In 2004 Parmigiani’s Bugatti Type 370 wowed the watch world with its horizontal, engine block-inspired movement layout. Fast-forward to 2010 and its wow time again at Parmigiani. WatchTime attended the launch of the wild new Super Sport, fittingly held during Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance weekend. We have exclusive photos of the launch, the watch, and the latest Bugatti Veyron whose name it shares.
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Genesis, and the Veyron
The story begins in 2009. The last of the original Parmigiani Bugatti Type 370s have been spoken for. Bugatti approached Parmigiani and said “We must do something very special for our 100th anniversary. It’s next year.”
Bringing an amazing new watch to market in one year sounds impossible, and for most watch brands, it would be, but Parmigiani had two advantages. First, some work had already been done on a new movement, so the project did not start from absolute zero. Second, and of greater significance, Parmigiani is one of the very few watch manufacturers in the world that makes every mechanical part in their watches, not to mention their own cases, dials and hands. In fact, they make everything except the crystal and the strap. This means they are not captive to third-party limitations and delivery schedules. They possess the entire means to move as far, and as fast, as their imaginations can take them. On this project, that capability proved decisive.
Parmigiani’s movement manufacture, and the original Bugatti Type 370
Parmigiani put 40 of their best people on the project. The result is the Parmigiani Bugatti Super Sport. The name is taken from the latest, fastest, most outrageous Veyron, a car that was outrageousness-squared to begin with. Where regular Veyrons have 1001 horsepower, the Super Sport adds another 200. It leaves F1 race cars in the dust. In June, a Veyron Super Sport captured the world land speed record for production cars at 431 kph or 267 mph.
Generating these face-flattening speeds presented Bugatti’s engineers with, as they say on Top Gear, a series of challenges. For example, the massive mid-mounted, 16 cylinder, quad-turbo engine should have its own nuclear cooling tower, but that is not really practical, so Bugatti opted for 10 radiators. As we shall see, Parmigiani faced a similar series of engineering challenges developing the Super Sport’s namesake timepiece.
A Veyron for the Wrist
Parmigiani’s Super Sport is, as it should be, a driver’s watch. That means it is physically laid out so the time can be easily read by a driver while his hand is on the steering wheel. Most so-called driver’s watches simply rotate the movement in the case to create a more favorable orientation. Parmigiani took a far more extreme, far more difficult tact: the dial is located on the side of a radically-shaped case.
Aesthetically, the case approaches perfection. The shape mimics the best automotive design (or even airplane design), because it looks fast sitting still. A cross-section of the case brings to mind an airplane wing, and the overall shape is reminiscent of the teardrop bodies on those beautiful, early, land-speed record holders. The broad edge creates a plane on which the dial can be oriented so that it faces a driver with his hands on the wheel. The sapphire-covered top of the case provides a window overlooking the groundbreaking power-source beneath.
Like the movement, the case is made by Parmigiani, fashioned from 18k white gold. Two of the lugs are articulated to ensure a comfortable fit. Not one, or two, but six sapphire crystals satisfy even the most ardent horological voyeurs, providing views of the engine from all sides. Any watch associated with the Veyron Super Sport must present compelling aesthetics. Parmigiani’s Super Sport delivers.