Legendary Swiss watchmaker Michel Parmigiani and French automobile designer Ettore Bugatti have both been hailed as visionaries and with good reason. Bugatti, who founded the marque that bears his name in 1909, was a man ahead of his time and would have relished the partnership between Bugatti and Parmigiani that flourishes today in the form of some of the world's most beautiful watches.
The newest collaboration between the two brands, the Bugatti Aérolithe Performance watch, is both a tribute to the eye-popping Chiron, Bugatti's latest multimillion-dollar supercar, and the heritage of the Bugatti brand that literally broke the mold – and many records–by designing cars that set new standards for sports and luxury vehicles, not merely conforming to old ones.
Parmigiani Fleurier and Bugatti first joined forces in 2001 when the revived Bugatti marque was seeking a truly exceptional timepiece partner for its new Veyron concept car. Just as the Veyron was both ultra-modern and an homage to Bugatti's history, Parmigiani was known for both creating cutting-edge timepieces and restoring horological masterpieces.
Bugatti gave Parmigiani Fleurier carte blanche to create timepieces beyond the scope of most watch brands, using advanced methods and materials that had never before been used in watchmaking, just as the Veyron exploded the very idea of what a supercar could be with an unheard-of output of 1,000 hp and a million-dollar price tag.
Parmigiani Fleurier's first watch for the partnership was the Bugatti type 370 with a revolutionary stepped movement, followed by the Bugatti Atalante, the brand's first Flyback chronograph; the Bugatti Super Sport, with a 90° time display; the Bugatti Aérolithe, inspired by a famous 1935 Bugatti model; and three pieces celebrating the tenth anniversary of the partnership: the Bugatti Mythe, Révélation and Victoire.
The newest piece, unveiled at SIHH, the Bugatti Aérolithe Performance, also takes inspiration from the original Aérolithe car, designed by Ettore's son Jean, but incorporates elements evocative of the new $2.6 million Chiron as well. It features a case made entirely from titanium, which required the use of laser technology to apply finishes beyond the capability of conventional machining.
Everything about the stunning watch expresses speed and style, starting with the double tachymeter with km/h indications in red and mph in blue. The Veyron Super Sport remains the holder of the record for World's Fastest Production Car with a top speed of 431.1 km/h or 267.9 mph, and a version of the Chiron will likely be the only car to surpass it. The top speed of the original Aérolithe remains unknown as it was never been properly tested.
The Bugatti Aérolithe Performance also features an inverted diamond point pattern on the intermediate ring underneath the crown and pushers, while the exterior of the dial was laser sand-blasted, with the counters at 3 and 9 o’clock finished with a circular satin grain also achieved with lasers. The lugs feature the dorsal seam of the Aérolithe car, and the strap bears an embossed pattern inspired by the Chiron’s quilted upholstery.
Bugatti calls the Chiron the most powerful, fastest, most luxurious and most exclusive production super sports car in the world. None of it could have been achieved without the early success of cars like the Aérolithe. And there is no more fitting tribute to over a century of power, luxury, speed, and style than the Aérolithe Performance, which looks like its hitting 200 mph even while strapped to your wrist....