From restoration workshop to Haute Horlogerie brand
Michel Parmigiani, a young timepiece restorer, opened his traditional watch workshop in Couvet, as the quartz crisis was ravaging the industry. He took the plunge, despite everyone's advice. During the day, he restored antique pieces; in his spare time, he gave free reign to his creativity, dreaming up complex horological pieces.
« Working, as I was during this period, on so many wonders from times gone by, made the idea that traditional watchmaking might disappear absolutely unthinkable to me. Restoration gave me the confidence to pursue my watchmaking dreams, which others claimed were obsolete.»
Michel Parmigiani's company, "Mesure et art du temps" restored important pieces from the Musée Patek Philippe and the Château des Monts. Michel Parmigiani forged a reputation as a watchmaker and restorer of rare talent.
Michel Parmigiani had a decisive encounter with the Sandoz Family Foundation, which owns a priceless collection of automata and clocks: the Collection Edouard and Maurice Sandoz. Michel Parmigiani was entrusted with its maintenance. Discovering his prodigious talents, the Sandoz Family Foundation encouraged him over the years to create his own brand.
The Parmigiani Fleurier brand was created and officially launched at the Beau-Rivage Palace, Lausanne, on 29th May. The intention was to be a brand rich in expert craftsmanship, at the cutting edge of watchmaking. The brand reflects the calibre of Michel Parmigiani's work.
Michel Parmigiani unveiled the Toric QP Retrograde, his first wristwatch for Parmigiani Fleurier. The piece has a bezel with alternating gadroons and knurling, a distinctive style which would go on to become one of the brand's aesthetic hallmarks. The Kalpa Hebdomadaire (formerly “Ionica”) was created, with a rectangular form similar to the “tonneau”. The volumes of this piece — the first of which to be designed by Michel Parmigiani was the profile — are based on the golden number, a harmonious ratio of proportions which has shaped every one of the brand's subsequent creations. The Kalpa Hebdomadaire's mechanism is also a movement focussed on form, closely echoing the contours of the case middle.
The Parmigiani Fleurier watchmaking centre was born. To be able to practise authentic, luxury Haute Horlogerie, meeting the quality criteria so crucial to Michel Parmigiani, the brand had to become a fully independent, vertical manufacture. In May, the Sandoz Family Foundation acquired one the most renowned workshops in the high-end watch case production industry. Renamed Les Artisans Boîtiers, the company is a hub of expert craftsmanship, using cutting-edge technology to manufacture the most complex watch cases.
The nascent Parmigiani Fleurier watchmaking centre acquired a firm which would prove fundamental in creating strategic watch components: Atokalpa. Specialising in the manufacture of trains, pinion and micro-gears, Atokalpa has also dedicated itself to the Herculean task of researching how to manufacture the regulating organ of a watch, a rare accomplishment in the world of watchmaking. Since 2005, the company has been able to manufacture the balance and its balance-spring, the pallet fork and the escapement wheel using industrial methods, having uncovered the exclusive secrets of their production. The company Elwin joined the Parmigiani Fleurier watchmaking centre, consolidating its strength in the domain of strategic watch components. Elwin is a precision bar turning specialist, providing all of the hardware for a mechanical movement – screws, pinions, balance staffs, wheels. The company constructs its own bar turning machinery, developing the Decathlon machines which have since gone on to be one of the greatest innovations in bar turning for watches.
In January 2003, the company Vaucher Manufacture Fleurier was created, becoming the Parmigiani Fleurier watchmaking centre's engineering powerhouse. It specialises in the manufacture of high-end watch movements in the “prestige” segment. Its centre for industrial and artisan production is the heir to Neuchâtel's watchmaking tradition, including CNC cutting and stamping machines, a mechanical workshop, and assembly and decoration studios, where every component is hand-finished as a matter of course. Thanks to its Research and Development department, Vaucher Manufacture Fleurier is capable of creating a prodigious – and ever increasing – range of calibres.
Parmigiani Fleurier signed a partnership with Bugatti, unveiling the Bugatti Type 370, a timepiece which defies all conventions of watchmaking. Assembled along a horizontal axis, and in a tubular formation – evoking a car's engine – the Bugatti Type 370 was a world first, and the best possible illustration of an independent watchmaking centre forging its own history. Michel Parmigiani started a discussion on quality in watchmaking. In conjunction with Bovet Fleurier and Chopard Manufacture, he set up the Fleurier Quality Foundation, in charge of the most stringent certification process in watchmaking.
