Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda PF GMT Rattrapante: A Design Nerd’s Favorite Travel Watch
Bringing something new to the design table is both extremely easy and notoriously difficult. This lies in the fact that there are so many ways to approach a design that it is almost impossible for someone else to have done it exactly like you would. But there have also been hundreds, if not thousands, of designers who have tried their hands designing any given thing. The result is most likely a design that is original yet reminiscent of another recognizable design that already exists.
In that way, it is very easy to create something that is technically original, yet it’s hard to design something that feels truly original and not like some amalgamation of already existing aesthetics.
That is why whenever a new “insert commonly designed object here” debuts, the earliest discussions include what it reminds people of and how it might differ. If the object is a smartphone, it will undoubtedly be compared to the iPhone or a perhaps the latest Galaxy. If it is a high-end chair, it could get discussed in the same breath with the popular models of the past like an Eames Lounge Chair, a Cesca chair, or the Barcelona by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, a staple of trendy waiting rooms.
A reality of design is that while there are nearly infinite ways to shape things, styles and aesthetics group things in our minds so that we end up familiar with a design because of the other works that use similar shapes, textures, colors, or details. But this doesn’t mean it is pointless to focus on creating a good design that strives for originality. The ability to see and understand what has come before and then tweak things in a design to push it a bit further from the “familiar” is what allows for refreshing takes on the classics or surprising twists that give a whole new feeling to a relatively popular design.
When it comes to designing a new watch collection, this is especially hard because unless the design invents a completely new category of watch or it abandons all traditional hallmarks of a wristwatch it will certainly be compared and contrasted with the most iconic models in any particular category. Ask anyone designing a luxury sports watch which timepieces they would both love or hate to be compared to: you’ll likely hear the same few names over and over again.
Great designers however love this challenge because they understand how focusing on small details and trying to perfect the elements allow a great design to both stand on its own and remind people of other incredible watches. That is exactly what the Parmigiani Tonda PF GMT Rattrapante and the entire Tonda PF collection have done: create a new and unique style using building blocks already familiar to the collector community.
Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda PF GMT Rattrapante
As I’ve already pointed out, it is hard to design a luxury sports watch let alone an entire collection based on a new look, so Parmigiani had a tough task ahead when it sought to redesign the Tonda line in an attempt to softly relaunch it as its heavyweight contender. The result was the Tonda PF collection, and I don’t think I need to tell you that it was a success. The new design is a refined stunner, delicately playing both sides of the sporty and luxury visual game.
Since the Tonda PF’S 2021 debut, Parmigiani has released more models within the PF mold with the GMT Rattrapante by far the highlight for me. At first glance it is a simple two-handed watch with a clean dial, no date, a simple logo at 12 o’clock, small, applied indices, and the winning Tonda PF aesthetic.
But if you tune in to the details, you will notice that there is a subtle button hiding in the lower left lug and a small button protruding from the center of the crown that hint at further complication.
This is the secret of the GMT Rattrapante, which does not look to have a GMT or any rattrapante functionality. In reality, the button on the lug is the GMT advance button, which when pushed moves the white gold hour hand forward one hour per push, revealing a pink gold home time hour hand underneath. That hand stays put at “home time,” while the white gold hand can be advanced to match the hour of “travel time” or any other reference time the wearer desires.
In that respect the watch is more so the perfect travel watch because it assumes the wearer might have no use for that second hour hand much of the time, so it stays hidden with the two hands traveling the dial superimposed on each other.
The rattrapante function comes into play when you return home from your trip or no longer need to track a second time zone. Pushing the button in the crown resets the white gold hour hand, returning it to its place on top of the pink gold home time hand with a satisfyingly smooth flyback action. It’s clearly weighted in such a way that instead of being an instantaneous snap like a typical rattrapante it glides home, providing a sense of the sumptuousness of the mechanism.
We know less about the internal mechanics thanks to pending patents for Parmigiani. It’s been stated that the GMT hour works off a 12-pointed star wheel to advance from the home position in one-hour increments, while the rattrapante uses the familiar heart-shaped cam seen on typical chronographs. Any person aware of how those mechanisms work will know that this mechanism must be a bit different as it must release the star wheel while returning and have a way to control the speed of the reset. So while the exact design, including what causes the gliding flyback, may be somewhat hush-hush for now, it is obvious that horological chops are found in droves with this piece.
