Parmigiani Kalpa Kalparisma Snow: The Scintillating ‘Icy’ Setting Is The Star
by Martin Green
I dislike it when people take an interest in an object only because of its price tag. Diamond-set watches are often cursed with this: they are either considered ladies watches or something for rappers, but rarely seen as objects of art in their own right.
Articles about diamond-set watches often focus on what they cost and how many diamonds were used in decorating them. However, neither says anything about the quality of the setting and to what extent the diamonds add more than monetary value.
As a graduate of the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and a great lover and admirer of diamond-set (men’s) watches, I am often frustrated by this. And it is also why I get excited when a brand creates a watch that gives diamonds virtually unlimited room to shine.
In this case, the showplace measures 30.3 by 36.2 mm, is tonneau shaped, and crafted in white gold. While Parmigiani is mainly known for complicated watches with a contemporary twist to classic style, this Kalparisma is all about the diamond setting.
Watchmakers adapt most diamond settings directly from the jewelry industry, but in the case of snow setting it was Jaeger-LeCoultre that developed the setting to resemble the sparkling snow of the brand’s native Vallée de Joux, located in the horologically rich Jura mountains of Switzerland.
Snow setting constitutes a sprinkling of brilliant-cut diamonds in various sizes seemingly placed at random but sparkling like freshly fallen snow on a sunny winter day. Yet what looks random is actually carefully planned and meticulously set.
To maximize the effect, the setter has to plot where each and every one of the often-minuscule diamonds will be placed before the actual setting begins. The key is minimizing any visible supporting metal between the stones, making snow setting very complex to execute well.
I always think that the snow-setting looks best on larger surfaces. And that is precisely what Parmigiani has done with this Kalparisma: both the dial and the case are snow set, and that makes it all about the diamonds.
The curved edges of the case ensure that, whatever the angle or direction, there are always diamonds that catch light and reflect it back as a bright galaxy of scintillating fires. Next to the skill and talent needed for its creation, it’s the incredible expanse of sparkle that makes snow-set watches so extraordinary.
Even Caliber PF342 screams quality
The majority of diamond-set watches score few points among watch connoisseurs as brands have a tendency to power sparkling watches with unexciting movements, often even quartz.
For many, this confirms that a diamond-set watch is just screaming for attention without the right horological heart to back up its seriousness.
In that sense, the Kalparisma is not disappointing: it is fitted with Parmigiani’s manufacture Caliber PF342, a variation on one of the brand’s bread-and-butter movements, a simple automatic three-hander.
Caliber PF342 is nonetheless very well constructed and well decorated. Two serially operating spring barrels provide the 4-Hertz movement with a power reserve of 55 hours.
I am not usually a fan of round movements in a tonneau-shaped case clearly visible through a transparent case back, but apparently neither is Parmigiani as it has modified its base Caliber 34 family by changing the shape of the base plate to turn this into an advantage as the excess metal is also decorated with côtes de Genève, making the now-expansive surface very pleasing to the eye.
The plate works as a perfect backdrop to the oscillating weight, crafted in 22-karat gold and featuring the Parmigiani logo and barleycorn guilloché decoration typical of the brand.
While I applaud Parmigiani for making this watch all about the exceptional diamond setting, I wish that it would have opted for slightly more substantial hands as the ones that the watch is fitted with now are a bit too dainty for my taste.
I would also have preferred no second hand so that there is no other visible motion on the dial outside of the diamonds’ sparkle.
In the end, however, those are minor niggles to what is overall an exceptional creation.
For more information, please visit www.parmigiani.com/en/watch/kalpa/kalparisma.
Quick Facts Parmigiani Kalpa Kalparisma Snow
Case: 30.3 x 36.2 x 9.4 mm, white gold, snow-setting with 665 diamonds (2.989 ct) and one briolette-cut diamond on the crown (0.17 ct)
Dial: set with 714 diamonds (1.906 ct)
Movement: automatic Caliber PF342, power reserve 55 hours, 4 Hz/28,800 vph frequency
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds
Strap: Hermès black alligator strap with white gold pin buckle set with 112 diamonds (0.37 ct)
Price: $119,800 / CHF 129,000