SIHH 2018: Parmigiani's New Kalpa CollectionBy Sean Li
It must have taken a lot of courage and conviction for a young Michel Parmigiani, aged 26 years old, to open his own watchmaking workshop in 1976. Bear in mind that this was in the midst of the quartz crisis, when the Swiss watch industry was less than certain that the mechanical watch had a definite place in the modern world. And yet, Parmigiani’s love for the craft of watchmaking and its history led him to devote his work to the restoration of antique clocks and watches.
It would take another 20 years before Michel Parmigiani turned his focus away from restoration and preservation, to creation through a brand bearing his name – although restoration remains close to his heart today and is still a key service provided by his atelier. With the support of the Sandoz Foundation, whose priceless historic collection he had been restoring, Parmigiani Fleurier would launch in 1996, but it’s not until 1998 that the first timepiece would be unveiled, the Kalpa Hebdomadaire. From the onset, Parmigiani sought to marry technical excellence and aesthetic balance, imbuing his timepieces with the finest calibers, and designs that had to be just right. He often mentions the Golden Ratio – if you must know, it’s approximately 1.618 – that you may not be always aware of but that surrounds us, in architecture, art, geometry, and even nature. He respects those proportions in his watches, and it’s what led to the Kalpa’s tonneau-shaped case. It has remained in his collection to this day, and it’s revisited with more contemporary lines for the 2018 collection with three new exquisite timepieces.
The first is the Kalpa Hebdomadaire. The name is shared with the original piece from 1998, as is the movement, which is the PF110 manually wound caliber. You’ll notice though that, Parmigiani being ever the perfectionist, the movement is shaped; that is, it’s not simply a round caliber that’s been fitted to a tonneau case, the movement itself follows the shape of the case and fills it entirely. It’s always worth mentioning this as it’s a detail that often draws the attention of astute collectors of vintage and modern pieces, arguably going one step beyond the “in-house” approach that has become the de jure letters of nobility in the industry. As a guardian for the watchmaking arts, you can naturally expect the finest finishing on the movement from Parmigiani. Of course, it’s also entirely made in-house, and features an 8-day power reserve thanks to two series-coupled barrels (hence the name “hebdomadaire,” the French word for “weekly”). On the dial side, you’ll see a very balanced juxtaposition of the power reserve at 12 o’clock, just above the date window, and a small seconds subdial at 6 o’clock. Luminescent indices draw your attention to the hours and minutes in the center, against a black opaline backdrop, warmly contrasting with the 18K rose gold case measuring 42.3 x 32.1mm.
With the Kalpagraphe Chronomètre, Parmigiani intriguingly brings a more classical chronograph layout, compared with its immediate predecessor, with symmetrical subdials on an Abyss blue opaline dial. The movement is the new automatic PF362 caliber, which took six years to develop, and beats at 5 Hz, giving the chronograph a 1/10th of a second precision. Naturally, this higher frequency does require more power; the power reserve is still a very respectable 65 hours. A column wheel and vertical clutch combine with a new elongated pusher design that not only respects Parmigiani’s aesthetic balance criteria, but also provides better user comfort. The refined 18K rose gold tonneau case with teardrop lugs measures a significant 48.2 x 40.4mm.
The pièce de résistance is the Kalpa Chronor, which takes all the details of the Kalpagraphe Chronomètre, with the added touch of a solid gold movement. There is admittedly no technical rationale for using 18K gold for the movement components rather than brass; it does however add a luxurious and rare touch, particularly when it is combined with the hand finishing, emphasized through the skeletonization of the base plates, bringing out even more of the precious metal luster. It’s worth noting that this is the only watch to feature an automatic winding, fully integrated chronograph movement in sold gold. Even the two-part dial is in 18K rose gold and opaline, with the black treatment contrasting well with the gold chronograph subdials. As a celebration of the Kalpa collection, and its significance as Parmigiani’s first and most iconic creation, the Chronor will be produced in a limited series of 50 pieces only.