By Angus Davies for Parmigiani Fleurier
In many areas of modern life, we see compromise. Products are often made to a price. Markets dictate that aspects hidden from view are debased and cost savings are sought wherever the casual observer will fail to notice.
An industry has developed while boffins calculate the projected life expectancy of their product. It would seem electronic goods are intentionally designed to malfunction one month after the manufacturer’s warranty has expired.
This business model is far removed from the philosophy of Ettore Bugatti. The cars which bore his name were designed without compromise. They were beautiful with sinuous lines which cheated the wind its usual diet of resistance. The Type 35 was the only car at the time suitable for use on road or in races. It looked resplendent in the famous Bugatti blue.
Like many school boys I read with interest the story of the Bugatti Royale. It was a car which was originally designed for royalty. Alas, it proved too expensive even for royalty, as the Great Depression reared its ugly head. I still recall admiring the long, sleek bodies with wide, incredulous eyes. The Royale was beyond the financial grasp of the majority, made without concessions.
Ettore, born in Italy, would ultimately make France his home. He died in 1947, but the name Bugatti continued after his death. The company suffered financial ills and, on more than one occasion, went into liquidation. However, the name was eventually acquired by Volkswagen AG in 1998 and, with its considerable financial resources available, a bright future was assured.
Veyron - an icon was born
The Veyron 16.4 went into production in 2005 and it remains one of the finest motorcars ever produced. Its shape clings tenaciously to terra firma and, with prodigious power, the car reaches speeds in excess of 400 km/h. Conceived with profound imagination and realised with unyielding determination, the artisans at Bugatti have created the best once more. Every detail of its curvaceous lines and sumptuous interior is refined and pure, free of imperfection or trade-off.
The Super Sport takes the now iconic Veyron 16.4 and infuses it with more power, 1200 bhp, and enhances the sporting aesthetics with revised front air intakes and revised dorsal treatment.
Parmigiani Fleurier captures the essence of Bugatti in horological form
In 2010, Parmigiani Fleurier revealed their horological tour de force, the Bugatti Super Sport in white gold, at Pebble Beach. This year, the brand has revisited the model and crafted a variant in rose gold.
The original idea was the brainchild of Bastien Leuba, a gifted student, studying at the Ecole d’Horlogerie in Le Locle. His sketches of the prestigious car, revealed ideas which were transferred to this remarkable watch design. For example, the horse-shoe shaped grille of the Veyron has morphed into the vertical dial. The engine housing of the high-performance supercar provided inspiration for the upper sapphire crystal which shows part of the movement and power reserve indicator.
I have had the good fortune to see the rose gold Super Sport at close quarters and can report that it’s a stunning watch, interwoven with several judiciously selected automotive metaphors.
Imparting time - the vertical dial.
A black opaline dial with a gold base, provides the canvas for the Fleurier-based watchmakers to artistically impart time. The Bugatti logo is presented on the northerly edge of the dial, whilst an oval shaped plaque is marked with the watch company’s nomen.
I can think of no other watch available for sale which shares a similar design language to the Bugatti Super Sports. The hours and minutes are presented on a vertical dial, employing Parmigiani’s signature Delta shaped hands. The hours and minute hands are gold and lined with white luminous material.
The hands interface with a chapter ring, detailed with gold batons of varying length. However, a highlight of the dial is the hour wheel, visible centre-stage, courtesy of the open-worked area of the dial. It reminds the wearer of the engine at work within and draws parallels with the 16 cylinder fire breathing powerplant of the supercar which lends its name to the timepiece.
A power reserve indicator - the upper sapphire crystal.
An upper sapphire crystal, asymmetrical in profile, tapers downwards away from the hour and minute display. It reveals an additional function, the power reserve indicator. Moreover, it also reveals the screwed balance, escape wheel and index adjuster. This ensemble creates an arc-like form, reminding the wearer of the Bugatti oval.
The perlage visible on the bridges is reminiscent of the engine-turned dashboards of classic cars. Symbolism, is ubiquitous, yet never over-played. The finishing stands testament to the time-served hands which gestate this exceptional creation to fruition.
The Calibre Parmigiani 372 - innovative and traditional.
The manually-wound Calibre Parmigiani 372 is unusual in that the hour and minute hands are set perpendicular to the plane of the balance wheel and escapement. It is an example of the blue-sky thinking which differentiates Parmigiani Fleurier and distinguishes it as one of the finest horological maisons.
Yet, whilst the company has exampled innovation, it has not eschewed traditional craftsmanship. On the contrary, Parmigiani Fleurier have sought to exhibit the adroit skill of its artisans with a total of six sapphire crystals disclosing the majority of the 333 components within. Côtes de Genève motif on bridges, snailing on wheels, a sandblasted mainplate, with hand-drawn bevels, and polished jewel sinks are just some of the clues to the elevated watchmaking prowess within the case.
The twin barrels within the watch deliver impressive power with a high performance power reserve of 10 days.
The side profile of the case, might at first glance, resemble the wing which emerges from the rear of the Super Sports as it negotiates the high-speed banking of a race track. However, those thinking that this design detail was indeed inspired by the wing are mistaken.
The lugs found on the Parmigiani’s models such as the Tonda and Kalpa, have become inextricably linked to the house style of the watch brand. They have a tear shaped profile, slender and elegant. It is this, which provided the inspiration for the profile of the case.
This articulated lug design is employed at the front of the case, whereas the Hermès strap is integrated into the case at the rear of the watch.
Writing a review about a watch often takes the form of introduction, dial, case, movement and conclusion. However, the Parmigiani Fleurier Bugatti Super Sport does not conform to convention and does not allow such an approach. It is unique.
The watch embraces a new means of expressing time, blending mechanical superiority with sensual lines. It is an incredible timepiece which upholds the good name of Parmigiani Fleurier and respectfully pays tribute to the genius of Ettore Bugatti.
Pictures by James Cole and Anish Bhatt for WatchAnish.com
Angus Davies site: Escapement