PARMIGIANI FLUERIER VISIT – ELLA AND LUISA
Parmigiani Fleurier is an artisanal luxury watch brand based in the watchmaking hub of the world, Switzerland. The brand originated from the art of restoration, driven by expert Michel Parmigiani.
Whilst Michel was working on a restoration project for the prestigious Sandoz Foundation, an initiative was formed to create an entirely new brand as a joint effort between the Sandoz Family and Michel Parmigiani.
Valletta Branch Manager, Ella and St. Julians Sales and Marketing Assistant, Luisa went to the Parmigiani Fleurier Headquarters to learn more about the brand, discover the latest collections and identify the truly unique qualities of the brand itself.
What did you do during your visit to the Parmigiani Fleurier Headquarters in Switzerland?
During our visit to Switzerland, we visited the three sectors that form the Parmigiani Fleurier Headquarters.
Vaucher – the factory where Parmigiani Fleurier manufactures their movements, the Restoration Atelier and the Swiss Headquarters of the brand – La Maison Parmigiani, nestled in the crisp Swiss mountains.
Parmigiani Fleurier is one of the few luxury watch brands that makes all of their components in-house, why was it important for Michel to do this?
It was expressed many a time that Michel Parmigiani is a perfectionist in everything that he sets out to do. He doesn’t just create a watch for the fun it, he manufactures each one to be better than the last, to keep challenging not only himself and his employees but also the market.
He is so rich in ideas that he channels it through the masterpieces his company manufactures. By making all of their components in-house, they have full control over the quality and production of their movements, and ultimately their timepieces.
It was also explained to us that by acquiring the various companies producing different parts of the watch, they are in complete control of their supply – ensuring only the highest quality of every part of their watches.
Each watch made by Parmigiani is said to take at least 400 hours to construct, why is it such a lengthy process?
The beautiful thing about all Parmigiani Fleurier watches is that there is so much more than what meets the eye.
The level of work and detail that goes into producing, polishing and designing each individual part that makes up the watch is more than anyone can imagine.
At the Parmigiani Fleurier event, which Edwards Lowell hosted last March, Michel himself explained that he doesn’t just design watches for the end consumers – he also designs beautiful movements inside the watch so that any other watchmaker having to work on a Parmigiani Fleurier watch throughout history, will find a work of art in itself when they open up the watch – highlighting his restoration roots.
It is time consuming for the simple reason that every piece that makes up the watch is polished to perfection, even though in reality it doesn’t need to be, there is no one part of the watch that has a sharp right angle, but every edge is angled at 45 degrees.
They have a variety of polishing techniques (using sand paper, tree branches etc.) and they have a variety of different designing techniques, resulting in every part of the Parmigiani watch being decorated to perfection. It is extremely detailed work which each and every watchmaker has so much patience towards.
The RESTORATION ATELIER
The origins of the brand are rooted in restoration, what struck you about your visit to the restoration buildings?
The Restoration Atelier was a pleasure to visit, the building itself must have been restored, which is something that the Sandoz Foundation occasionally does.
It was interesting to see the restoration workshop and meet one of the brands youngest restorers, Francis Rossignol. He spoke very passionately to us about the work that he and his colleagues do. In order to become a restorer, one must go through 6 years of watch making training, followed 4 years of restoration training.
He explained how they receive pieces, which could be many a century old – with no idea where they are from, how they were made and how they work. There is no instruction manual. Therefore before restoring each piece, they must research as much as possible (books, internet etc.) in order to find out any little detail they can.
Throughout the research and restoration process, the restorers are constantly taking photos and writing notes in order to document the work done which is, in turn, reproduced in a book format for them to keep in their archives in the off-chance that they receive another similar piece to restore in the future.
While at the Restoration Atelier, we saw an incredible piece which they restored – this was a decorative piece which was placed at the top of a cane and once activated, the top would open and a song bird would come out chirping and singing with its beak moving and wings flapping. It was such a joy to see.
Is the influence of restoration apparent in new models released by the brand?
There is evidence of restoration throughout the brand, through some of its designs, some of the movements and sometimes simply the inspiration behind the piece.
The model where this is most evident in all aspects is the ‘Ovale Pantographe’ – inspired by the oval watch with telescopic hands which entered the Parmiginai Fleurier restoration workshop in 1997, created by English jewellers Vardon and Stedman.
What’s so special about this piece, is that the telescopic hands glide around the oval shaped dial expanding and retracting as they move. It so unique and unlike anything else on the market. It is thanks to Michel Parmigiani’s background in restoration which led to such a piece being recreated for today’s market.
The ‘Pieces of Exception’ are truly one-of-a-kind, taking many hundreds of hours to create by many different teams of crafstmen. Why do you think Parmigiani produces these pieces?
I think the company produces these pieces because they have the knowledge, skill and expertise to be able to do so. Within these pieces, there is a strong influence of diverse cultures and histories of time, and ultimately the art of watchmaking.
They use methods which are otherwise lost and long forgotten in order to create these masterpieces. These ‘Pieces of Exception’ are the result of crossing works of art with watchmaking and ultimately creating timepieces which are completely unique.
LA MAISON PARMIGIANI
When visiting the Maison, what were your favourite collections to see?
My favourite collection is the ‘Kalpa’ range – Kalpa Donna, Kalpa Piccola and Kalparisma – are just a few different models within that range.
I liked the female version of this model most, due to its tonneau shape which is characteristic of the collection. Its elongated shape and ever so slightly curved case makes it very comfortable to wear and sits nicely on ones wrist, no matter the size.
The other which I liked was the very original ‘Transforma’ collection. A very simple looking watch, however it can be easily transformed from a wristwatch, to a fob watch and a clock. It is truly a chameleon piece.
Parmigiani Fleurier is an ever-expanding brand, what is next for the brand?
As Parmigiani Fleurier is still considered to be a new brand when compared to its competitors, as it is only 20 years old. Their aim moving forward in 2018, is to increase brand awareness and market presence through their marketing and expansion efforts.
They will be focusing their advertising efforts on the Kalpa and Toric collections, along with any new and spectacular pieces which they will unveil during the 2018 SIHH.
What did you learn about the brand during your visit?
The brand is completely unique to the other brands on the market, and they really have their clients best interest at heart. Most pieces, if need be, can be customised to suit a particular customers taste, and therefore no person will be left disappointed.
This possibility is due to the fact that it is a relatively small brand, they produce a maximum of 5,000 pieces a year.
The Parmigiani Fleurier customer is a person who loves watches, has an eye for detail, enjoys the process of watchmaking and values the piece that they wear on their wrist. It is truly an investment in not just a watch, but an art piece.
Want to see more Parmigiani Fleurier pieces? Visit our local boutiques in Malta or browse our full collection on our website.