Parmigiani Fleurier Tondagraph GT: A Collector’s View
As these things go, Parmigiani Fleurier and I go back a pretty long way. I bought the first of several watches I’ve purchased from the brand (a Kalpa in steel) around 2005, and MrsG still wears each of her two Kalpa Piccolas with some regularity.
So, it was with significant interest that I took up the opportunity to handle, photograph, and evaluate Parmigiani’s latest introduction, the Tondagraph GT. It’s a relatively rare combination of two useful complications in what the brand calls “all-occasion” packaging, and it is offered at a quite reasonable price relative to other pieces of its kind.
Spoiler alert: I like it
As regular readers know, my role here at Quill & Pad centers mostly on pieces in my own and friends’ collections, with occasional musings on industry developments – and less frequently on reviewing new introductions that I haven’t previously considered.
When I do check out a new timepiece, there’s always that moment when I first open the box and hope that I haven’t signed up to generate several pages of prose on why the watch in question is a dud. Happily, this piece immediately struck me as solidly made, attractive, and, with its combination of annual calendar and chronograph, horologically interesting.
I’ll start in what might seem an odd place, a feature that for me really helps define the appeal of the Tondagraph GT: the bracelet. As with some other designs we’ve seen recently (the A. Lange & Söhne Odysseus prominent among them), the GT utilizes what I’ll call a semi-integrated design, with a bracelet that flares out to match the outer profiles of the lugs on the case and then notches in to fit between them.
On the Parmigiani, there’s nothing jarring about this arrangement. Among other things, if you look closely at the photo above you’ll see that there is a largely unbroken curve from the outer edge of one lug all the way across the joining line where the bracelet meets the case and out to the edge of the far lug, minimizing the visual impression of lug versus bracelet.
Seen from the side, the look is equally organic with updated yet brand-characteristic teardrop lugs featuring similarly profiled pushers tapering into the first link of the bracelet.
And as with other Parmigiani bracelets I’ve worn (for my views on bracelets from Parmigiani and others, see Heavy Metal: Great (And Not So Great) Watch Bracelets), this one flows around the wrist with no unsightly gaps or sharp edges to distract from the visual impression.
Around the back, the bracelet looks simple and clean with a hidden, two-sided clasp that sits comfortably under the wrist and helps to stabilize the weight of what is, especially for a steel piece, a notably hefty watch. Two half-links help with precise sizing.
There is a watch involved, as well
Of course, a good bracelet without a good watch is just a bracelet – and this is a seriously attractive watch, too.
For me, the dial side is busy enough with its machined triangular guilloche, circular grooves, outer chapter ring, and applied indices to keep me interested. And I like the use of flashes of orange highlighting the date and month of the annual calendar and distinguishing those indications from those of the chronograph.
Some folks I’ve talked with find the amount of script on the dial to be excessive, but to my eye it’s not out of the acceptable range and actually helps to give a bit of an informal look to the watch.
A closer look at the detail shot above suggests that Parmigiani has taken several steps to simplify the dial-side look. Note the absence of printed indices at 10, 20, and 30 on the chronograph minutes’ subdial and the use of two half-circular arcs to track the running seconds on the right-hand subdial while freeing up space for the month indicator below.
The black luminescent coating on the applied markers and hands also reduces the clutter factor relative to white or colored lume options while providing a suitable glow once darkness falls.
Working with Italian designer Dino Modolo, Parmigiani has both retained elements of its traditional design codes and updated them to good effect. The massaged profiles of the lugs and pushers are one example; another is incorporating Parmigiani’s characteristic “Toric” fluting on the bezel.
On the dial itself, the brand logo and its font remain the same as before, but the oval surround we’ve come to associate with Parmigiani has been removed to provide a cleaner look (although the ovals around the “PF” initials remain on the crown and movement).
In the engine room
Behind the scenes, the Vaucher-developed Caliber PF043 keeps things ticking while also providing chronograph and annual calendar functions.
The annual calendar chronograph is a pretty rare combination in the world of horology, but I think it’s just the right choice for the Tondagraph GT as it keeps the watch out of the rarified air of the perpetual calendar ranks. For me, the everyday usefulness of the annual calendar complication is a good match for the watch’s chronograph.
