it certainly sits harmoniously with the 18-carat rose gold case. Indeed, the hue of the dial’s epidermis and the case material provide an agreeable ensemble and confer a becoming warmth.
When I first saw an image of the openworked Delta-shaped hour and minute hands for the first time, I remember musing whether they would inhibit readability. However, I have since worn a watch with the new hands and found them to be incredibly legible. By adopting this new style of hand, Parmigiani Fleurier has infused the dialscape with a delightfully delicate aesthetic. Moreover, the triangular shaped indexes brim with elegance and refinement, enunciating the hours with clear tone.
At first glance, the dial may appear simple, however, I would implore you to look more closely. The dial is presented on three levels and is incredibly complex. The small seconds sits below the centre of the dial which in turn sits below the hour track. Quite simply, Parmigiani Fleurier does not subscribe to perfunctory, choosing to craft watches rich in considered detail.
Historically, the maker’s soubriquet has been presented below noon in an oval-shaped cartouche. I have never questioned this design element or perceived any weakness with its composition. However, on the Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda 1950 Stone-set, the company’s nomenclature is presented in larger text sans border, conferring a much cleaner and tidier aesthetic.
The Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda 1950 Stone-set is housed in an 18-carat rose gold case and measures 39mm in diameter. When contrasted with a ‘standard’ Tonda 1950, the bezel appears wider. This is not an optical illusion, the Stone-set model has a wider bezel in order to accommodate the 51 round diamonds. The dial area is smaller as a result but remains sufficiently expansive to afford impressive lucidity.
In my review of the Tonda 1950 Lune, I discussed the brand’s obsession with proportions. Michel Parmigiani is a firm believer in the importance of proportions, lines and balance. The teardrop lugs found on this model are influenced by the golden ratio and exhibit a seemly grace. Furthermore, the shape of the lugs provides a sublime ergonomic union with the wearer’s wrist.
The watch is supplied on a sumptuous honey-coloured Hermès alligator strap paired with an 18-carat rose gold pin buckle.
I would liken a Parmigiani Fleurier watch to an exotic sports car where the engine is the pièce de résistance. In this instance, the engine or movement is a technical highlight, deserving of admiring glances. Thankfully, the Swiss firm has thoughtfully equipped the Tonda 1950 Stone-set with an exhibition case back, bestowing views of the Calibre PF701.
The Calibre PF701 proffers convenience courtesy of its self-winding habits. However, while some companies use a large oscillating weight to energise the mainspring, the brand from the Val-de-Travers employs a micro-rotor to garner energy from the motion of the wearer’s wrist.
Only a few brands offer watches endowed with a micro-rotor, a testament to Parmigiani’s impressive skills. A micro-rotor sits flush with the adjacent bridges, mitigating the depth of the movement and, by default, the case thickness. Another benefit of a micro-rotor is that it allows the wearer to view much of the movement without a large oscillating weight marring the visual spectacle.
While the Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda 1950 Stone-set is extraordinarily glamorous, it does not eschew technical virtue. The Calibre PF701 features a variable inertia balance. When contrasted with the ubiquitous index-adjusted balance, the variable inertia balance offers superior precision. In addition, the rate is adjusted with masselottes fitted to the spokes of the balance, creating less turbulence than traditional timing screws mounted on the rim of the balance wheel. Once again, this small detail heightens precision.
Finissage removes signs of machining, heightens corrosion resistance and augments the visual allure of movement parts. The owner of the Tonda 1950 Stone-set is indulged with cornucopia of exquisite finishes. The micro-rotor is adorned with Grain d’Orge guilloché, the main plate is decorated with perlage in two sizes, the wheels are circular grained and the bridges are embellished with Côtes de Genève motif and gleaming bevels.
The Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda 1950 Stone-set shares much of its DNA with the long-standing Tonda 1950, however, it looks very different. The case diameter, the teardrop lugs and triangular batons look reassuringly familiar, but this triumvirate of gem-set models feature numerous high-quality precious stones and a wider bezel. Whilst the original model was softly spoken and unassuming, the Tonda 1950 Stone-set makes an entrance and demands attention.
It is not to say one type of watch is better than the other, but rather they are likely to appeal to different audiences.
Nevertheless, while the gem-set and unadorned versions of the Tonda 1950 are clearly different, they both have highly legible dials, fit the wearer’s wrist with ergonomic efficacy and feature sublime automatic movements.
Beyond the glamorous appearance of the Tonda 1950 Stone-set is an extraordinary degree of worthiness. The diamonds, totalling 1.82 carats, are high quality, ensnaring light beautifully and shimmering resplendently. The three-tiered dial, the wonderfully executed case and the high specification movement coalesce wonderfully, reaffirming the rationale for selection.
While the majority of Parmigiani’s watches eschew precious stones, the Tonda 1950 Stone-set range clearly shows that the prestigious marque is able to create haute joaillerie watches of the highest order. Indeed, the gem setting found on these watches befits the horological excellence for which Parmigiani Fleurier has become renown.
- Model: Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda 1950 Stone-set
- Reference: PFC288-1064300-HA4021
- Case: 18-carat rose gold; diameter 39 mm; height 8.3 mm; water resistance 3ATM (30 metres) sapphire crystals to the front and back
- Functions: Hours; minutes; small seconds
- Movement: Calibre PF701; automatic movement; frequency 21,600 VpH (3Hz); contains 29 jewels; power reserve 42 hours; 146 components
- Strap: Honey-coloured Hermès alligator strap paired with an 18-carat rose gold pin buckle
- Price: CHF 30,000 (RRP as at 20.11.2019)