Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda 1950 Tourbillon

At the time the Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda 1950 Tourbillon Ref PFH279-1201400-HA1441 was launched it was reputed to be ‘the world’s thinnest automatic flying tourbillon with a micro-rotor’ and equipped with the ‘world’s lightest tourbillon cage’. This incredible timepiece remains a technical tour de force and a fitting tribute to the man whose name adorns the dial.

This detailed review of the Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda 1950 Tourbillon Ref PFH279-1201400-HA1441 includes live images, specification details and pricing.

Image of Parmigiani Tonda 1950 Tourbillon with black jade dial

Every person enjoys celebrating a birthday. Most fortunate souls receive a birthday cake bearing a few candles, a collection of birthday cards and an array of presents. However, Parmigiani Fleurier chose to mark the birthday of its founder with the creation of a watch, the Tonda 1950 Tourbillon.

Michel Parmigiani was born in Couvet within the canton of Neuchâtel on 2nd December 1950 at 07:08. The Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda 1950 Tourbillon celebrates this event by orientating the tourbillon at an angle ‘corresponding to 07:08, and highlighted by a red applique around the edge of the seconds.’

The Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda 1950 Tourbillon is offered in five variants and recently I got ‘hands-on’ with a stunning version with a black jade dial and 18-carat white gold case.

The dial

When I first saw this watch, a sumptuous sea of polished, black jade confronted my eyes and I was mesmerised by its intricate detail and incredible beauty. 

Image of Parmigiani Tonda 1950 Tourbillon with black jade dial

The surface of the dial is incredibly complex, multi-faceted, deep and rich. Indeed the epidermis of the dial is a paragon of sophistication. Applied indexes, resembling truncated isosceles triangles, feature luminescent treatment on their upper facet. The Delta-shaped hands subscribe to the house style and, once again, feature luminescent coating on their upper surface. The capacity to read the time in restricted light is noteworthy.

The flying tourbillon, a term used to denote the absence of an upper bridge, resides adjacent 7 o’clock and is arranged perpendicular to the bezel, pointing inwards towards the fulcrum of the dial. This slightly idiosyncratic design element is endearing and causes both smiles of appreciation and nods of approval to originate from my direction.

A thermally blued steel seconds hand ‘forms an integral part of the tourbillon cage’, performing one revolution per minute. By adopting this approach, the hand provides the perfect ‘counterbalance to the weight of other components’, ensuring optimal precision.

Opposite 07:08 hours on the periphery of the aperture for the tourbillon, a red applique provides the visual reference point for the start of each new minute.

The dials of some timepieces equipped with a tourbillon escapement can appear a little busy, proving a tad confusing to interpret, however, no such allegations could be directed towards the Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda 1950 Tourbillon. This watch is an exemplar of lucid communication.

The case

‘Elegant’ and ‘sophisticated’ are two words which readily leave my lips when describing the Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda 1950 Tourbillon. The 40.2mm 3-part round case measures a modest 8.65mm in height and assumes a discreet presence upon the wrist. This is not a timepiece for those seeking a flamboyant expression of wealth, quite the contrary. This is a watch for those of discerning temperament who choose to savour the flawless realisation of exalted horology.

Image of Parmigiani Tonda 1950 Tourbillon with black jade dial

The case is highly polished, but somehow remains inconspicuous. Indeed, there is nothing brash, conspicuous or gauche about this expression of tasteful luxury. The articulated lugs assume a teardrop profile and subscribe to the maison’s proven design language.

Image of Parmigiani Tonda 1950 Tourbillon with black jade dial

The Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda 1950 Tourbillon is equipped with a fine self-winding movement, imbued with flawless finissage and therefore it seems therefore only fitting, that the watch is equipped with a pane of sapphire on its caudal flank.

Image of Parmigiani Tonda 1950 Tourbillon with black jade dial

Few companies can surpass Parmigiani Fleurier when it comes to vertical integration, the maison makes virtually all components, including hairsprings, cases, dials and hands. The only components not made in-house by this brand are the rubies, sapphire crystals and the luxurious Hermès straps. This particular model is equipped with the most delightfully tactile, black Hermès strap paired with a white gold pin buckle.

The movement

Parmigiani Fleurier has been incredibly creative in producing the ultra-slim movement PF517. When launched, the self-winding movement was reputed to be ‘the world’s thinnest automatic flying tourbillon with a micro-rotor’, measuring a mere 3.4mm in height. The nature of the watch industry is that records are often broken but, nevertheless, this technical feat remains very impressive.

Image of Parmigiani Tonda 1950 Tourbillon with black jade dial

One reason Parmigiani Fleurier is able to achieve this mechanical svelteness relates to the way ‘the micro-rotor, the barrel, the tourbillon cage, the time-setting mechanism and the central display system are all integrated in the same main plate’. Such technical virtuosity, while challenging to achieve, has led to this space saving magic. Another means of attaining the aforementioned slender torso relates to the flying tourbillon, whose ‘special feature is a cage mounted on a single support bridge’. Beyond its slender mien, the flying tourbillon confers an uninhibited view of the tourbillon cage in motion which proves beguiling to behold.

The tourbillon cage is made of titanium and weighs a mere 0.255g, said at the time of launch to be the ‘world’s lightest’. The absence of mass mitigates energy consumption and reduces inertia which in turn reduces torque, aiding precision.

The micro-rotor is crafted of 950 platinum and surrounded by an ocean of exquisitely executed perlage. Moreover, the bridges are adorned with circular Côtes de Genève motif. The screw heads have chamfered rims and slots, while the jewels sinks are beautifully polished. The bridges are gorgeously bevelled and shine brilliantly, contrasting with the adjacent horizontal bridge surfaces.

Parmigiani Fleurier has indulged purists with a myriad of smile-inducing details. A perfect example of this horological technical fest relates to the balance wheel. The inertia balance is fitted with masselottes which cause less turbulence than the screws found on the rim of a screwed balance. The absence of turbulence, owing to the maselottes being positioned in-board, mitigates disruption of air hence aiding precision. While this may sound a small matter, each minor gain is compounded with other small benefits, ultimately leading to notable precision.

The PF517 is both technically and aesthetically wonderful and a paragon of Swiss watchmaking prowess.

Closing remarks

I cannot hide my love for the Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda 1950 Tourbillon, my adoration of its form is boundless. This is a watch which is both aesthetically and technically magnificent. The dial is both fascinating, with its mottled surface, and, together with its hands and applied indices, adept at conversing with its wearer.

The case accords a comfortable fit, assumes a discreet presence on the arm and brims with good taste.

However, the pièce de résistance relates to the movement which is both technically superb and fantastically executed with flawless finissage much in evidence.

With time, some birthday presents lose their lustre, but this timepiece is a fitting gift and tribute to a man who has spent most of his 66 years restoring horological history and conceiving sublime timepieces for the delectation of connoisseurs. Happy Birthday Michel.

Technical specification

  • Model: Tonda 1950 Tourbillon
  • Reference: PFH279-1201400-HA1441
  • Case: 18-carat white gold; diameter 40.20 mm; height 8.65mm; water resistant to 3 bar (30 metres); sapphire crystal to front and caseback.
  • Functions: Hours; minutes; seconds; 60-second tourbillon.
  • Movement: Calibre PF517, self-winding movement; frequency 21,600 vph (3 Hz); 29 jewels; power reserve 21 hours; 205 components.
  • Strap: Black Hermès alligator strap presented on an 18-carat white gold pin buckle.
  • Price: £100,000.00 (RRP as at 1.12.2016)

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