A ground-breaking watch for a record-breaking car.


When watch companies and car companies collaborate, the results vary from well-considered to frustratingly lazy. Just a logo on the dial smacks of the latter, whereas the incorporation of automotive design cues throughout the case, dial, and strap gives a better feeling of mutual intent and value. The Parmigiani Fleurier Bugatti Type 370 watch may only have the car brand’s logo on the dial, but the rest of the watch shares the sheer audacity of the car it was designed to partner with, the Bugatti Veyron.

From the first tentative sketch in 1997 to the Veyron’s launch in 2005, nothing about the Veyron was to be ordinary. Channelling the ambition of Ettore Bugatti’s 1926 Royale, Volkswagen Group, Bugatti’s new owners, wanted a car that could break 250 mph with an astonishing 1000 bhp. Critics were sceptical, but the Veyron came good on both aims making it the fastest and most powerful production car in the world. To achieve such performance, the quad-turbocharged 8.0-litre W16 engine boasted no less than 10 separate radiators, three for engine coolant, two for air conditioning, one for the intercooler and one each for the four different oil reservoirs. The development budget of the car was huge given the highly bespoke components needed for virtually every system. It is understood that the VW Group lost around $5 million on each car sold given the development costs involved.

For a car like this, no ordinary watch collaboration would do. Something as revolutionary as the Veyron was needed. Back in the early 2000s, avant-garde movement designs were in their infancy and most of the industry was still getting to grips with the pivot back from quartz to mechanical. Michel Parmigiani launched his own watchmaking company in 1996 and in 2004 signed a partnership deal with Bugatti to produce something equally as bespoke as the Veyron. What he created was the Type 370, a world-first with a 10-day power reserve, manually wound movement arranged along a single axis. Inspired by a car’s gearbox, the movement was a series of stacked plates arranged across the wrist with the dial on the side – a true ‘Driver’s Watch'. The mechanism could be viewed through a sapphire window along the top of the case and the balance filled an aperture at the far end.

Time setting and winding were done through two specially shaped sockets on the underside of the watch. To ease the winding of the twin barrels, a special mechanical pen was included in the box that could do the job automatically. The watch, like the car, was a hit with the critics, winning ‘Watch of the year’ in 2006. A masterpiece of complexity it may be, but the curved case hugs the wrist making it supremely comfortable to wear.

The Parmigiani – Bugatti partnership lasted for ten years and covered a number of variants of the side-view driver’s watch. As a swansong, three unique versions of the original Type 370 were created each retailing for over £300,000.