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King Charles III's Coronation watch flex will be seriously grail-worthy

King Charles III's Coronation watch flex will be seriously grail-worthy

As the final preparations are made for the coronation of King Charles III, the big question that most certainly won’t be on everyone’s lips is: I wonder what watch he’ll be wearing?

But for those of us who unashamedly call ourselves ‘watch geeks’, it will be a subject of intrigue and, when the big moment arrives, a considerable amount of pausing and zooming-in.

Even at this late stage, probably only King Charles III himself will know what he’ll strap to his wrist come Saturday's big Coronation (if anything at all) – but if a watch is to make an appearance, our money is on his beloved Parmigiani Fleurier Toric Chronograph.

It has caused excitement in the past when spotted peeking-out from beneath the cuff of one of his impeccable Anderson and Sheppard suits, such as the time he met Barack Obama at the White House in 2015, and on that magical day five years ago when Harry and Meghan were betrothed.

But even the memory of that hasn’t put the King off wearing his Parmigiani Fleurier, because it has since made multiple public appearances, not least at the late Queen’s Platinum Jubilee a year ago and again on 10 September when he donned it for the signing of the Proclamation.

The story behind Charles' favourite watch

The good people at Parmigiani Fleurier politely declined to comment on King Charles III’s obvious love of the watch on the basis that he had bought it of his own volition and that they would not wish to appear to be capitalising on his role as an unofficial ‘brand ambassador’.

But how he acquired the watch has been well documented: it came from a now-defunct Parmigiani retailer in Klosters, the ‘up-market’ Swiss ski resort long favoured by the King and where, in 2005, a television microphone caught him describing the BBC’s unctuous Royal Correspondent Nicholas Witchell as ‘so awful’. King Charles had bought the watch a few years earlier, clearly demonstrating both his well-known appreciation for craftsmanship and a degree of horological foresight.

Parmigiani only launched in 1996 and was barely known of – but its eponymous founder (a genius clock and watch restorer backed by the vastly wealthy Sandoz Foundation) subsequently emerged as one of the star watchmakers of the era whose discreet and impeccably-finished creations flew in the face of an emerging trend for big, brash wristwear.

The Toric line formed the foundation of the brand, and the fact that King Charles’s rare chronograph model (long since discontinued) has often been cited for its ‘elegance’ and ‘understatement’ certainly fits well with its owner’s image. But there could be something more behind his choice.

It’s a little-known fact that Parmigiani had two careers in mind when he was starting out on adult life in the mid-1970s: one was watch-making, the other was architecture. It was a close-run thing but, to the benefit of the watch world, he chose the former. Parmigiani’s knowledge and love of architecture has, however, never waned – and he used the name ‘Toric’ for his first collection because of its root in the architectural word ‘torus’, meaning a convex moulding of the type found at the base of a classical column.

King Charles’s interest in architecture has also been well documented since the late 1980s, when he used a BBC documentary, a V&A exhibition and an accompanying book to rail against the horrors of modern building styles, most famously describing a proposed extension to the National Gallery as “a monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much-loved and elegant friend”.

Parmigiani Fleurier watches are grail worthy

It seems likely, therefore, that he appreciates all the classical references on his Toric Chronograph, from the fluted, double-stepped case (front and back) to the Roman numerals, engine-turned dial and exquisitely-finished, heavily upgraded Zenith El Primero movement – complete with Parmigiani’s own oval ‘PF’ hallmark on its meticulously engraved rotor.

Throughout its 27-year history, Parmigiani has remained a low-volume producer. Its watches are rare but are often undervalued on the pre-owned market – back in 2016, Bonhams sold a yellow gold Toric chronograph in immaculate condition for just £4,000, all-in.

Since the King’s example has been spotted in the wild, however, such bargains are no more. “The fact that King Charles has been seen wearing his Toric so often has already put values up,” says Bonhams watch expert Jonathan Darracott.

“He has certainly given the brand a boost, but it remains a relatively obscure name that few people are aware of – yet, when I was at watchmaking school, our tutor told us that there were only two true geniuses in the business at the time: one was F.P Journe, the other was Michel Parmigiani.

“If anyone is thinking of buying a pre-owned watch from a more generic brand, I would say it is definitely worth re-considering and looking at a Parmigiani Toric .

“They are rare, they are interesting, they are elegant, they are beautifully finished – and probably still undervalued,” adds Darracott.

It sounds like a watch fit for a king's coronation.

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