Parmigiani Fleurier adds a Midas touch to its new Kalpa watches, writes PIN LEE
LET’S FACE IT: Parmigiani Fleurier isn’t your average Swiss watch company. Behind the brand is Michel Parmigiani, the noted horologist and restorer of vintage timepieces as well as other precious mechanical objects. In the world of watchmaking, Parmigiani the man is known as an artist par excellence; his watches are respected by those in the know and are recognised among experts for their distinct designs and mechanisms.
In Geneva, the brand launched three new models in gold – Kalpa Chronor, Kalpagraphe Chronomètre and Kalpa Hebdomadaire – and outfitted them, for the first time, with exclusive in-house movements that are shaped to perfectly fit the dimensions of the cases.
Some background information on the provenance of the Kalpa might explain why the new watches have everyone talking. It all started in 1998 when Michel Parmigiani created the first tonneau-shaped movement, the calibre PF110. He encased it in the first Kalpa wristwatch in 2001, which turned heads because of the unusual movement shape; most others tended to be round. Also admirable were the movement’s impressive eight-day power reserve and its excellent precision.
Since then, the Kalpa – characterised by its distinctive tonneau-shaped case, stylised teardrop lugs and delta-shaped hands – has expanded to become a flagship collection of the Parmigiani brand.
The new Kalpa creations beg the question: “Why gold?” Those who deal with the precious metal know it’s tricky to craft because it’s so malleable and deforms easily. But the answer from Parmigiani, which obviously loves a challenge, is likely “Why not?” In the words of the man himself: “A gold movement inside a case is like a precious item, jealously guarded in a safe. The impenetrable inner riches of a person are a well-hidden treasure, a rare beauty only found by those who know where to look.”
The Kalpa Chronor is one of the two chronograph-equipped watches in the collection. It’s special because it’s powered by the world’s first all-gold self-winding integrated chronograph movement. The COSC-certified calibre PF365 oscillates at the high frequency of 36,000 vibrations per hour ( 5Hz) to achieve a reading accuracy of one-tenth of a second.
It took six years of research and development to create this tonneau-shaped movement, which now fits comfortably inside the case and has a power reserve of 65 hours. The decoration of the movement, requiring more than 50 hours for each watch, is a veritable work of art – from the skeletonised satin-brushed bridges to the lavish barley grain guilloche work on the rotor, all of which can be admired through the sapphire crystal caseback.
On the front of the watch, a black bipartite dial, also made of gold, features an opaline centre surrounded by a tachymeter scale and a handworked braid-effect guilloche motif on its outskirts. The delta-shaped hands are luminous and the rose-gold indices are faceted. The dial displays the gold snailed chronograph counters, a small seconds sub-dial at 6 o’clock and a large, arched date window at 12 o’clock. The different decorative motifs on the black dial effectively frame and highlight the action of the chronograph functions.
The Kalpa Chronor is on the larger side at 48.2mm by 40.4mm, so it’s best suited to those with larger wrists and who want to make the kind of statement that’s not afforded by a round watch. In a limited edition of 50 numbered pieces, it comes with a black Hermès alligator strap and a rose gold folding buckle.
The Kalpagraphe Chronomètre also features an in-house COSC-certified chronograph movement: the PF362. It boasts all of the Chronor’s technical features and the movement can be seen through the sapphire caseback. Cased in 18K rose gold, the watch features a multilayered dial with an abyss blue centre, treated with PVD with an opaline finish; a radial guilloche-worked flange punctuated with hand-applied faceted indices; two snailed counters enclosed within a fine gold edging; an angled tachymeter scale; a semi-instantaneous date window; and a smallseconds sector with its own hand. The shape and dimensions are the same as the Chronor, but this version isn’t a limited edition. An Hermès alligator strap in abyss blue rounds out the sporty yet elegant design.
Rounding out the trio is the Kalpa Hebdomadaire. This timepiece holds a very special place in Parmigiani’s collection because it’s outfitted with a manual-winding movement – an updated version of the original calibre PF110, which was the grand-daddy of all of these new barrel-shaped movements. This watch offers eight days of power reserve and in French, “hebdomadaire” means “weekly” – an apt moniker for a timepiece that can run for more than a week on a single wind. Several next-generation haute horlogerie flourishes have been added, including Côtes de Genève finishing, bevelled bridges and circular-graining – all of which can be observed through the sapphire caseback.
Relatively speaking, the new Kalpa Hebdomadaire is a more discreet-looking watch. The 18K rose gold case is smaller and measures 42.3mm by 32.1mm. The multilevel black dial features an opaline-finished centre and a braid-effect guilloche flange, as well as a small seconds counter and a weekly power reserve scale. Luminescent delta-shaped hands tell the time. The date display at 12 o’clock includes Parmigiani’s signature bright-red “1” numeral. This watch is water-resistant to 30 metres and is mounted on a black Hermès alligator strap with a rose gold folding buckle.
Clockwise from top left: Tonda Métropolitaine Galaxy; Tonda 1950 Galaxy; Kalpa Chronor; Kalparisma Nova Galaxy; Bugatti Type 390