People following my quixotic, often bumbling video exploits in the realm of high watchmaking have noticed that I often use the colloquialism “dope,” as in “dude, this watch is dope,” when assigning praise to my favorite timepieces. Which inspired me to study the etymology of this term. The results are, shall we say, misleading as previous usages of the term skewed towards negativity, i.e. “That guy’s a dope.” So I was perplexed how in the context of ’80s rapper parlance “dope” came to express all things that are good and beneficent to humanity, until I realized that the first three letters are the same as those of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is responsible for flooding our nervous systems with the sensation of pleasure — a feeling that cuts to the very nexus of the term “dope.”
I remember the exact moment I set eyes on the act of unremitting dopeness that is Guido Terreni’s Tonda PF last year during Geneva Watch Days held at the tail end of summer. Within seconds, I experienced something unusual, confusing and definitely unexpected. Though the weather was balmy, with a bright blue Geneva sky painted idyllically over the famous lake visible from the Parmigiani Fleurier suite in the Hotel Beau Rivage, it was not responsible for the meteoric rise in temperature I was experiencing. That was down to my brain’s sudden and explosive production of dopamine, leading to a sudden increase in heart rate.
Because the PF was such a brilliant design — dynamically charged with enthralling minute nuance from the miniature guilloché pattern on the dial, to the micro-fluting on the platinum bezel, the hand polishing on the interior edges of the lugs that face the case, and the contrast between the tapering polished sections that flow into the sublimely brushed bracelet. Together, these elements elicited a response that I had previously not associated with Parmigiani Fleurier. And that was unadulterated, uncut, never stepped on, 100-percent pure, unbridled desire.
My second encounter with the PF happened later that week when my friend and the brand’s chief marketing officer Rachel Leung walked into the Revolution pasta and Negroni supper held at my colleague Eléonor Picciotto’s duplex. I was blending together an industrial quantity of the cocktail (basically upending a bottle each of gin, vermouth and bitters simultaneously into a makeshift punch bowl) when I saw the watch beckoning seductively on her wrist. As if reading my mind, as I handed her a Negroni, she passed me the PF to try on. Immediately I felt that heady, opiatic rush return. I was hooked. The PF was so damn appealing on the wrist.
At 40mm in diameter and with a thickness of just 7.8mm, it creates a wonderful dynamic tension between a strong wrist presence counterpointed by a lithe Brâncuși-like elegance that makes it a pleasure to wear. Driven by pure instinct, the next day I telephoned Terreni and arranged to purchase one. This decision has proven remarkably prescient of me, as I managed to acquire my watch just before the global consensus of its dopeness spread through social media, causing the massive tsunami of desire to smash into the side of we took orders that are four times 2021 revenues… I wish I could serve the customers waiting for the watch, but it will take some time.”
What made me happy was, this success couldn’t have happened to a nicer and more deserving person. What you should know about Terreni is that he is one of the most talented and dynamic leaders around, with a truly gifted ability when it comes to what the industry calls “product,” and which I’ve always taken to mean “designing a bloody brilliant watch.”
A New Design Philosophy
You have to understand that the task Terreni was given when he accepted the role of CEO of Parmigiani Fleurier was monumental. Let’s call it Herculean, like cleaning Parmigiani’s headquarters in the normally somnambulant town of Fleurier. Suddenly, Terreni’s and Leung’s email, Whatsapp and IG accounts were deluged in requests for the watch. The gale force demand for the PFs — in all executions, including the chronograph, the annual calendar, the stunning split seconds chronograph through to this year’s novelties, the skeletonized and the amazing GMT rattrapante versions — has been unremitting and forcefully relentless. One of the best moments of the 2022 Watches and Wonders in Geneva occurred when I strolled into the Parmigiani booth toward the end of the fair. I saw Guido — exhausted but delighted. He passed me a glass of champagne. He explained, “In just the few days of the fair, out the Augean stables or slaying the Nemean lion in terms of monumentality. He had to completely overhaul and reimagine a brand that had amazing watchmaking competence, some of the very best quality watches on the planet (check out the internal angles on a Parmigiani movement as irrefutable evidence), but somehow never found the right message or design to make the hearts of men beat faster.
