Some watches are destined for mechanical greatness, but few transcend that level to achieve what the horological world calls the the Qualité Fleurier certification. As the only type of qualification in the industry that puts the entire watch through its paces — rather than just the movement — it’s one of Switzerland’s best kept secrets, and a very expensive one at that. The latest watch to join this league of extraordinary timepieces is Parmigiani Fleurier’s new Toric Qualité Fleurier.
Being the first watch designed by Michel Parmigiani, the Toric badge has always been special, one that’s only reserved for the brand’s most complex pieces. So confident is Parmigiani of his favourite watch, that he sent the latest iteration deep into the picturesque town of Fleurier in Switzerland’s Val-de-Travers, where the Fleurier Quality Foundation has been establishing new hallmarks in watchmaking excellency for the past 14 years.
The five-step process subjects the timepiece to up to six weeks of rigorous testing, evaluating not only the watch’s movement and its reliability, but also the craftsmanship of every single component.
To ensure legitimacy and impartiality, the Qualité Fleurier dictates that a certain number of timepieces from each model must be ‘sacrificed’ to undergo testing, a quantity that can reach up to 10 percent of a limited edition run. The five-step process subjects the timepieces to up to six weeks of rigorous testing, evaluating not only the reliability of the movement, but also its craftsmanship. To qualify, the watch has to be completely manufactured in Switzerland, and every single component has to be verified with a certificate of origin.
The next step is a comparably superficial one, as the watch’s aesthetics and finishing are scrutinised before being christened ‘haute horlogerie’. Avant-garde materials must be used — this includes high-grade ceramic or precious metals — and must be decorated manually or mechanically in a way that reflects the savoir-faire of the brand. This is also where they search for any signs of flaws.
Then it’s up to the Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres (COSC) to certify their precision and accuracy, before being whisked off to an independent laboratory for the chronofiable durability test. Here, the watches’ movements are exposed to the equivalent of six months of wear to evaluate its resistance to shock, water, and magnetism — amongst many others.
Like the best video games, the Fleurier Quality Foundation has saved its biggest enemy for last. Developed exclusively for the organisation, the Fleuritest machine is a computerised simulator that will recreate the movements of an entire nycthemeral cycle, which can vary between calm phases such as the casual swinging of an arm to active ones like running or even putting on a coat. At the end of it, only a variation in rate between 0 and +5 seconds per day will earn the watch the ultimate glory of the Qualité Fleurier certification.
As you’d expect, this pricey undertaking means that consumers end up with a price tag much higher than usual. The Toric Qualité Fleurier is a S$33,000 masterpiece that looks deceptively ordinary from far, but at close range you’ll notice the exquisite hand-guilloched dial in Parmigiani’s specialty rice grain pattern. Above that sits solid gold appliqués and javelin-shaped hands, while the bezel sports the iconic knurling technique that’s been hand-crafted by artisans since 1997.
The watch will be available in either a red gold or 18k white gold case spanning 40.8 mm in diameter, and is paired with an elegant Hermès leather strap. The three-hand and date function is powered by the PF331-QF automatic movement that offers a respectable 55 hours of power reserve.