The Parmigiani Toric Hémisphères Rétrograde is the latest in the Toric line of watches, which represent the relatively conservative side of the brand with a traditional case and signature knurled bezel. This new-for-2017 model is a dual time zone watch which allows the wearer to set a second time right down to the minute, which is useful for tracking time zones that are offset by half-hour or even quarter-hour differences. This is unlike traditional GMT watches which only measure full-hour increments.
Watches such as the Poetic Wish in addition to the Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Ronde des Papillons are actually among the most complicated women’s watches you can buy – and Van Cleef & Arpels makes very few of them.At 38mm broad in 18k white gold, the Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Ronde des Papillons isn’t what I would call a petite timepiece, but it is smaller than a prior Poetic Complication watches we’ve seen from the brandnew This reveals a decided effort to make such watches more wearable for more women. A common complaint about timepieces like this is that, while they are beautiful and impressive, a huge size prevents them from being as elegant as they can be.Use of the single-lug style of this Lady Arpels case helps, and you’ll be able to see in my photos how the Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Ronde des Papillons appears on a woman’s wrist. The bezel of the watch is set with diamonds, and an additional diamond is put into the crown.So much of this case and dial are adorned in a gorgeous manner that seeing things like this in person could be breathtaking. The rear of the case, for instance, is engraved, and there’s a view through the sapphire crystal caseback window of this enamel-painted automated rotor with butterflies on it. All of it looks really pretty (and poetic).Before discussing the performance of the Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Ronde des Papillons movement, I want to remind you that the dial and dial elements are done by hand. Including engraving of those gold figurines and mother-of-pearl clouds, in addition to assembly and painting. Few “maisons” do this type of work aside from Van Cleef & Arpels. The detail on the Van Cleef & Arpels Lady Arpels Ronde des Papillons is magnificent even though there are scientific questions about whether or not birds and butterflies would ever be fluttering about in such a friendly manner – and in these altitudes.
The precision and functionality of the second time zone indicator is possible thanks to the caliber PF317, an automatic movement with a module designed and supplied by Jean-Marc Wiederrecht (interviewed here about his First Grail Watch). With his company AgenHor, Wiederrecht has been making waves recently for his impressive work with movement and module design and is the man behind the AgenGraphe movement, the module in the Slim d’Hermès Perpetual Calendar (hands-on here), and of course, the Parmigiani Toric Hémisphères Rétrograde’s module.
The caliber PF317, as mentioned earlier, displays time in two time zones to the minute with a day/night indicator for both time zones and, to top it all off, a retrograde date indication. The movement beats at 28,800bph and provides 50 hours of power reserve which is more than adequate. As you might expect, this is a lot of mechanics to pack into a wristwatch movement and the module is significantly larger in diameter than the base movement. Parmigiani has smartly designed the case back to work with this, with the display portion only revealing the base movement with its 22ct rose gold rotor and Cotês de Genève decoration.
If we flip over to the “white-grained” (even though it looks more off-white in these pictures) dial, we see that this is a busy presentation and can appear a little confusing at first glance. The sub-dial with rhodium-plated hands at 12 o’clock is the second time zone. It is highlighted with a gold ring but is subtle enough to not be distracting. To its right is the day/night indication for this second time zone. The primary time zone is featured on the main dial with javelin-shaped hands made from rose gold and filled with Super-LumiNova. The hand with the red crescent moon at the tip is not the seconds hand but the retrograde date.
The manner in which the first three and last three numbers for the date track are flipped around may prove annoying to some people – and I’m not entirely sure it was necessary to flip them in this case. The sub-dial at 6 o’clock indicates both running seconds and the day/night for the primary time zone. In my opinion, the day/night indicator for the primary time zone is redundant. While I can appreciate the mechanical complexity in having it there, it adds more complexity to an already packed dial. The entire dial is encircled by a railway track chapter ring and applied rose gold hour markers. Overall, Parmigiani has done a good job at balancing out the many elements of the dial, and it becomes pretty intuitive to read after about the first minute.
The Super-LumiNova is something that stood out to me. In the world of haute horlogerie, manufactures sometimes forget the value of modern features such as lumed hands and an AR-coated crystal. For a watch to be versatile and a daily wearer, it has to have both good design and some modern features. Parmigiani seems to recognize this as they provide both lume on the hands and double AR-coating on the sapphire crystal.
All of this is housed in the signature rose gold Toric case, which was Michel Parmigiani’s first design back in the ’90s. A signature design element is the knurled bezel which gives the classic design an interesting twist. You’ll notice that there are two crowns, the top is to set the second time zone independently while the bottom is to set both time zones simultaneously. The watch is on the larger side at 42.8mm in diameter due to the module and the need for dial space to fit the various indications. The gently angled lugs are polished and offer a nice contrast to the texture of the bezel. The case is rated to 30m of water resistance which is adequate for a dress watch.
For those who may find the design too conservative and prefer something edgier, it’s worth noting that the same movement is available in the Parmigiani Tonda Hémisphères that launched in 2010. I personally prefer the dressier, refined presentation of the Toric Hémisphères Rétrograde. The highlight of this watch, however, is not the design but the movement and its ability to track the second time zone down to a minute. The Parmigiani Toric Hémisphères Rétrograde ships on a black Hermès alligator leather strap with deployment buckle and is available at retailers for a price of $29,500. parmigiani.com