Parmigiani Fleurier Toric Capitole: Hiding In Plain Sight
Have you ever lost something and just couldn’t find it? Even worse, has someone else found it because it was literally hiding in plain sight and you somehow missed it?
Both skilled magicians and successful con men know that people tend to overlook the obvious, especially when looking for something that they think is carefully hidden. This is because we have become so good at recognizing patterns that, evolutionary speaking, we are all super detectives. And that works most of the time.
As a result, we sometimes have the hardest time seeing what is right in front of our eyes and, instead, keep searching elsewhere. If you want to hide an important letter, don’t squeeze it between the pages of a novel on a bookshelf, just toss it in a pile of mundane letters on your desk.
Making no attempt at concealment is often the best concealment possible. Hidden in plain sight.
Our brain works so hard picking out incongruous details that by default it must actively filter out that which seems normal, resulting in blind spots right in front of us.
I don’t know how many times I have lost something on my slightly messy desk simply because I assume it must be underneath something. Or how often the 10 mm socket disappears from the assortment of tools on the workbench in front of me. No matter whether I had just set it down, the minute I turn my back and lose sight of it the socket becomes the lost Ark of the Covenant as I scour my workspace only to realize 15 minutes later that it rolled just slightly away and is plainly in view.
If you are the one doing the hiding the simplest solution can often be the best, and a small amount of effort can take it leaps further. Take my previous letter example: if you toss on letter in a stack of letters, it would be easy to miss. Yet if you folded it up with another similar-looking letter, it becomes almost impossible to find without looking at every piece of paper in the entire office.
The same goes for hiding features in a watch. And a great example of me having overlooked something that was right in front me is the Parmigiani Toric Capitole, a fantastic timepiece that, until the latest edition, I had missed because of its modest display perfectly belying what was hidden within.
For whatever reason, the minimal dials of past versions made me believe I was looking at a simple movement, though I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Parmigaini Toric Capitole: then and now
The Parmigiani Toric Capitole has been around for a few years, but it initially looked a lot different than the model released at SIHH 2019.
The new Toric Capitole features an awesomely hand-engraved dial resting behind a delicate yet impressive wandering hours mechanism, which was previously hidden behind metiers d’art dials featuring hand-engraving, enamel, or stone marquetry.
In those versions, the wandering hours displayed in a small arching window spanning 120 degrees across the top of the dial, with minimal markers to indicate the exact time in addition to the minute repeater mechanism on the rear of the movement.
The 2019 Toric Capitole feels like the exact opposite: even though it utilizes a nearly identical movement, it approaches the concept as if it is a precision-engineered tool rather than an artist’s backdr0p.
The hours and five-minute intervals are indicated with very clear numerals with individual marks for each minute. The hour numeral sweeping across the minute track has an added pointer so that the minutes on this version can be tracked precisely, in contrast to the loose interpretations of its more artistic predecessors.
The three printed rotating hour disks are more straightforward than the cutouts of previous models, and accommodate the addition of the minute arrow better. And by excluding the artistic over-dial, the mechanism now becomes the focal point of the watch, making it crucial for the wandering hours to be as pristine and precise as possible.
The high-contrast minute track’s black finish with white text complements the hour disks, as does the small Parmigiani Fleurier logo asymmetrically balancing the top half of the watch.
The complexity of the mechanism ensures a very straightforward dial helped by the simple color scheme and focus on contrast over pattern. Even though the hand-engraved dial boasts a strong pattern, it reads more like a physical texture than a standout design.
And, yet, not everything is dramatically different. The minute repeater on the rear of the watch is relatively similar to earlier Toric Capitole pieces, though following in the “less-is-more” vein of the latest model.
Parmigaini Toric Capitole: this one is just right
The Caliber PF321 movement is functionally the same as in previous Toric Capitole pieces, but here it has been treated differently to match the direction of the front. On older models, the bridges were skeletonized to add visual interest, but more distinctly the cathedral gongs were shaped and finished to resemble snakes.
Yeah, the gongs were bent in a repeated zig-zag pattern as they wound around the edge of the movement, looking like a slithering snake. Then, using a process of resin coating and heat blueing, the gongs were tempered to a deep hue with white polished strips, giving the appearance of stripes on a snake.
This is a visually stunning and unique technique (adopted from the historical pocket watch that inspired the whole Toric Capitole line), which fit perfectly with the artistic style of the previous versions.
