Restoration is long and arduous process, yet there’s a whole lot of learning that goes with it. Be it restoring an art piece, a jewelry or a watch—elaborate details require extensive restoration techniques that usually overlap with the creation process itself. A former restorer of horology artefacts, Michel Parmigiani proved that when he founded his own watch brand after gaining skills and expertise on historical timepieces. And he called it Parmigiani Fleurier.
Expertise and craftsmanship
While working in the restoration field, Michel already envisioned Parmigiani Fleurier, the brand where all his extensive knowledge about watchmaking will be poured out into. It was only in 1996 that all his plans came to fruition, but by then it was already a plan that was ready to be excellently executed.
Michel Parmigiani’s expertise left no room for mediocrity in his watch brand—every single watch that they make are all in-house, adding their signature to every part and piece of the timepiece. Added to that is the artistry that comes with the design of the watches, making sure that each one has a unique touch while still remaining very much Parmigiani Fleurier in essence.
The Japanese press finally recognized the brand’s proficiency back in 2006 when Parmigiani Fleurier released its Bugatti 370 driving watch, giving it the Watch of the Year Award. Later on other institutions acknowledge the contribution of the brand to the watchmaking industry, especially in making breakthrough designs, including the thinnest automatic tourbillon flying watch in the world, the Tonda 1950 Tourbillon and the special watch release during the 20th anniversary of the brand, the Tonda Chronor Anniversaire.
With the history of the brand and its founder being rooted on timepiece restoration, Parmigiani Fleurier retained the practice of restoration. Although there’s a high level of difficulty in such craft, the luxury Swiss brand has one-of-a-kind service that enables pieces to come back to life—and the brand’s restoration team does it no matter how long it takes. One of the most major and memorable restoration done by the brand was Hippologia, a representation of ultimate craftsmanship, which Michel himself labelled as “almost impossible to achieve”. Yet Parmigiani Fleurier was able to successfully do it, with the participation of the brand founder himself.
Michel Parmigiani himself admitted that the restoration remains valuable to the brand as it doesn’t only give a wider scope of expertise to the label, but it also inspires the designing and creation process of new pieces as well. Through the techniques applied to restoring certain pieces, the creative process that happens during the conception of a timepiece idea is sometimes powered and given momentum.
Sharing passion with dependable partners
Parmigiani Fleurier’s love of fine artisanship brought it to countless of meaningful partnerships. But the brand have never established any relationship with other brands—they have to have the same innovative thinking, dedication to excellence and level of authenticity. Some of these brand and companies include Hermès, Bugatti, the Arcanys Early Learning Foundation, and many more.
With Bugatti, Parmigiani Fleurier was chosen to partner with the brand after it fulfilled all the necessary criteria for collaboration. Bugatti recognized the harmony of forms and unique designs of the brand, and since 2004 they have been making the Bugatti collection, featuring the watch version of some of Bugatti’s cars. On the other hand, with Hermes, it was Parmigiani Fleurier who had often reached out to the brand, to get leather straps that would fit perfectly with its watch designs. By 2016, the Hermes Group already became a stake holder for the brand, combining both of the strong suits of the two brands, including attention to detail, refined quality, and overall craftsmanship.
High-end through and through
After a few decades in the industry of watchmaking, Parmigiani Fleurier seeks to refocus its concepts in order to keep up with the changing times. They have long produced lifestyle pieces, and the path for them now is a bit different from what they’re used to. According to the founder himself, the brand would concentrate even more on high-end and bespoke pieces. It’s not that they haven’t done excellently in their pieces, but they aim to exceed what they are currently doing to really bring exceptional pieces out into the world.
Part of their efforts include the release of the integrated chronograph, a novelty piece that shows the technical know-how of the brand. In all of these, they will focus on delivery outstanding quality that will elevate the brand’s pieces further.
Swiss luxury brands often share one thing in common—longevity. Many of them have begun as humble horologers and have cultivated centuries’ worth of expertise. Indeed, there is something to be gained from experience that cannot be achieved with just anything else. However, it will be foolhardy to dismiss a brand just because it doesn’t check this particular mark, especially if the brand is anything like Parmigiani Fleurier.
Parmigiani Fleurier is among the younger brands taking part in the highly respected industry of watchmaking. Founded only in 1996, it was not even a game changer from the start. And yet, in its short existence, it already took many steps ahead to be at par with highly valued Swiss brands. It is also one of the few companies that stays true to the claim of building all its parts in-house, which not every luxury brand can boast of doing.
The horologer behind the name
Parmigiani Fleurier takes its name after two separate entities. There’s Michel Parmigiani, the expert and the foundation of the company together with the Sandoz Family Foundation, and Fleurier, the place where the company had its roots.
While Parmigiani Fleurier’s official history begins in 1996, it can be set two decades earlier if we consider Michel Parmigiani’s start in the industry. Parmigiani didn’t become the master craftsman that he was overnight. It took some work on his part, which began in the midst of the quartz crisis that left already established companies bankrupt. He decided that he would, in his capacity, continue one of the country’s most prized heritage. He faced plenty of opposition as the times weren’t ideal, but it was a love that he couldn’t let go.
Parmigiani started his own workshop and dedicated his energy to watch restoration. It was not long after that he has earned the recognition of colleagues and watch collectors. Five years into the business, he met Pierre Landolt, the Sandoz Family Foundation’s president, after being summoned to maintain the Maurice-Yves Sandoz collection. It was a relationship that grew with respect and admiration, and a few years later led to the establishing of Parmigiani Fleurier. Knowing the heights that it reached today, one would be surprised to know that Michel Parmigiani did not anticipate it at all. He was committed to doing everything in-house, but he did not imagine that he would be working on a larger scale that he initially expected.
Perhaps in order to make up for its short history and fast leap into becoming an esteemed luxury brand, Parmigiani Fleurier is strictly committed to bringing the best there is, whether it may be in the aesthetics or the mechanisms that serve as foundation of its timepieces. It also has an air of authenticity by not veering away from Michel Parmigiani’s original passion—the restoration of masterpieces. The pieces of exception, as the company calls them on its website, include the Hippologia, a clock that has over 2200 components; the Dragon and the Pearl of Wisdom, which uses jade, silver and gold, and is an homage to the Chinese Year of the Dragon; and the Le Jour et La Nuit clock, a poetic piece encased in Lalique crystal.
For its collections, there are currently five from the Swiss luxury brand: Kalpa, Tonda, Pershing, Toric and Bugatti. The Kalpa is different from the rest for its watches that showcase a rectangular shape, while Tonda has the largest of the brand’s ranges. Toric is memorable for being the first timepiece for the company, while Pershing and Bugatti collections were born out of Parmigiani Fleurier’s partnerships with the luxury yacht and car manufacturers.
A young leader in watchmaking
It is because of its independence that Parmigiani Fleurier can focus on watch restoration and manufacture all of its components, as Michel Parmigiani originally envisioned. Craftsmen work together with engineers as well as artisans to produce admirable pieces that uphold the legacy of Swiss watchmaking. There are no limitations in the direction the company may take, especially after its mastery in the making of watch components. It owes to this setup that Parmigiani Fleurier is free to invent its own style, whether it features complex or straightforward complications.
Parmigiani Fleurier may not have a hundred or so years in its history, but it still is a leader in Swiss watchmaking for its advocacy to keep the tradition alive. It has some of the best talents in the industry who pay respect to the past and are determined to bring the heritage to the future.