Parmigiani La Rose Carrée: A Perfect Symbiosis Of Geometry, Nature, And Horology
The Fibonacci number sequence is a discovery of mathematics and nature that has both amazed and confounded the scientific community for centuries. Fundamentally, the sequence is a set of numbers in which each is the sum of the two preceding numbers. This creates a fast-growing list of numbers that have another unique attribute: when plotted around a central point, the Fibonacci sequence creates a perfect spiral.
Anyone who works with numbers knows that they can do a lot of interesting things if you make up different constraints. But the Fibonacci sequence wasn’t invented as much as it was discovered and it describes how nature shapes itself through a variety of methods.
The most evident example of this is the many instances of Fibonacci spirals found in plants: leaves, branches, stems, roots, petals, seeds are often found to use the Fibonacci sequence to direct the cellular and macroscopic patterns of growth. It results in an average of 137.5-degree spacing that optimizes space and makes sure that petals, branches, and leaves are never completely covering those below.
The Fibonacci sequence is so prevalent in nature that many believe it says something about the underlying structure of the universe and physics that so many things end up displaying this pattern. The relationship between two adjacent numbers on the sequence, especially once higher than 21, converges closely on the golden ratio, a precise and irrational number ratio found within geometry that is considered one of the jewels of mathematics.
A beautiful example of the Fibonacci sequence can be seen in the petals of a rose, which perfectly spiral out from the center to create a lush blossom. Even when the rose withers, the petals become squarer and less rounded, creating yet another spiral but this time a rectangular pattern that holds true to the same ratio.
This floral pattern is the inspiration for the stunning engraving on the new Parmigiani La Rose Carrée, a masterfully restored grande sonnerie minute repeater pocket watch made to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the brand and launched to mark the seventieth birthday (in 2020) of the brand’s founder and master restorer, Michel Parmigiani.
Parmigiani La Rose Carrée
The Parmigiani La Rose Carrée is built around a unique, one-off movement acquired by Michel Parmigiani in the late 1990s, one created by grand complication master Louis-Elisée Piguet. The movement had been given a serial number, but was never cased or attributed to a client or a brand. It was a creation without a home.
Today it has found a brand, a case, and an aesthetic defined largely by some of the core concepts of mathematics and geometry. The watch itself is a very clean and simple three-handed display with offset seconds, a dial made from jet-black onyx, and the hours and minutes chiming at every quarter hour and top of the hour. A full minute repeater on demand is also included.
The focus, interestingly, isn’t specifically on the fact it is a grande sonnerie but rather that it is a mechanical work of art, combined with a host of other artisanal crafts that create a multisensory experience. The feel of the watch and the incredibly difficult-to-produce chain with square diamond-shaped links, the look of the masterful engraving and enameling on the outer case, and the sound of the 120-year-old grande sonnerie combine to make the viewer immediately aware that this is a special object in the grand scheme of things. It is like stumbling across a lost masterpiece from the old world but also being present to see it in all of its fresh glory.
This comes from the Parmigiani’s commitment to each aspect of the watch – case, dial, movement, chain, and decoration – making each area a star in its own right. But even so, it is clear that the stars of the already star-studded show are the hunter covers on the pocket watch and the terrifically restored and decorated Louis-Elisée Piguet Caliber 5802.
Design at its core
The La Rose Carrée pocket watch has a full double-sided hunter case providing ample room for decoration, and an impressive reveal of the grand sonnerie movement inside. The skilled craftspeople at Les Artisans Boîtiers – which is owned by the Parmigiani group – made the case, a massive 64 millimeters of white gold. It is a fitting canvas for more incredible art and a home for Caliber 5802.
The two large covers on each side of the watch are the first place we find the inspiration for La Rose Carrée in hand-engraving and high-fire enamel. The incredibly talented engraver Eddy Jaquet (also known from his collaboration with MB&F on the LM Split Escapement Jules Verne) put his hands to the task of engraving the covers and the movement with a design by Anne-Marie Moser. The designer combined the Fibonacci sequence, the golden ratio, and the beauty of a wilting squared rose, turning them into something worthy of the movement and the anniversary.
The Rose Carrée (“squared rose”) design was born with a perfect geometric spiral underpinning another Fibonacci spiral of successively larger engravings of the squared rose design. Those geometric rose designs are themselves representations of the Fibonacci spiral, making for a triple spiral on the outside of the case.
Even more difficult, the two covers are symmetrically mirrored so that when they are open, they present a visually balanced display. Surrounding the main engraved inserts, the bezels feature an outer ring of miniature squared rose designs sparkling like diamonds at a distance, but when examined up close reveal the stunning skill and beauty of the engravings.
Jaquet’s large engravings were then sent to master enameller Vanessa Lecci, who applied a gorgeous layer of translucent blue oven-fired enamel. The amount of depth and natural shading that comes from the combination of engraving and enameling draws you into the geometric world depicted. The blue represents water as seen from the sky, with complex patterns of the waves and the gradations of blue as depth changes.
Interestingly, that depth and texture is immediately swapped when you open the front cover and see the pure black onyx dial, perfectly polished and imperfection free (a very difficult task for a piece of onyx that size). The dial is kept elegantly simple with square, polished markers for the hours and a simple polished ring for the offset subdial for seconds. The hands are skeletonized Delta shapes, the only detail on the dial side more complicated than the bare minimum, adding a layer of delicateness to this side of the pocket watch.
