Parmigiani Fleurier Toric Hemispheres Retrograde

Winner of the GPHG 2017 ‘Travel Time’ prize, the Parmigiani Fleurier Toric Hemispheres Retrograde is now offered in a new, steel case. Angus Davies looks at this interesting traveller’s watch, appraising its composition at close quarters.

This hands-on review of the Parmigiani Fleurier Toric Hemispheres Retrograde includes live images, specification details and pricing.

Parmigiani Fleurier Toric Hemispheres Retrograde - GPHG prize winner 2017

For some individuals, the burden of juggling their life between two locations can prove especially taxing. For example, today’s business traveller often has to work to local time, while keeping an eye on the prevailing hour at home.

The watch industry has long since recognised the need for some individuals to view the time simultaneously in two time zones. The advent of the GMT watch fulfils the requirements of many business travellers, courtesy of its additional hour hand indicating the prevailing hour at home. Furthermore, a 24-hour scale around the periphery of the dial, or depicted on the bezel, allows the wearer to identify whether the ‘home time’ is day or night. Needless to say, the GMT is a very useful complication.

However, there is one problem with a GMT watch. The GMT hand can only advance in one hour increments relative to the home time. This is fine for a London-based traveller visiting New York, for example, where the home time is 5 hours ahead of the local time. However, in some parts of the world the local time may have half-hour and quarter-hour offsets with the one-hour Greenwich meridian. For example, in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), the prevailing time is GMT + 5.30. Quite simply, a GMT watch is unable to accurately display the time in London and Kolkata simultaneously.

Last year, Parmigiani Fleurier unveiled the Toric Hémisphères Rétrograde, a gold watch capable of showing the time in any two locations, correct to the nearest minute. This innovative timepiece was duly awarded the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève in 2017 in the ‘TRAVEL TIME’ category.

This year, the Swiss company has unveiled another version of the Parmigiani Fleurier Toric Hemispheres Retrograde. Presented in steel, this latest version possesses the same prize winning attributes of its gold sibling whilst proving more affordable. I recently had the opportunity to spend a few days in the company of this fine watch.

The dial

Most GMT watches are sports models and styled accordingly, but the Toric Hémisphères Rétrograde exudes grace with its softly-spoken nature. This is a ‘dressy’ watch which lends itself to formal attire.

Parmigiani Fleurier Toric Hemispheres Retrograde - GPHG prize winner 2017

The black opaline dial features discreet rose gold gilded indices. Positioned between each index are white, one-minute markings. The slender chapter ring allows the adjacent retrograde date display sufficient space to breathe.

The unusual Javelin-shaped hour and minute hands evince a warm golden hue, exhibiting a high quotient of style whilst proffering ease of read-off. Each hand is lined with a smattering of luminescent fill which is unusual given their formal appearance, nevertheless, the resultant appearance is wonderful.

Positioned above 6 o’clock is a day/night indicator for the local time. It proves intuitive in use. Encircling the day/night indicator is a small seconds display. Both indications use gold-coloured hands to impart meaning.

In the upper portion of the dial is a second time display, capable of showing the home time independently of the local time. Positioned adjacent to this display is a further day/night indicator. This latter indication is a small facsimile of the main day/night indicator. The repetition of the styling augments the cohesion of the overall dial design. Silver-toned hands are used for the second time display and its neighbouring day/night indicator.

One of the visual highlights of the dial is the retrograde date. A red, crescent-tipped hand commences its journey at 2 o’clock and follows an arc-shaped route up to the 31st of the month, positioned adjacent 10 o’clock. As the local time nudges the midnight hour on the last day of each month, the hand of the display returns to the 1st of the month and a new journey begins. It is the amazing alacrity of the hand returning to its point of origin which proves captivating to observe. A quiet, reassuring click can be heard, reminding the wearer this is a mechanical process.

The case

In 1996, Michel Parmigiani unveiled his first wristwatch, the Toric. A distinctive feature of this watch was its bezel, adorned with alternating gadroons and knurling. Michel was inspired by the structure of Doric columns.

Parmigiani Fleurier Toric Hemispheres Retrograde - GPHG prize winner 2017

Each knurled indentation is produced by hand using a toothed wheel. The same artisan employed for the first Toric case in 1996 continues to endow each Toric case with this distinctive detail. Apparently, the number of knurled markings varies from watch to watch, but surprisingly, when viewed with the naked eye, each indentation appears identical.

The case is formed of three sections and features a curved sapphire crystal. It is the curving lines of the case and crystal which imbue the watch with a gentle character.

