Watches: Parmigiani Fleurier Bugatti Aerolithe Flyback Chronograph Collection

By Thierry Ané on March 4, 2014

The watch industry overflows with examples of collaborations with car manufacturers. The association between the two worlds is undoubtedly easy to make and many watch brands are eager to reclaim the values of this world full of engines, exclusive designs, masculinity and luxury. More often than not, though, most of the efforts are spent on marketing rather than on designing a product with a clear automotive lineage.

This is certainly not the path that Swiss luxury brand Parmigiani Fleurier has taken for its long-lasting collaboration with Bugatti, the French high-end car manufacturer. Since the beginning of this fruitful partnership, Parmigiani Fleurier has spared no effort to introduce timepieces worthy, in terms of design, of the cars they are supposed to evoke.

The Bugatti Vitesse or the Bugatti Super Sport, to name but two, prove that the Fleurier-based manufacture never made do with adding an extra logo to the dial: they always went the extra mile to introduce models as impressive as the cars with the same names, both aesthetically and technically.

Designed as a tribute to the futuristic Bugatti Type 57 Aerolithe from 1935, the new “Bugatti Aerolithe Flyback Chronograph” is perhaps the most sober-looking Bugatti model so far, but it remains nonetheless a thoughtful homage to this legendary car.

Perhaps the most distinctive feature of the Aerolithe car is the rivet that goes from the front to the rear end of the car and enhances its streamlined look. The sketch above illustrates how Parmigiani Fleurier managed to reproduce this unusual design on each of the four lugs of the watch. Elongated, with a slender profile and this slightly curved dorsal edge on the lugs, the case beautifully echoes the captivating curves of the car. Crafted in titanium with a white gold bezel, this 41 mm case, with a thickness of just 12.55 mm, alternates mirror-polished and finely brushed surfaces. Another successful design touch that is worth mentioning here is the perfectly integrated chronograph push-pieces that the brand placed on the left hand side for easier use. As a nice last nod to the world of Bugatti, the folding buckle looks like the front hood and grille of a Bugatti car.

The watch houses the in-house PF 335 flyback chronograph. This self-winding movement offers 50 hours of power reserve and features elegant “Côtes de Genève” decorations and a nicely hollowed rotor that are visible through the sapphire case back.

Two versions are available, both extremely appealing. The first model exhibits a magnificent Abyss Blue dial while the second version features a rather unusual Crème de Menthe colour (a very pale mint green). Legibility is perfect on both models with a small seconds counter at 9 o’clock, a unique 30-minute chronograph counter at 3 o’clock for a nice symmetry and an arc-shaped date window at 6 o’clock. Both dials are equally beautiful and boast three different finishes for a multi-layer look: the outer dial receives a circular sunray pattern, the centre is matte and the counters are snailed. On both models, the time of the day is indicated by delta-shaped white gold hands while the chronograph functions are displayed by red contrasting hands.

The Abyss Blue model is paired with grained abyss blue calfskin leather strap with tone-on-tone stitches, offset by vivid red sides and a red lining. The Crème de Menthe version is fitted with grained light brown calfskin leather with white stitches that complements nicely the dial’s colour. As always with this brand, the straps are made by Hermès.

I saw both models at the SIHH and I honestly can’t say which one I prefer. Although blue is a colour I truly appreciate on watches, this “Crème de Menthe” is extremely elegant and clearly in line with the brand’s DNA (Parmigiani Fleurier has never been afraid of presenting unusual, colourful yet tasteful dial for the gent’s models. A rare quality…). One thing is certain though: both watches are a stunning homage to this legendary Aerolithe car and I am sure you will truly enjoy wearing it, should you decide to buy one.