By Sandra Franrenet, photos : Fred Merz
Is it a jewellery tour de force? A tribute to traditional watchmaking? A technological feat? A human adventure? Could the Tonda Chronor Anniversaire be all these things rolled into one?
It is difficult indeed to succinctly describe this watch designed by Michel Parmigiani to celebrate the watchmaking house’s 20th anniversary. “It’s both a dream and the reflection of two decades of work,” says the founder, in quest for words that do the project justice. Whether you are an haute horlogerie connoisseur, a veteran watch-lover or simply an interested layperson, one glance at this object, first unveiled in 2016, is enough to steal your heart. The movement and case in white or rose gold, white or cobalt-blue enamel dial, signature on the barrel drum – the Tonda Chronor Anniversaire is garbed in the most exquisite finery. “The design is exceptional,” declares Federico, a case-fitter at the Vaucher manufacture who helped produce the watch. “Every last detail was studiously designed, and there are details everywhere! On the dial, but also in the intentionally exposed movement, protected by a sapphire glass. As I look at it, I see the handiwork of each one of the teams. We all had our turn at working intensively on this anniversary model”.
Among the teams: the movement decorators. To craft this timepiece, they became the lacemakers of the watchmaking world! “We had to modify our tools, including cutting diamond tips to finely hone the internal angles that innervate the Tonda Chronor Anniversaire movement,” says Nathalie, before sharing that this was first time she ever manually worked internal angles with this material. “Then we all developed our ‘little tricks’ as we went along. Everyone is able to recognise the work of every other member of the team, just by looking at the finishes! Each piece is unique.” “It’s a very rare thing in the life of a watchmaker to have the chance to work on such a complex movement, made with 328 components, most of them in gold,” adds Julien, an horloger complet, or fully-trained watchmaker.
“To achieve this result, we had to master all the imposing, meticulous details of the components: the dials and their decorations, the cases and their extremely complex inflections and, of course, how they operate within a calibre. The Tonda Chronor Anniversaire proves that Parmigiani Fleurier is an experienced manufacture, a place where the watchmaker, the technician and the craftsperson work side by side,” Michel Parmigiani explains. Which means that, while the object’s aesthetics are a challenge, the technology behind the enamel dial encircled by the gold case is a challenge, as well.
The Tonda Chronor Anniversaire is much more than a watch that tells time! It is a chronograph, one of the subtlest complications to achieve. “A chronograph has a kinematic chain in which each action determines and triggers the next; each sequence must be synchronised and adjusted. The smallest imperfection creates a domino effect, destabilising the entire movement,” says designer Riccardo Pescante.
The Tonda Chronor Anniversaire’s chronograph was not superimposed on an additional module, but directly integrated into the mainplate. “The other special feature of the Tonda Chronor Anniversaire is its rattrapante (split-second) feature. The principle is based on an additional hand superimposed on the second hand. When activated, it separates from the second hand to calculate the intermediate time,” adds Nicolas, a watchmaker- analyst in the R & D department, who goes on to describe how the split-second hand is driven by the movement’s second column wheel, which involves a kinematic chain in addition to that of the chronograph... and a major challenge to set!
The dial has been enhanced with a double window with gold appliqués indicating the date whose mechanism has been integrated into the movement.
“The Tonda Chronor Anniversaire is an aesthetic and technological feat, and it’s all the greater an achievement when you know that all these technologies were new to our teams,” says project manager and builder Pedro de Oliveira. “This is the first time that they have analysed, crafted, assembled and decorated an integrated chronograph paired with a split-second function. They demonstrated their formidable savoir-faire and tremendous ingenuity in producing this anniversary timepiece, one that makes us all extremely proud.” Federico heartily agrees: “At each stage, we spent so many hours bringing it to life that it’s hard to let it go now. We’re so attached to it that it almost seems human,” he confesses, with a touch of emotion.