Parmigiani Fleurier has a long history of looking to unusual past masterpieces for inspiration – one of the best known examples is the Pantographe wristwatch, which has an oval case and telescoping hands that mimic the appearance of a pantograph machine (a tracing device that allows one to make a bigger or smaller copy of a drawing or design). The Pantographe is based on a most ingenious oval pocket watch, which was made by the English makers, Vardon and Stedman, around 1800, and which is part of the Sandoz Collection (the Sandoz Family Foundation is Parmigiani Fleurier’s parent company).
Another quite spectacular piece in the Sandoz Collection is a pocket watch made by Perrin Frères, of Neuchâtel, from around the same period as the Vardon and Stedman pocket watch. The Perrin Frères timepiece has a wandering hours complication, in which the minutes are shown in a sector on the front of a watch by a numeral showing the hour, which “wanders” across the sector over a 60 minute interval. It’s also a repeater, with gongs that have a serpentine shape and which have alternating blue and white stripes, giving them the appearance of snakes. Parmigiani Fleurier has created Toric Capitole wristwatches based on this pocket watch in the past (as unique pieces, although all share the same basic case design and movement) and this year they’ve released the latest version: the Toric Capitole “Waves.”
This is really watchmaking as art, as was the original pocket watch. There was a period prior to the general adoption of technology necessary for watches to be real precision timekeepers (bimetallic balances, the lever escapement, and mainsprings capable of delivering something like a stable amount of torque across a reasonable power reserve, among other things) during which watchmakers competed with each other in making portable timekeepers of the highest possible amusement value, as to-the-second daily accuracy was something of a crapshoot. As watches became more precise, they also became (in general) less and less ornamental, but there’s an undeniable, horological joie de vivre in watches like the Perrin Frères pocket watch and many of its contemporaries, that became something of an endangered species as the age of the …read more