Sporty Bugatti sets unbeatable pace

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 March, 2011, 12:00am

On July 4 last year, Bugatti's official test driver, Pierre-Henri Raphanel, took the new Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Super Sport on its first official run on the proving grounds of the Volkswagen Group in Ehra-Lessien in Germany. In the watchful presence of the German Technical Inspection Agency and a representative of the Guinness World Records, man and car clocked an average top speed of 431km/h, making the Veyron the fastest production sports car in the world today.

It's little wonder that Parmigiani, which has long had a partnership with the German carmaker, didn't lose any time in dedicating its latest - and second - Bugatti series to the latest Veyron. In 2004, the engineers at Parmigiani Fleurier revolutionised the watchmaking world with its Bugatti Type 370 by placing the watch's entire movement on a transverse axis, much like a car's engine block.

For the new Bugatti Type 372, which comes in a limited edition of only 30 pieces, Parmigiani has flipped the mechanical components again, this time on a vertical axis while retaining the lateral time display. And, in another world first, Parmigiani Fleurier developed a 90-degree time setting system where the dial is placed perpendicular to the hours/minutes display axis. The new Bugatti reference also sports a new dynamometric crown integrated just above the profile and is accessible with only light pressure. With a power reserve of 10 days, the new manually wound Calibre Parmigiani 372 was designed on two planes to match the contours of the new case. While sitting on the wrist, the watch movement is displayed at a 30-degree angle. Aesthetically, the design takes much of its inspiration from the car itself: the balance and escape wheel bridges form an arc resembling the Bugatti oval; the train wheels maintain the form of car wheels; the carbon fibre hour wheel, which can be seen through the dial's open-worked centre, is also a nod to the Veyron 16.4 Super Sport; while the hands, indexes and counter bear the same shade of orange as the limited edition car.

The watch comes with an option of Hermes black alligator leather strap with a deployant buckle in 18k gold with a polished finish.

Like all Parmigiani's timepieces, every single part of the Bugatti Type 372 is created in-house via the watchmaker's sister companies that form the Parmigiani Manufacture (Foundation of Watchmaking Manufacturers), and produce everything from turning machines to cases, complex movements and the most delicate screws and springs. Parmigiani is one of the few watchmakers that can boast this range of in-house expertise. It also develops parts and movements for other leading watch brands.

Parmigiani didn't forget its more understated customers who prefer traditionally elegant watches and is introducing a new reference for its Tonda line this year. The new Tonda 1950 is an ultrathin timepiece that features the classic markers of hours, minutes and seconds. The extra-flat, self-winding PF 701 movement has a diameter of 30mm and thickness of 2.6mm, and is housed in a 39mm case that is just 7.8mm thick. The watch comes in either 18k red- or white-gold casing.

The watchmaker's select SIHH offerings this year do not reflect the scale of the plans that CEO and founder Michel Parmigiani has for the brand. 'We won't be producing that many watches - maybe 8,000 as opposed to 20,000 [that other watchmakers do],' he says. 'We are, however, taking major steps in opening our own offices in different markets and adding new points of sale.'

One of the major thrusts for Parmigiani will be in the fast-growing mainland market. With a new office set up in Hong Kong last year, Parmigiani has ambitious plans to roll out ateliers in Beijing, Shanghai and also other Asian markets such as Singapore. On the mainland, Parmigiani is also hoping to take on a project restoring all the old clocks in Beijing's Forbidden City.

Restoration work remains an important part of Parmigiani's business.

At the SIHH, the CEO also introduced the world's first table clock, featuring a calendar based on the Hegirian (or Islamic) year and has a power reserve of 30 years. The Hegirian calendar shares the same base of 12 months as the lunar calendar that we use today, but it has only 354 or 355 days in the year. Work on this clock has taken 18 years from the time of its first studies.

The dial shows hours and minutes, with the date and leap years in Arabic numerals and the days of the week and months in Arabic calligraphy.

The clock also shows normal years in the form of indexes, precision moon phases and the power reserve.

The cabinet and base are made from silver with black obsidian, quartz and ruby details.

Powered by the PF236 movement, the clock comes in a limited edition of 10 pieces.