Parmigiani supplies dials, cases, and movement components to some of Switzerland’s most respected and popular high-end watch houses. Every part they make is exquisitely executed to the highest standards. Until recently, Parmigiani’s line-up was relatively esoteric, with a penchant for tonneau cases, art-deco-esque designs, and quite a bit of flair. With the new Tonda GT Steel Annual Calendar Chronograph, Parmigiani is not just entering the competitive field of luxury steel sports watches (like so many others today); they’re also delivering a timepiece that shows off their incredible watchmaking capabilities in a package that’s inherently more broadly appealing than any watch they’ve made prior. At $19,500, it’s also impressively competitive. For many watch enthusiasts, the Tondagraph in steel may be the first Parmigiani they’ll consider owning.
To be clear, the steel Tondagraph compromises nothing that sets Parmigiani into the rare air the brand occupies. The unique way that Parmigiani blends classic sport watch features with classic cues from traditional horology is entirely unique, while the complication remains thin, exquisitely finished and compelling though the caseback window.
The complication here is a fully integrated, in-house affair that combines a chronograph with an annual calendar and big date, and it’s thinner than an Omega Speedmaster. As such, it delivers its complexity with the svelteness of the best steel sports watches from the Holy Trinity of Swiss manufacturers: Audemars Piguet, Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin. The Tondagraph simply excels in this crowded category that includes some of the most sought-after timepieces in the world. Such a statement wasn’t really possible for Parmigiani before the Tondagraph’s release.
In terms of blending sportiness with traditional design cues, note the novel take on tear-drop lugs (with matching chronograph pushers), the fine dial engraving that would be at home on any classically styled dress watch, and a mirror-polished steel case that shines like a precious metal. While many steel sports watches can be a stretch for formal attire, the Tonda wears easily with black tie. It is also perfect with jeans and a t-shirt. The Tonda is a great candidate for the one-watch collection or the everyday piece.
The bracelet is seamlessly integrated into the lugs, and the alternating brushed and polished sections create dynamism while still allowing the watch head to steal the show. The butterfly clasp is complex in design, simple in use, and very secure (not all are). The fit of this 42 mm watch is more like a 40 mm, largely due to the lugs hugging the wrist and the surprising suppleness of the steel bracelet.
The expression of the complications on the dial is elegant and traditional at first glance, but there are stealthily unique elements here: the month display in the subdial at 3-o’clock, the subdial’s unique short/long-hand with concentric tracks for tracking elapsed minutes, and the big date. The understated touches of dark orange and the black lume that fills the markers make for a more formal than sporty feel.
As one who gets to handle many watches in this category, I can say with some confidence that the Parmigiani is truly unto itself as a steel sports watch. Its elegance and sportiness are so perfectly integrated through thoughtful design that the watch succeeds in creating something fresh and unique in a category rife with sameness. Given the complication, level of finishing, brilliant design and overall vibe of the Tonda, I expect Parmigiani to be entering into a new era as a more popular competitor to the best Swiss brands in the genre.