I think the visual look of the PF043 movement is consistent with the rest of the watch: the soleil-style striping and chunky rotor relief are sufficiently sporty; and I’m particularly glad that Parmigiani went with a more assertive rotor design than its more floral traditional look.
That said, the finishing, while completely adequate, pales in comparison to that on many of Parmigiani’s other offerings. The contrast with the multiple interior angles, subtle stripes, and nearly invisible sub-plate of the Caliber PF111 movement of the brand’s Pantographe Ovale that I reviewed in 2017 is clearly evident from the image below, suggesting some of the tradeoffs that were required to keep the Tondagraph relatively affordable.
The wide rear bezel of the watch reveals that the base movement is fairly small in diameter relative to the 42 mm case. Happily, the dial layout spreads the subdials and other indications widely enough, and the chapter ring, outer grooves, and large applied indices fill the perimeter of the dial sufficiently to avoid the cross-eyed look that is a pet peeve of mine with many other watches.
The calendar indications work well, too, with the date and month clicking over just as the time approaches midnight.
There is no such thing as the perfect watch! There were a couple of small touches that were not quite up to snuff in the watch I handled, including a color mismatch between the orange print on the dial and the hue of the day and date indicators.
But those are the kinds of things that are often a fact of life with pre-production examples, and I expect they will be ironed out in the delivered watches. And the anti-reflective sapphire crystal was good, but not up to the mind-blowing standards of some other watches of my acquaintance.
The chronograph was somewhat less to my taste. The chronograph minutes indication is continuous, not the instantaneous or semi-instantaneous type that I prefer. And the chronograph pushers require quite vigorous activation. I am perhaps more attuned to pusher feel than some others, but I wish that the Tondagraph’s chrono actuation and reset sensations were more progressive and less resistant.
As noted above, creating a robust and complicated watch like the Tondagraph GT at a retail price under $20,000 requires some tradeoffs. Sure, it would be great if it had the finishing of a Voutilainen or the buttery pusher feel of an A. Lange & Söhne Datograph, but as an all-occasion wearer in the same complication category as the Patek Philippe 5960/1A (currently re-selling in the mid-$40,000 range, pre-owned), I think it does a great job.
Is it right for you?
We can like them all, but we can’t buy them all. The Tondagraph GT might be a piece you need to have in your collection if . . .
- Its robustness, coherent style, and overall quality speak to you.
- You either favor smaller independent brands in your collection or see a watch from Parmigiani as a good transition for you into pieces from smaller manufactures.
- You are in the market for a watch at this price point and find the combination of useful complications, Parmigiani breeding, and limited production of 200 pieces tough to match in other pieces you are considering.
- You manage to get one on your wrist and fall in love with its heft and that silky bracelet.
- You are confident enough in your own tastes to buy something that not everyone else is wearing.
On the other hand, this may not be the right watch for you right now if . . .
- You don’t value the utility and simplicity of an annual calendar – or just don’t like date windows in general.
- You use the chronograph on your watch a lot and are a stickler for silky-smooth pusher feel.
- The 42 mm size, prominent guilloche, and dial-side colors and scripts feel a bit too assertive for your style or too large for your wrist.
I’ll look forward to reading your impressions on this piece in comments section on how you think that it compares with alternatives. In the meantime, happy hunting and please stay well!
For more information, please visit www.parmigiani.com/en/watch/tonda/tondagraph-gt-acier.
Quick Facts Parmigiani Fleurier Tondagraph GT
Case: 42 x 13.7 mm, stainless steel; 100 m water resistance
Dial and hands: black dial with machined guilloche and peripheral circular grooves; rhodium-plated applied indices with black luminescent coating; delta-shaped hands with luminescent coating
Movement: automatic Caliber PF043; 28,800 vph/4Hz frequency; power reserve 45 hours
Functions: hours, minutes, small seconds; big date, 30-minute chronograph, annual calendar
Limitation: 200 pieces
Price: $19,500/CHF 19,500 with fitted steel bracelet; $18,500/CHF 18,500 with black rubber strap and folding clasp