The watchmaker’s oldest movement, PF 110, a finely finished, complicated caliber with an extended power reserve, deserves a closer inspection.
By: Jon Bues
Despite the fact that he’s one of only a handful of living watchmakers with his own eponymous brand, Michel Parmigiani’s achievements have a tendency to fly under the radar. In an industry filled with bombastic personalities, Parmigiani is an introvert, more interested in creation than communication. Few collectors are aware, but since its inception, his company has created 25 movements.
Parmigiani Fleurier launched the first of these in 1997. The PF 110 has stood the test of time and remains an impressive horological feat. Fittingly, it is a shaped movement; Michel Parmigiani is an ardent believer that a movement must fit perfectly in its case. The PF 110 is also subtly complicated. In addition to its date window, the movement delivers eight days of power reserve via two barrels.
In nearly two decades of service, the PF 110 has proven to be a remarkably resilient workhorse with a frequency of 3 Hz, or 21,600 bph, an effective if slightly slower rate than the more common speed of 28,800 bph. The caliber has been used in several Parmigiani Fleurier timepieces through the years, including the highly touted Ovale Pantograph (for which it was modified and rechristened the PF 111). This, readers will remember, is a wristwatch with hour and minute hands that extend and retract as they follow the uneven, elliptical contours of the dial. It was inspired by Michel Parmigiani’s legendary reputation for restoring rare and important horological masterpieces, including an antique pocket watch with the same complication.
The PF 110 measures 29.3 mm long and 23.6 mm across, with a thickness of 4.9 mm. In all, the manually wound movement comprises 227 components, 28 of which are jewels. In keeping with the codes of haute horlogerie, the movement is finished with Côtes de Genève and perlage on its exposed surfaces. In some instances (not pictured here), it has been finished with a Fleurisanne motif, a rare floral engraving applied only to watches made in the secluded Swiss municipality of Fleurier.
Parmigiani Fleurier is among the most comprehensive watch manufactures in the world. When they say their watches are made in-house, they really mean it. In addition to crafting cases and dials, the company makes just about every component necessary to create a mechanical movement. This work is done across three separate factories.
Manufacture Vaucher is the main movement making manufacture, where plates and bridges are machined and assembly and finishing take place. This is where the big parts are cut and where the smaller, more delicate ones are brought to life.
The PF 110’s escapement, which comprises the escape wheel, pallet fork, balance wheel, and balance spring, hails from Parmigiani’s own specialist workshop, Atokalpa. Lots of watchmakers identify as manufactures despite sourcing these incredibly hard-to-make components from outside suppliers. Parmigiani has developed a reputation for excellence in escapements, and even supplies other brands with hairsprings and balance wheels, some publicly and others in secret.
In the case of PF 110, note the implementation of a swan neck fine adjustment system on the escapement’s balance cock, a sign of quality construction that allows precise regulation.
The assorted screws, pinions, spindles, and wheels that are not associated with the escapement hail from the brand’s Elwin factory. At Elwin, century-old lathes are used to hand-turn screws of the highest possible quality, and a number of the best watchmakers in Switzerland and Germany rely on Elwin as a supplier. As the owner of Elwin, Parmigiani Fleurier uses only the highest grade screws.
So you see, making a movement like PF 110 requires more than a single watchmaker at his bench.