Time can be a nemesis, even occasionally for those who spend their professional lives mastering it. Swiss watchmaker Parmigiani Fleurier, for instance, recently discovered that time was not on its side when Bugatti Automobiles asked the company to create a special watch to commemorate the unveiling of its latest offering, the Veyron 16.4 Super Sport (see “FrontRunners,” page 65). “We had less than 12 months to produce a new watch,” says Parmigiani CEO Jean-Marc Jacot. “Anyone in the industry will tell you that that is an impossible deadline.”
For years, Parmigiani has enjoyed a close relationship with Bugatti, designing technically complex limited-edition timepieces to complement the manufacturer’s supercars in sophistication and rarity. Indeed, the two companies are so much in sync that, by the time Bugatti communicated its plans for the Veyron 16.4 Super Sport, which would be the last iteration of this car model, Parmigiani was already selling the final edition of its well-regarded Type 370, the watch originally produced in 2004 to commemorate the revival of this legendary French marque. Yet the call for a new co-branded timepiece took the watchmaker by surprise.
To meet Bugatti’s ambitious schedule, a full 40 percent of Parmigiani’s staff was assigned to the task of completing a working prototype in time for this past August’s Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, where the new Veyron was unveiled.
Named for the car it celebrates, Parmigiani’s Bugatti Super Sport ($259,000) shares several characteristics with the Type 370, including a vertically oriented time display and large sapphire-crystal windows in a case that displays the watch’s inner workings; yet the two timepieces are substantially different. The Type 370 radically reinterpreted movement design by expanding the distance between the plates and laying the assembly on its side; the Super Sport, on the other hand, is technically less ambitious than its predecessor. A beveled-gear transmission transfers the energy between relatively conventional movement assemblies—one on the watch’s horizontal plane that houses the twin barrels, balance, and escapement and another on the vertical, where gears for the hours and minutes are located. But Parmigiani has maximized the aesthetic impact of these components to give the Super Sport a far more aggressive appearance. The prominent 10-day power reserve and large escapement, both situated on the back of the watch, resemble a rear-mounted engine, while the dial of this initial 30-piece edition incorporates the carbon fiber and orange accents of the new Veyron.
Reportedly inspired by Parmigiani’s case lugs, the teardrop-shaped case is not only ergonomic but also a perfect complement to the powerful lines of the Veyron. “Most of the watches that are dedicated to cars are little more than a name on the dial,” says Jacot. “We try as much as possible to match the spirit of Bugatti.”