« Parmigiani's Bugatti collection is a bit like the court jester. It dares to do it all, defies limits and explores the field of possibilities without fearing conventions, or the guillotine. »
The Parmigiani Fleurier watchmaking centre is completed with the creation of Quadrance et Habillage in December, a company specialising in the manufacture of high-end dials. Quadrance et Habillage is the jewel in Parmigiani Fleurier's creative crown. Through the diversity of dials it is able to create, it gives each of the brand's watches its distinctive face. Guilloché work, épargnage, galvanoplasty, transfers, and engraving are just some of the many processes that Quadrance et Habillage employs every day to give the dial its individuality.
The Hermès brand, synonymous with luxury and elegance across the world, seals a partnership in the Haute Horlogerie sector when it becomes a stakeholder in the Parmigiani Fleurier watchmaking centre. From this time, Hermès leather straps are used on Parmigiani Fleurier watches. Parmigiani Fleurier becomes the main partner of the International Hot Air Balloon Festival which takes place in Château d'Œx. The beauty of the mountains seen from the air, dancing to the slow swaying waltz of a balloon, is one of life's unforgettable experiences. Parmigiani Fleurier has since acquired a hot air balloon in the brand's colours, sporting the slogan “Time is Flying”.
The Tonda Hémisphères is unveiled, featuring an impressive dual time function, with each zone adjustable to the nearest minute. The Parmigiani Fleurier collection welcomes its first travel watch. Parmigiani Fleurier joined forces with the Montreux Jazz Festival, building the foundations of a unique alliance between the worlds of watchmaking and music. As the event's Global Partner, Parmigiani Fleurier celebrates the unique atmosphere of the Festival and the renowned quality of its programming.
« Music is like watchmaking: it exists whenever a tempo is set – it becomes sublime only when we devote our heart and soul to it.»
Parmigiani Fleurier unveiled the Tonda 42 Tourbillon, equipped with a 30-second tourbillon, reinforcing the accuracy of this prestigious watch. The Parmigiani Fleurier Collection for Women is born with the introduction of the Kalparisma Nova, a watch for women with the characteristic rectangular shape of the Kalpa family, with refined feminine touches such as the gems set in a constellation, and the tiny star at 6 o'clock which indicates the seconds.
The Bugatti Super Sport, the second representative of the Bugatti family, is brimming with the spectacular character expected of this line of watches. Designed as a cascade, with interconnected mechanical stages, the Bugatti Super Sport is an engine block for the wrist, illustrating once more the vast potential of a fully verticalised watchmaking centre.
To mark Michel Parmigiani's 60th birthday, the Tonda 1950 is unveiled, its name referencing the birth year of the brand's founder. The brand's first ultra-slim watch, it displays the fundamental aesthetic codes designed by Michel Parmigiani.
Parmigiani Fleurier and crystal specialist Lalique unveiled their collaborative piece – the 15-Day table clock. The prodigious technical accomplishment of the movement, combined with the beauty of Lalique's signature crystal work, marked the start of a priceless collaboration.
Inspired by a pocket watch restored by Parmigiani Fleurier, the Ovale Pantographe reproduces the magic of telescopic hands on a wristwatch. The retractable hands expand and collapse, closely mirroring the shape of an oval. Parmigiani Fleurier signed a partnership with the Musée de l’Elysée, dedicated to photography, identifying with the quest for quality and accuracy which characterises this art form. These two names are working together to support the photography of the future, and expand its potential.
« When I was little, my father would say to me “If you learn to look, art will reveal itself.” To me, photography embodies this maxim completely, as its captures a fleeting moment, reflecting the precious nature of passing time. Photography reveals the art in the world which surrounds us. »
Parmigiani Fleurier presents the Tonda 1950 Tourbillon, which reinterprets the elegance of the Tonda 1950 calibre, adding to it the thinnest flying tourbillon in the world. Achieving this feat took a collaboration between all the different entities which make up the watchmaking centre.
Hippologia. A table clock and automaton which fascinates and enthrals spectators each time it is activated. A mare and her foal gallop across the desert, with the kinematics of their stride studied in minute detail to make it as realistic as possible. This unique piece marks a rare convergence of craftsmen from the worlds of watchmaking, automata, crystal work and numerous decorative arts, each adding their own touch of prestige. Parmigiani Fleurier supports the Arcanys Foundation, which seeks to encourage maths education for disadvantaged pre-schoolers in the Philippines. Using a tried-and-tested fun method, and a host of qualified instructors, these uneducated children are learning the basics which will serve them well throughout their lives.
The hotly anticipated Bugatti Type 390 did not disappoint. In fact, it astounded. Featuring a wealth of technical advances, this model defies watchmaking conventions once more, with no fewer than 4 patents awaiting confirmation. A technical achievement which can again be attributed to Parmigiani Fleurier’s fully independent watchmaking centre.