Louis-Elisée Piguet Caliber 5802: the movement is the star
But the side opposite the dial is the more stunning reveal. Inside the hand-engraved cover rests the 120-year-old Louis-Elisée Piguet Caliber 5802, which was made between 1989 and 1904 and painstakingly restored by hand in Parmigiani’s restoration workshop by Francis Rossignol and Christie Girel. Since it was a unique movement and generally finished when Piguet originally made it, the decoration choices were limited to what wouldn’t risk altering the tolerances for the movement.
Eventually it was decided that the movement bridges would be hand-beveled (without messing up because they don’t have easily swappable replacement parts) and all surfaces hand-engraved by Jaquet to showcase the same geometric pattern used in the spirals on the case. Both the squared rose details and the rectangular chevron shapes are on every bridge and plate surface (where possible).
This results in the entire movement having an incredible geometric texture; in essence, the artisans took a movement that is more than a century old and made it feel incredibly modern and timeless at the same time. The awesome ratchet wheels for the mainsprings and sonnerie feature a sunburst brushing, while the clicks, springs, screws, hammers, and various other components received perfect black polishing.
The presentation is kind of shocking in the context of the case, partially because it is presented as if it were a jewel. The case has a concave bezel surrounding the sapphire crystal sealing the movement.
Because of this, the movement feels as if the case has been gently draped around it (something seen on other great watches like those by A. Lange & Söhne) and helps it pop out from the central case. It also allows a clear view into the movement and the gongs encircling the perimeter of the movement, which have been given plenty of space to chime.
The double hunter covers are the ideal choice for such a watch as they make the experience of seeing the movement a top priority.
The case, its covers, the dial, and the movement all play extremely well together to make this a truly remarkable finale for Parmigiani’s silver jubilee. It also shows that the brand leaves no detail unconsidered. The chain is a great example of this: a pocket watch is almost synonymous with a chain, so it is of no surprise that La Rose Carrée comes with one. But the design of this pocket watch considers everything, and the geometric inspiration found all over the case and movement unsurprisingly made its way to the chain.
The last full-time specialist watch chain maker in Switzerland, Laurent Joliet, was tasked with making an incredibly difficult-to-fabricate diamond-shaped chain. This is a much more difficult proposition than nearly any other style of chain because each individual link must be carefully shaped and soldered together from four individual sections to form a perfect square from square segments. This leads to 16 individual corners that need to be crisp and clean for each link.
The number of links and complexity of the chain results in over 600 corners that had to be perfect otherwise the chain wouldn’t flex and twist correctly. On top of that, the chain slowly tapers toward the end, so each link is successively smaller. The result speaks for itself as the chain is a perfectly suited companion for La Rose Carrée. It also makes the entirety of the presentation perfectly coordinated from end to end.
The case, movement, chain, and decoration combine to make a statement about design and mathematics, all from the desire to celebrate 25 years as a brand. While it is a unique piece and definitely not suited for everyday wear for the normal watch lover, the fact that it got made in the first place is both a tribute to and an indication of the skilled and passionate craftspeople that gravitate toward Parmigiani.
Now my main hope is that the next time I am in Switzerland I will be lucky enough to have a few moments with this momentous piece. I may not be able to take it home but experiencing the design of La Rose Carrée and craftsmanship on display would be a highlight for any fan of Parmigiani.
- Wowza Factor * 9.5 The geometric beauty is hard to beat!
- Late Night Lust Appeal * 95» 931.632m/s2 The beauty and depth of the enamel over the engraving is enough on its own to keep you up until the wee hours of the morning!
- M.G.R. * 67.5 A 120-year-old grande sonnerie movement that has been restored is probably enough for most watch nerds to geek out for days!
- Added-Functionitis * Moderate The grande sonnerie and minute repeater are two of the most complicated added functions on the market so you’ll need some extra-strength Gotta-HAVE-That cream for this historical mashup!
- Ouch Outline * 10.4 It fell butter side down! Sometimes we forget that emotional pain can be just as intense, such as when you are about to bite into your freshly toasted and buttered morning bagel when it slips from your fingers and lands butter side down right on the carpet. It’s even worse if it was your last bagel and now you need to skip half of your breakfast and clean up a mess. But I can heal from the emotional damage as long as I have this stunning pocket watch to serenade me!
- Mermaid Moment * I love Fibonacci! Geometry nerds will instantly understand the inspiration for this watch and probably confess their devotion. I know I did!
- Awesome Total * 911.2 Start with the original Louis-Elisée Piguet caliber number (5802) and divide by the diameter of the winding crown (10), then add the number of components in the movement (331) to uncover an aesthetically awesome total!
For more information, please visit parmigiani.com/en/stories/la-rose-carree-parmigianis-paragon.
Quick Facts Parmigiani La Rose Carrée
Case: 64 x 20 mm, white gold, double hunter pocket watch, crown set with blue sapphire
Movement: manually wound Caliber PF992 (Louis-Elisée Piguet 5802), 32-hour power reserve, 18,000 vph/2.5 Hz frequency, twin spring barrels
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds; grande sonnerie, minute repeater
Limitation: unique piece