Parmigiani Fleuriers sportscar-inspired creation sure is one hell of a watch. It goes from nought to 60 seconds in exactly one minute, says James Gurney
Parmigiani Fleurier’s sportscar-inspired creation sure is one hell of a watch. It goes from nought to 60 seconds in exactly one minute, says James Gurney
FAR MORE THAN any conventional brand extension, Parmigiani Fleurier’s Bugatti watches have captured the style and spirit of the great carmaker.
Michel Parmigiani’s career trajectory was as purist and academic as it is possible to conceive. Specialising in the repair and restoration of antique Breguet clocks and watches for a highly informed and exacting clientele, he would probably have remained so, were not members of the Sandoz family major clients. As Breguet is the craft’s absolute master and a maker of unmatched sophistication, it was natural for Parmigiani to take almost unreally high standards and vast respect for the tradition of watchmaking into the formation of Parmigiani Fleurier, the company he set up with the support and encouragement of the Sandoz Foundation in 1996.
Parmigiani Fleurier quickly gained a reputation for perfectly formed complicated watches presented in Parmigiani’s distinctive but ultra-traditional style. Then came Bugatti and a truly astounded watch industry.
Girard-Perregaux and Ferrari and, more recently, Breitling and Bentley had proved that such brand partnerships could be both successful and substantial. The VW-backed team that revived Bugatti in the late Nineties were clearly single-minded in their determination to do the marque justice in every detail, and when they decided that future Bugatti owners should also be offered a watch, it was Michel Parmigiani who received the call. As Ettore Bugatti was a watch collector, particularly of Breguet, it was a natural choice. It was clear to Parmigiani that he needed to produce something extraordinary.
The Type 370 watch that was shown in prototype in 2001 certainly met the challenge head-on. The watch is set out on a horizontal rather than vertical axis somewhat as the original drivers’ watches do, with the dial facing away from the wrist at an angle to make for easier read-out while keeping the hands on the wheel.
Whereas its predecessors used tiny movements tipped up, the Type 370 is a full-size movement laid out transversally on five plates. Unsurprisingly, this novel idea took several years to become a working production watch.
As radical as the car it represents, the movement is finished to the same level as any more traditional design to emerge from Fleurier, and it is hard not to conclude that the watch is just tribute to one of the motor industry’s most original and inventive minds — the man who gave us one of the most successful racing cars of all time in the Type 35 and the most beautiful in the Type 57 Atalante.
Initially limited to Veyron owners, the Type 370 Bugatti watch has since become part of Parmigiani’s ‘regular’ collection. Not so the new Galibier, which has been designed to complement the four-door concept Bugatti first shown in 2009. The watch, a seven-day power reserve tourbillon mounted in a comparatively conventional case, has been designed so that it can function as the dashboard clock, on the wrist, in the pocket or even as a desk clock.
Picture above: The Bugatti Super Sport is Parmigiani Fleurier’s latest variation on the Type 370 concept