I remember when he first arrived, he undertook a mission to discover the brand’s aesthetic codes, only to realize the majority of people in the design department had no idea what they were. So he began to construct a philosophy and build a team. Examining watches such as the double stepped bezel Toric from the brand’s past (a model perfectly poised for revival), Terreni and his team identified the elements of subtlety and refined nuance. Through their genius, they refracted and channeled these idea in extremis into a new vision for Parmigiani. These new watches grouped under the new minimalist designation “PF” were simultaneously the epitome of understated elegance and yet energetic, bold and fearlessly new. Together with his team, Terreni has engineered a watch for the connoisseur that has passed through all the more obvious watches and wants something decidedly different and stealth. His huge effort endowed the brand and its watches with a sudden, unexpected and very welcome new sense of singularity and perenniality — designs so good, you could imagine they were already in existence for decades.
To be fair, his timing couldn’t have been better as the demand for integrated bracelet sports chic watches reached heretofore unseen heights this year, stirred by a feeding frenzy over the Royal Oak, Nautilus and even Overseas watches. But the PF is undefinably great in its own right. The momentum in the industry, plus Terreni’s sheer design brilliance, resulted in the public perception of Parmigiani Fleurier changing 180 degrees overnight. Says Theodore Panos, area manager at Parmigiani Fleurier SA, who looks after the brand in Singapore, “Guido’s work is nothing short of incredible. A year ago, I was struggling to set meetings with collectors and retailers. Now I have to turn away offers for business, so overwhelming is the demand for the PF.” The fact that Terreni has enacted this change in less than a year has got to be superhuman by any standard.
Let’s flashback to my visit to Parmigiani Fleurier last year, before the maelstrom of overwhelming positivity had reached this remote Swiss village. In one of my rare moments of clarity, I asked Terreni, “I would like to create a limited edition of the PF with you?” This was a moment of divine providence for me, as if I’d asked a few months later, the demand that had emerged would have made the project impossible. But thankfully I did, and even more because Terreni is a gentleman, he stood by this agreement despite the massive overdemand he is now facing. Anyone following Revolution knows that I’ve always had a penchant for watches with salmon dials. So I made this request of him, which inspired a laugh. After all, color for Terreni is not about a simple hue, but more the subtle modulation of contrasting shades to arrive at the perfect optic representation of mood.
For the PF collection, he was profoundly inspired by Le Corbusier and his color keyboards, first created in 1931. The architect believed in the harmony of colors and the way they affect space and mood. Says Terreni, “Fortunately, the color you are suggesting represents joy, energy and triumph. And as such, I think it is the perfect color to celebrate our survival of the shared experience of the last two years. Let’s make this a watch of hope, positivity and renewal.”
From there, Terreni began to experiment with just the right shade and eventually arrived at a color that makes me think of Botticelli painting the first light rising over the Gulf of Venice, at the north of the Adriatic Sea. As I often go for runs at daybreak when in residence at La Serenissima, I am very familiar with this golden rose hue. Terreni has captured this perfectly, so much so that I have been referencing our collaborative Tonda PF Micro- Rotor watch as “Serenissima” or in English, “Serenity.” It is to me the perfect timepiece in that, thanks to its extraordinary ergonomics, it is blissful to wear. From a design perspective, it is representative of an all-new sports chic icon — and with this colored dial, a beacon of joy, energy and triumph.
Parmigiani Fleurier × Revolution & The Rake Tonda Pf Micro-Rotor “Serenissima”
Movement: Self-winding caliber PF703; 48-hour power reserve
Functions: Hours, minutes and date
Case 40mm; polished and satin-finished stainless steel with platinum knurled bezel; water resistant to 100m
Dial: Salmon; rhodium-plated applied hour markers
Strap: Polished and satin-finished stainless steel bracelet
Price: CHF 21,450
Availability: Numbered and limited edition of 25 pieces