Flipping the Tonda PF GMT Rattrapante over reveals Caliber PF051, a beautiful micro rotor movement that from the rear looks almost identical to the PF703 in the Tonda PF Micro Rotor Steel. This makes sense as the new complication is entirely dial side, hence why there have been no images of that side of the movement, pending patents and all. But we know from the other recent releases like the PF Skeleton, PF Flying Tourbillon, and even the PF Micro-Rotor that the movement mechanics are both top notch and aesthetically impressive.
Since I am a “mechanics first” watch fan, I am eagerly awaiting any further elucidation on the GMT Rattrapante mechanism but watching it function is still supremely satisfying. Yet that is also partly because I love the concept and have fallen head over heels for the general aesthetic of the Tonda PF update. The simple case with Parmigiani flourishes such as the sculpted lugs, delicately fluted bezel (in platinum no less), and the minimalistic dial are all tremendous to my eyes.
Understanding what stays and what goes
The tiny barleycorn handcrafted guilloche in a satin finish gives a velvety appearance to the face of the watch and the small, polished indices, skeletonized hands, and immaculately applied logo show that Parmigiani understand that less is more. The watch is reminiscent of other popular pieces, and the details aren’t incredibly unique to the collection, but the assemblage of the various details makes for a dynamic watch that can both fly under the radar and stand out as a killer luxury sports watch.
Many of the models have been released in steel with a fluted platinum bezel to make sure the watches have presence and some humility as the precious metal is only apparent to those very in the know. It allows you to have a great steel sports watch that leans into luxury as much or more than other popular models yet wouldn’t feel out of place on any wrist.
Speaking of being on the wrist, the integrated bracelet feels great as I noticed when I tried all of the originally released models on the last time I was in Geneva, so now the Tonda PF GMT Rattrapante has taken my favorite model (the simple Micro-Rotor) and one-upped it with an extremely useful and stealthy complication.
I do mourn the loss of the date function as I am one of the few who always appreciate its inclusion, but the ultra-clean dial, especially when the GMT hand is hidden, makes this watch one that many will likely get behind. The initial reaction to the Tonda PF redesign was awesome, selling out production capacity fairly quickly, and I’m sure this expansion to the collection has seen a similar demand for pieces.
I like all the models within the collection, but the GMT Rattrapante is the cream of the latest crop for me. I love the new take on the GMT function and while I probably would have named it the Flyback Dual Time Secret or something less obvious, the attempt to rethink how most people would use a GMT is an interesting exercise. Too often brands avoid approaching a complication from an entirely new perspective or with different goals simply because the pressure of tradition is strong, both from collectors and the industry.
But that is also why I love brands like Parmigiani, who aren’t afraid to ask the question “what if?” I would wager that if more brands asked that question in seriousness, we could see a renaissance of creativity from the larger brands and it wouldn’t be relegated mostly to independents. For now, it gives brands like Parmigiani an edge, and with designs like the Tonda PF it’s a good sign that more creativity is to come.
While I wait to hear more about the creative mechanics inside the GMT Rattrapante, let’s break this down!
- Wowza Factor * 9.77 It’s a slow-building wow as the watch seems low key until you press the button on the lug!
- Late Night Lust Appeal * 97.7 » 958.109m/s2 Depending on which time zone you are in you may be playing with the GMT function in the afternoon or late into the night and loving it either way!
- M.G.R. * 66.8 New ideas and ways of approaching complications are a great way to get a high movement geek rating!
- Added-Functionitis * Mild The GMT Rattrapante only has one added function, and most of the time it’s not even visible or possibly even in use. But when it pops up, you’ll need some children’s strength Gotta-HAVE-That cream to enjoy the versatile horological swelling!
- Ouch Outline * 10.2 Twisting your ankle on a hike! Twisting your ankle becomes more and more precarious every year past the age of 30 so it’s important to watch your step. Still, I would gladly keep my eyes glued to my wrist if I had this piece on it!
- Mermaid Moment * What are those buttons for? All it takes is one press of each button to know it’s time to throw out your little black book!
- Awesome Total * 859 Start with the alloy of the platinum bezel (950) and subtract the diameter of the case in millimeters (40) and the caliber number (51) to end on the slightly secretive awesome total!
For more information, please visit parmigiani.com/en/watches/tonda-pf-gmt-rattrapante.
Quick Facts Parmigiani Fleurier Tonda PF GMT Rattrapante
Case: 40 x 10.7 mm, stainless steel with platinum bezel
Movement: automatic Caliber PF051, 48-hour power reserve, 21,600 vph/3Hz frequency
Functions: hours, minutes; split GMT with “rattrapante” (second time zone)
Price: CHF 26,000
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