Parmigiani Fleurier Toric Hemispheres Retrograde - GPHG prize winner 2017

While the initial version of the Parmigiani Fleurier Toric Hemispheres Retrograde was gold and looked beautiful, I prefer this steel version. Firstly, the steel version is paired with a becoming black dial. Secondly, the neutral, understated character of steel suits the reserved nature of the watch.

Two crowns grace the right flank of the case. The upper crown, positioned between 2 and 3 o’clock, operates the hands on the home time display. The lower crown, located between between 3 and 4 o’clock, winds the watch and adjusts the hands showing the local time.

All surfaces of the case are highly polished, yet the watch remains understated.

The rear of the case features a pane of sapphire crystal affording sight of the self-winding movement. Interestingly, this sapphire crystal is eccentrically positioned to the bottom of the case-back. It is small idiosyncrasies such as these which imbue this timepiece with its wonderful charm.

The Parmigiani Fleurier Toric Hemispheres Retrograde is supplied on a black Hermès strap, paired with a steel folding buckle. The strap possesses a sumptuous feel and, owing to its shallow height, the folding buckle sits close to the wrist, conferring a comfortable fit.

The movement

The Calibre PF317 is a Manufacture movement crafted at the company’s Vaucher facility in Fleurier. This Swiss company always impresses with its in-house capabilities. The dial, case and movement are made at the company’s various sites. In fact, the only elements not made by Parmigiani Fleurier are the sapphire crystals, rubies and the aforementioned Hermès straps.

Parmigiani Fleurier Toric Hemispheres Retrograde - GPHG prize winner 2017

Typically, the finishing of a Parmigiani Fleurier timepiece is outstanding, worthy of comparison with the best and this Calibre PF317 proves to be no exception. The bridges and oscillating mass are positioned off-centre. Interestingly, the main plate dwarfs the oscillating mass. 

The oscillating weight is made of 22 carat gold and decorated with grain d’orge (barleycorn). Beneath the rotor, the bridges are embellished with Côtes de Genève motif. Perlage adorns the main plate. Each bridge features exquisite anglage and the wheels are circular grained. This movement is a paragon of fine watchmaking.

Two series-coupled barrels collaborate to deliver a power reserve of 50 hours. The movement consists of 316 components, including 28 jewels.

The balance wheel is fitted with maselottes, small weights positioned in-board which influence the rate keeping of the watch. Because the maselottes are located in-board, there is less air turbulence than a screwed balance and, as a result, the precision of the movement is enhanced. The frequency of the balance is 28,800 VpH (4Hz).

Closing remarks

Despite featuring several indications, the dial of the Parmigiani Fleurier Toric Hemispheres Retrograde does not appear cluttered. The careful arrangement of each indication grants ease of interpretation. By giving much thought to the composition of each indication and its relationship to the other indications, there is a strong sense of cohesion.

GMT models are often sports watches. With this dual-time watch, there is a greater sense of formality. The javelin hands, the gold indices, the gadroons and knurling all collaborate to deliver a formal mien. By pairing impressive functionality with visual refinement, Parmigiani Fleurier has created a niche all of its own.

The execution of the steel case is superb. Furthermore, the automatic Calibre PF317 is exquisitely finished and illustrates why I consider Parmigiani Fleurier to be one of the finest practitioners of haute horlogerie.

The Parmigiani Fleurier Toric Hemispheres Retrograde represents a step forward in the field of horology. The Swiss company has redefined the notion of a dual-time watch. While GMT watches are useful, they clearly have their limitations. This timepiece can accurately show the home time and local time anywhere in the world, irrespective of the local time’s relationship with the Greenwich meridian.

Sometimes when I hear of watches receiving awards, I scramble to obtain a press-loan watch, only to be disappointed when the watch fails to live up to its billed excellence. Based on my time with the Parmigiani Fleurier Toric Hemispheres Retrograde, I consider it most deserving of its prize-winning status.

Further information

Technical specification

  • Model: Parmigiani Fleurier Toric Hemispheres Retrograde
  • Case: Stainless steel; diameter 42.8mm; sapphire crystal to front and case-back; water resistant to 3 atm (30 metres)
  • Functions: Hours; minutes; small seconds; day; retrograde date; day/night indicators (2); second time zone
  • Movement: Calibre PF317; Self-winding movement; frequency 28,800 vph (4Hz); 28 jewels; power reserve 50 hours
  • Strap: Black alligator leather strap with steel folding clasp
  • Price: £15,600.00 (RRP as at 30.5.2018)