At the turn of the century, legendary automotive manufacturer, Bugatti, found itself at a crossroads. The brand, known unparalleled excellence, wanted to find the appropriate watch company with which to create an alliance. Of course, said timepiece brand would have to possess a certain skillset; a laundry list of ticked boxes in terms of technical prowess and artistic execution with a highly designed and elegant aesthetic. Another major point of priority was that the brand would have the capability to produce by way of independent manufacturing, thus allowing for a creative freedom not always enjoyed by watch companies. The choice was clear. By 2004, Bugatti had entered into a marriage with Parmigiani Fleurier and since, the twosome have birthed a collection of elegantly crafted timepieces that are more cars “reborn in watch form,” than they are your traditional branded timepieces.
Each timepiece, unique in its execution, bears a wrist-sized resemblance to the vehicle it is meant to pay homage [to]; and as such, collectors across the globe turn to Parmigiani Fleurier to be the icing on the proverbial cake that is to be a Bugatti owner. It is through the ownership of both, freestanding but perfectly paired pieces of machinery, that the collection is complete.
The Bugatti Veyron was the first of the Bugatti-branded family members to inspire Parmigiani Fleurier to break molds. In 2004 the watch manufacturer released a design so unique in its visual quality that it was quite literally likened to an engine block to be worn on the wrist. Completely tubular in its shape, the Bugatti 370 as it was dubbed, told time laterally. The wearer could tell time, while he drove. It was with this forward-thinking approach to design, the Parmigiani Fleurier took a page out of automotive mechanics, building the piece on a transverse axis as opposed to assembling the parts on the flat surface of a single main plate, as is customary. What’s more, the tubular mechanism consists of no fewer than five main plates that communicate to tell time by no less than a drive shaft, exactly in-step with the way an automotive engine would behave. The 370 set the precedence for what would be and continues to stand strong as a strong cross-industry partnership.
Keeping in the tradition of the Bugatti-Parmigiani partnership and its lauded tubular timepieces, the Bugatti Super Sport was born. Eponymously named after the racing car that inspired it, the timepieces breeds a need for speed. Donning a power reserve meant to mimic a fuel gauge, train wheels likening a wheel rim and silhouette contours resembling the actual car, it’s the closest representation of the automobile come to life as a vehicle.
And there’s more to the love story than tubular casings and mutually shared names, the execution of building has been mirrored on both ends, as well. The perfect example exists with the Bugatti Aerolithe–though shortlived, the 1935 release of the Aerolithe was well known for the futuristic bodytype that it so beautifully owned due in part to the light and strong magnesium alloy employed in the creation of its structure. Unfortunately, the material was also incredibly flammable, hindering its ability to be soldered; but there was no stopping Bugatti–the automotive genius riveted the longitudinal pieces together using a backbone-like structure. In 2013 Parmigiani Fleurier took that approach to heart when creating the honorary Aerolithe timepiece, a flyback chronograph that employed four lugs and two push buttons shapped to form an edge that summons a likeness to the cars riveted bodywork.
Most recently, on the occassion of the 2016 Geneva International Motor Show, Parmigiani Fleurier set a new milestone for the partnership. While Bugatti released its Chiron super car, considered a technical marvel of unrivaled power, the associated timpiece, the PF-Bugatti 390 Concept Watch was similarly unveiled. Tubular and perfectly concentric in shape, the timepiece is also functional, boasting an engine that can be removed from its receptacle. This piece represents a new generation for the longstanding partnership that promises to continue to keep time, for a long time.