Parmigiani - Source of inspiration
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A source of inspiration

Restoration is a chance to contemplate several centuries of watchmaking and to understand, then to master, the technical subtleties of the mechanisms created by our forefathers. While restoration has always been, above all, a fountain of knowledge to Michel Parmigiani, it has also been an exceedingly rich source of inspiration for the creations of the present. Within the Parmigiani Fleurier collection, there are several illustrious examples of watches which draw their founding idea from a masterpiece of the past and are therefore firmly rooted in a tradition of watchmaking which began centuries before their time.

Tonda Hémisphères

The traveller's pocket watch which inspired a GMT wristwatch

The founding idea behind the Tonda Hémisphères came from an antique pocket watch which comprised two movements, and therefore had two time zones at its heart.

The origin of the Tonda Hémisphères is a pocket watch from the Maurice-Yves Sandoz collection. Simply known as the "dual time pocket watch”, this luxurious object was most probably created in the 1870s in the Swiss Vallée de Joux, and it took more than a hundred years for it to end up in Michel Parmigiani's hands. Our restorer and watchmaker was struck by the fact that each time zone could be adjusted independently and was accurate to the nearest minute. This was not surprising, since the pocket watch actually houses two separate movements. Would it be possible to create this level of accuracy, and this legibility of display on the smaller scale of a wristwatch? This was a considerable challenge, but the desire to succeed was immense. After four years of research and development, the Parmigiani Fleurier watchmaking centre unveiled an ingenious mechanism which has a motor movement and a "follower" module. The latter can be synchronised with the former with an interval of full hours, or indexed to it with an interval of hours and minutes. The absolute precision of each zone is guaranteed thanks to this cutting-edge movement, and the Tonda Hémisphères which encloses it is rare amongst GMT watches in that it enables the two separate time zones to be displayed on a single dial, with dual accuracy despite a single movement.

 

 

 

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Ovale Pantographe

The waltz of retractable hands

Michel Parmigiani discovered the secret of pantograph hands on an antique pocket watch and recreated the mesmerising spectacle of their ellipse on a prestige watch, the Ovale Pantographe.

The oval pocket watch with retractable hands was created by watchmaker William Anthony in early-nineteenth-century London, later becoming part of the Maurice-Yves Sandoz Collection. When it was restored in the Parmigiani Fleurier workshop at the end of the 1990s, this piece made a striking impression due to its retractable hands which seemed to follow the elegant elliptical form of the case as if by magic. Michel Parmigiani decided to recreate the elegant waltz of the pantograph hands (which take their name from a retractable draughtsman's instrument) and, in 2013, he unveiled the Ovale Pantographe. The secret of retractable hands is contained within the movement, where a highly complex system of cams controls the extension and retraction of the blued titanium hands – a material which provides the perfect balance between lightness and robustness. Following the contours of a harmonious, perfectly formed ellipse, the pantograph hands dance their enchanting waltz. They draw close to the indexes, seemingly inviting the wearer to discover the closest hour as they sweep past. Creating a complication like this within the minute dimensions of a wristwatch is an accomplishment that no previous manufacture has managed to achieve.

 

 

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Toric Capitole

Sector time display — a truly fascinating complication

The Toric Capitole takes its complication from a pocket watch with a semi-circular window within which the numerals march with the passage of time.

A masterpiece from the Maurice-Yves Sandoz Collection, the pocket watch with sector time display was created in the early 19th century by the Neuchâtel watchmakers, Perrin Frères. Two centuries later, when it was restored in the Parmigiani Fleurier workshops, the piece revealed the secrets and marvels of its mechanism. In a window corresponding to 60 minutes, the time is revealed by a numeral which changes as the semi-circle moves from right to left, before disappearing to be replaced by the next numeral in sequence. It is a direct evocation of the passage of time, which can never be regained. A beautiful metaphor, of course, but it is the technical accomplishment involved in its creation which is truly peerless. It required the restoration department and Haute Horlogerie team to work in synergy, recreating the system of rotating planetary gears inherent in the sector time display complication. To truly enhance this marvel, a minute repeater with cathedral chimes, sounding the hours, quarter-hours and minutes, was added to the movement grand complication. Whether time simply passes, or is struck – the Toric Capitole unveiled in 2011 is a wonder of luxury Haute Horlogerie.

 

 

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Toric Kaleidoscope

A horological complication of hypnotising beauty

The Toric Kaleidoscope is a wristwatch version of the kaleidoscope complication from an antique pocket watch which hypnotised dukes and kings before enthralling Michel Parmigiani.

The Toric Kaleidoscope is inspired by a pocket watch created in the late 18th century by XX, found in the Maurice-Yves Sandoz Collection. When a minute repeater is activated, two wheels at the heart of the dial start turning in opposite directions. The spirals they make create the eye-catching kaleidoscope effect which has enthralled onlookers.

These included the restorers from the Parmigiani Fleurier workshop, charged with returning the piece to its original condition in 20XX. Its charm worked – Michel Parmigiani and his team decided to recreate this complication in a prestigious watch, the Toric Kaleidoscope. Its gold dial, hand-decorated with guilloché work, has a rose as its heart, openworked and bevelled by hand in exquisite rose gold. A disc featuring mother-of-pearl marquetry is visible beneath the openings. When the minute repeater is activated, the contrasting rotations of the rose and the mother-of-pearl disc beneath it produce their hypnotic effect, while the hours, quarter-hours and minutes sound with a cathedral chime boasting flawless acoustics.

The kaleidoscope represents the reconciliation of permanence and change, illustrating how existing ideas can still be used to create, and astound... The Toric Kaleidoscope is Haute Horlogerie at its finest, a spectacular surprise.

 

 

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