But the most recent Toric Capitole models take a different approach to craft, using cleaner, more engineering-based design. And so Caliber PF321 is kept very traditional with no skeletonizing and no snake motif for the gongs. Just a simple (well, as simple as a minute repeater can be) set of bridges and round, brightly polished cathedral gongs with flat-polished hammers. The movement looks great, but it’s obvious that artistic liberty wasn’t the driving force here.
No, the craft that is highlighted on the newest Toric Capitole is the mechanism, showcasing the awesome wandering hours assembly floating above the hand-engraved dial plate.
All versions of the Toric Capitole are fundamentally similar, but spiritually very different. That difference is what made this new model stand out and caused me to take notice. I thought the older designs were great, but for whatever reason they all seemed to fit the Parmigiani “norm,” a beautiful and artistically crafted watch showcasing the talents of the artists at the brand.
This new model is the anomaly for the Toric Capitole line: it is so different visually that it can’t hide in plain sight anymore, something I am very happy for.
I love exposed mechanics with a cool design and can be easily swayed when brands take this approach. But truthfully, I am very happy that Parmigiani has now highlighted the movement of the Toric Capitole, not because it is my favorite version (which it is), but because it snapped my brain out of its pattern-recognizing habits and made me finally see the Toric Capitole.
I hadn’t taken special notice before, and I do think it was because it seemed in line with the usual Parmigiani fare.
That might sound like I dislike something about Parmigiani; on the contrary, it is one of the more interesting brands that still focuses on highly traditional styling while combining it with some groundbreaking engineering.
But it’s easy to get blinded by styling that “makes sense for the brand” and become desensitized, missing something that would excite me if it were to come from any other brand. The Toric Capitole line is quite possibly my favorite from Parmigiani (and that is saying a lot when you think of the Pantograph and Bugatti collections), and the latest version is what finally helped me see the forest through the trees.
The Toric Capitole with exposed wandering hours and sector display is a standout piece, mainly because it sidestepped its own tradition. Hiding in plain sight for the last few years among a variety of beautiful artistic creations, the Toric Capitole finally jumps out, refusing to fall in line with its siblings.
It’s lucky for me that it did, otherwise I would have continued unaware that one of my favorite complications, the wandering (satellite) hours, was there the whole time.
Now that I see it, let’s break it down!
- Wowza Factor * 9.29 Exposed mechanics with a clean presentation is easy to say wowza over!
- Late Night Lust Appeal * 92.9» 911.038m/s2 That hand-engraved dial supporting the delicate wandering hours mechanism, all tied to a minute repeater, is enough to make my nights restless!
- M.G.R. * 68.9 There are a lot of mechanics here to get excited about, and all are on display!
- Added-Functionitis * Moderate How often can you say that a minute repeater isn’t a very complicated watch? Well, never, because it is objectively very complicated. But I do have to say that it is only one complication (albeit the hardest one), and being a manual-wind watch one might expect a power reserve as well. For that reason I would say a double dose of regular-strength Gotta-HAVE-That cream is sufficient for this still incredible piece of horology!
- Ouch Outline * 10.2 Poison ivy rash where the sun don’t shine! Now this didn’t happen to me personally, but I know how bad it can be. Remember, kids, when hiking in the forest and needing to, well, relieve yourself, always, always check to see what is around before doing your business, lest you accidently expose yourself to something unpleasant. It won’t be fun, but I still might fall on that grenade if it meant a Toric Capitole found its way onto my wrist!
- Mermaid Moment * Wait, this isn’t a brand-new idea? Oh, mon dieu! Being surprised by something is an incredible and invigorating feeling but finding out you’ve been missing it the whole time is even more incredible. Discovering a whole back catalogue of things to love might make you even more ready to walk down that aisle!
- Awesome Total * 708 Take the caliber number (321) and add the number of components in the caliber (386) and finish it off by adding the number of pieces to be made (1) to discover the hidden in plain sight awesome total!
For more information, please visit www.parmigiani.com/en/watch/toric/capitole.
Quick Facts Parmigiani Fleurier Toric Capitole
Case: 45 x 12.1 mm, pink gold
Movement: hand-winding Caliber PF321
Functions: wandering hours, minutes; minute repeater with cathedral gongs
Limitation: one unique piece
Price: CHF 390,000