The Parmigiani Fleurier Bugatti Aerolithe Performance Titanium watch is the successor to the Flyback Chronograph we looked at here in 2014. It was an atypical watch from an already “quirky” (in the larger scheme of the watch world) brand, but it really was a cool and unusual piece that managed to also be an everyday wear option for collectors bored with the standard fare luxury chronograph you’ll see on every other wrist. This latest flyback chronograph introduced at SIHH earlier this year takes things up in terms of dial design, laser engraving on the dial and case, titanium body, and overall sleeker looks. While the dial might have aspects I’d have preferred some restraint with, the case style and overall aesthetic culminates in a watch that is a combination of sporty and refined in a way that is uniquely Parmigiani.
What it isn’t, however, is a simple dressed up version of the new Tonda Metrographe, which it does share some case parts with, but with a different movement, and a price tag that’s less than half at around $11,500 (which after handling it, I have to say is not the craziest price). While there is shared DNA, both pieces need to be evaluated on their own relative standards and merits. Also, while the Parmigiani PF Bugatti 390 Concept watch was the more official companion to the Bugatti Chiron, there are some design inspirations and typically vague “associations” between this Aerolithe Performance Titanium watch and the Chiron, in addition to the 1935 Bugatti Type 57 Aerolithe the watch shares its name with.
The first thing you notice about this watch is the dial, there is a lot going on and it’s easy to do a little mental editing to make sense of it at first glance. The double tachymeter scale in red and blue represent km/h and mph respectively with the bezel flange marking the performance of the Bugatti itself. However, it is the “inverted diamond pattern” on the dial that makes the watch have a unique appeal and aesthetic. Parmigiani claims the intricacy required to get this detailed dial work done requires a specific laser technology as other typical methods of doing dial work aren’t capable of achieving this result. The matte black inverted diamond pattern achieved is designed to invoke the interior of the new Bugatti Chiron, and while I can’t really claim authority in verifying that link, I can say that the dial looks textured and remarkably well done.
The chronograph sub-dial at 3 o’clock has its own tachymeter scale with a red and blue hand that also serves as a window. This tachymeter is meant to measure walking pace. The sub-dial at 9 o’clock has two hands, one of which is a seconds hand and the other is for the minutes counter for the chronograph. The circular satin grain pattern on the sub-dials is also done using the laser methods used to create the inverted diamond pattern on the dial. I believe the sub-dial at 3 o’clock is made of three layers, which is remarkably intricate and certainly creates a vibrant textured effect.
Rounding up the dial are the delta shaped hands with lumed tips which manage to stand out among a busy dial and are quite legible as well. I could do without the Bugatti logo, not because I find the cross branding inherently offensive but because it creates the same effect that spoils a lot of the Breitling for Bentley watches for me. The watch almost seems weighed down with branding, and there is literally no room left on the dial between sub-dials, logos, date window, etc.
Fortunately, there is anti-reflective coating on the crystal which allows for great legibility on this watch because a dial with this much going on and poor legibility would be nearly unforgivable at this price point. This being said, there are certain angles with less light in which the hands can blend into the black background of the dial but the lumed tips still stand out well. This isn’t a frequent issue and is much less serious than illegibility in the light.
The lugs and integrated chronograph pushers (located on the left side of the case) are immediately reminiscent of the curves of the 1935 Bugatti Type 57 Aerolithe but more importantly are very aesthetically pleasing and almost sinewy on the wrist. The titanium case measures 41mm wide and 12.7mm thick (with 30M of water resistance) which are pretty ideal proportions considering the thin bezel and dorsal seam inspired lugs. The side of the case is laser engraved with a checkerboard pattern that, along with the strap that has a pattern matching the dial, brings this watch’s attitude and style together in a visually dynamic way. Finally, the deployment clasp differs from the previous iteration by foregoing the red Bugatti logo for a more demure checkered pattern with the Parmigiani logo.
Turning the case around reveals the exhibition case back with a view into the calibre PF 335, which is as attractive and well made as any movement from Parmigiani. This in-house movement is 30.3mm-wide and 6.81mm-thick and operates at 28,800vph and has a 50-hour power reserve. The movement is made of 311 components with 68 jewels and is decorated with Côtes de Genève.
The Parmigiani Fleurier Bugatti Aerolithe Performance Titanium watch is a significant update from the previous iteration with more sophisticated laser engraving work on the case and dial, titanium body, and an overall improved package. While not affordable by any means, Parmigiani has reduced the price from the previous Aerolithe Flyback Chronograph by about $4,000 which, while not bringing this down to a broader price segment, is always good to see in tandem with a significantly improved product. Price for this watch is $22,900. parmigiani.com