Enter the dragon

It seems to be becoming de rigueur for Parmigiani Fleurier to thrill horology fans with a state-of-the-art clock each year at the SIHH. Last year, founder Michel Parmigiani unveiled a mechanical clock based on the Islamic Hegirian calendar - the first of its kind - which tells the time over a lunar cycle of 30 years. The inspiration for the piece came from a Renaissance pocket watch with a simple Islamic calendar that Parmigiani had been restoring in 1984.

With the Year of the Dragon this year, there is little need to ask where the inspiration for Parmigiani's 2012 presentation - Le Dragon et la Perle du Savoir, The Dragon and the Pearl of Wisdom - comes from.

At a whopping US$3.5 million, the clock was the most ostentatious of the dragon-inspired timepieces at SIHH 2012. The clock reinterprets the old Chinese legend of the carp, which managed to defy the odds to swim upstream to the Dragon's Gate and was turned into a dragon. The clock sits on a rock crystal base, with the standing dragon sculpted in 18ct gold with a belly made of sterling silver. The dragon is fully formed and its claws are seen reaching for the pearl that sits at the base. The dragon makes one full turn an hour in pursuit of the elusive pearl, which escapes its clutches six times an hour, setting off a gong each time.

Parmigiani has infused in the lucky number nine, representing longevity, into many of the clock's elements. The dragon comes from the head of a camel, the eyes of a demon, the ears of a cow, the antlers of a deer, the neck of a snake, the paws of a tiger, the claws of an eagle, the belly of a mollusc, the scales of a mollusc and the mane and beard of a lion. The dragon, which is made from hand-forged silver and set with gold scales, is inset by more than 150 kinds of gemstones. It also has 585 scales, a number divisible by nine.

The clock's movement is visible through the transparent base, with the silver ring showing the 12 Chinese hours - each Chinese hour is equivalent to two hours. The clock took close to 6,000 hours of meticulous work by artisans from 22 professions.

Parmigiani Fleurier launched another important special edition at the SIHH, the Tonda 1950, in a nod to founder Michel Parmigiani's year of birth. The 39mm titanium case maintains the Tonda's usual clean lines and houses the ultra-thin in-house calibre PF701 movement, offering a power reserve of 42 hours. What makes the Tonda 1950 stand out is the "Grille" dial, which subtly reveals glimpses of the gear train. The piece comes in a limited set of 60.

On the complication front, the brand unveiled the Tonda Retrograde Annual Calendar. The development of this new complication adds new modules to the brand's PF 331 automatic movement, creating the PF 339 Annual Calendar, housed in a 40mm case of either rose or white gold. There is an option of either a yellow silvered graining or a black barley grain dial.

The automatic model of the Tonda Retrograde Annual Calendar features a hand, which indicates the date from 1-31, on the retrograde sector on the outer dial. The month, shown as a number from 1 to 12, is at 3 o'clock and the day of the week is positioned at 9 o'clock. The watch only requires one correction every 120 years, which helps reduce the discrepancy between a classic lunar cycle (29 days and 12 hours) and the actual lunar cycle (29 days, 12 hours, 44 minutes and 2.8 seconds). A subdial at 6 o'clock indicates the moon in the northern and southern hemisphere.

Parmigiani is also upping the ante for women with an all-steel version of the Kalparisma. The watch comes in a tonneau-shaped case, measuring 37.50mm x 31.20mm, with a brilliant-cut diamond setting on two lateral sides of the bezel, and features a "sunray" guilloche dial.

The Kalparisma steel model reveals a self-winding movement for the hours and minutes, with a subdial at 6 o'clock showing the small second hand and date. The watch has a 55-hour power reserve.

"I think this year's collection offers a good view of the different segments we are aiming for," says Parmigiani Fleurier CEO Jean-Marc Jacot. "We have the more affordable timepieces at between Euro7,000 and Euro45,000 (HK$70,938 and HK$456,535) for the entry level and we're catering to the haute sophisticate segment with more complicated watches. And, of course, the third segment is objet d'art such as the dragon clock.

"Parmigiani is moving in the right direction. We continue to invest, to improve and to increase the size of the products. We've just finalised the verticalisation of the company. We have our own production units for every component of our watches, which is good for us because we are totally independent."

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