Home Luxury Lifestyle Keep it real: Michel Parmigiani

Keep it real: Michel Parmigiani


When thinking of a watchmaking company, one might think of the type of building shown here, or something similar. Certainly, Swiss watch brands implemented this idea, underlining the well-worn story that Swiss watch production started as a part-time job, when farmers had time to stop working. in winter. This is true, but it certainly does not clearly reflect watchmaking history. However, when a person visits a manufacturing facility, even a manufacturing facility, there is often an image somewhere that represents the original establishment – usually the watchmaker’s family home. This connection with the original spirit behind any brand you can think of will help raise brand awareness, or so thinking goes the other way.

When the watchmaker was alive and active in the business that bore his name, things completely moved to another level. In the case of Parmigiani Fleurier, you don’t need to imagine the original watchmakers at work – Michel Parmigiani remains an active part of this manufacturing process. The brand’s website makes this largely practical, recognizing that most big names today cannot set faces for their watchmaking. Of the people who can do that, quite a few are down because their founders are not watchmakers. Michel Parmigiani liked it very much, and he famously said that he came up with this brand in 1976, even though both he and his brand perfected it in the quartz crisis.

So what does the man himself have to say about the Parmigiani Fleurier brand, especially about watches sold under that name since 1996? “At Parmigiani, the watchmaker makes his watches from A to Z – that all-around craft is virtually non-existent in industrialized companies … In our case, we know ourselves. Know who makes every watch, so we’re responsible for that, ”Michel said in an interview published in the 2017 edition of the company’s own glossy magazine. The finishing of the Parmigiani Fleurier watch underscores this message, as you can only recognize it from the images that illustrate this story.

According to the Journal Haute Horlogerie, a Foundation Haute Horlogerie (FHH) publication, every element in the Parmigiani Fleurier movement is hand-finished. Of course, it goes without saying that most of these components are also produced in-house, although the Vaucher production uses a high degree of automation. We look at the different companies that make up Parmigiani Fleurier’s in-house manufacturing capabilities, but the following list includes everything the brand offers to external suppliers: sapphire crystal, synthetic rubies, leather straps, bracelets and metal straps.

To go back to the finishing of movements, this is only possible because production volumes remain low to this day, with Hodinkee reporting that around 5,000 watches are produced annually ( the higher estimate is 10,000, according to The Watch Journal). Of course, this puts Parmigiani Fleurier in the same league as A. Lange & Sohne, for reference, and much less so than the likes of Patek Philippe, President Thierry Stern claims to stand at 60,000 annually. Today, Michel Parmigiani heads the design bureau at the manufacturing facility and remains closely aligned with the brand’s hub – reviving the historic timepieces that were his foundation.

Back in 1978, Michel’s company Mesure et art du temps entered the field of restoration arts, working on important works from the Patek Philippe museum and Chateau des Monts. The origins of the Parmigiani Fleurier brand can be traced back to restoration work, which began when Michel worked with the Sandoz Family Foundation on the very important watch and movement collection, the Edouard Collection and Maurice Sandoz. Indeed, the production has taken these points in various forms over the years, so the message remains consistent.

Parmigiani Fleurier deserves more credit than it has received. Maybe you don’t even remember the full range of the brand’s watches, apart from those that carry the Tonda and Kalpa standards. Well, they’re small mass-produced products, let’s go through the entire range briefly. Besides these watches, there are also Toric and Ovale, as well as men’s watches. Parmigiani Fleurier makes watches specifically for women, but we don’t have the space to do that here. Check with us in our yearly issue of ladies watches and jewelry later this year to learn more about that.

Of the four collections mentioned, notably two are form-matching watches, with form movements to boot. Aside from Cartier and Jaeger-LeCoultre, there has been no promise of distinctive shape. For some contexts, A. Lange & Sohne no longer have any watches in its category, and even H. Moser & Cie have preserved their watches only for special editions. special. Given that round (or imitation circular, so to speak) watches are king in luxury watchmaking, Parmigiani Fleurier may still decide to change things, but for now, the diversity of the whole The range is remarkable.

As we get closer to the end of this section, it’s important to note that watchmaker brand Parmigiani Fleurier didn’t just happen to add a second part to its name. Michel Parmigiani was born in Val-de-Travers in Couvet, about five minutes from Fleurier. He grew up there, regularly strolled past the legendary local watchmaker Ferdinand Berthoud, and even opened his own watch factory there in 1976. Such authenticity could not be fabricated. by any form of marketing.

In 2021, Parmigiani Fleurier will take her profile a little while embarking on a new course under the leadership of upcoming CEO Guido Terreni, formerly the President of Bvlgari Watchmaking. Terreni, perhaps best known for leading Bvlgari into the aristocracy of the ultra-thin segment.And gaining recognition for the brand’s know-how for watchmaking, there will probably be all he can handle with the radioactive COVID-19, like everyone else. We’re delighted to hear about his plans for Parmigiani Fleurier and what he’s going to do with all the intangible things the brand comes with. He will certainly memorize Michel’s mantra: “If you learn to look, the art will manifest itself.”

Basic watchmaking

While some watch brands may exhibit large corporate offices, and can even be beautifully restored, these brands are often just too much window clothing. Anything else happens in these locations, watchmaking is usually a peripheral activity. Not so in Parmigiani Fleurier, where the entire etablissage system typical of traditional Swiss watchmaking has been assembled from the ground up in some cases. The watchmaking center here has a number of parts that are not owned by Parmigiani Fleurier. Instead, they are all owned by the Sandoz Foundation, including the watchmaking brand. The different parts of the Fleurier watchmaking center are broken down as follows:

Atokalpa

This amazing company does what few other companies can do: make escapement components. It is an escape wheel, pallet truck, balance wheel and balance spring. According to Parmigiani Fleurier, Atokalpa performs processes such as stamping, cutting, lathing and tooth forming on computer controlled machines (commonly known as CNC) with an accuracy of up to 0.001mm. The finishing, both structural and aesthetic, is also performed on the aforementioned escape elements here. Aesthetically, these processes include snail catching, round beading, polishing and chamfering. Every component that requires perfection gets attention, it’s incredible attention to detail. In most watchmaking companies, all of this work is done off-site. Swatch Group’s ETA does all of this for countless brands.

Elwin

Lathe, for which the company is most famous, is the process of making components out of metal rods by machining them as they rotate. Elwin accidentally created his own CNC machinery, which demonstrates its mastery. It also develops its own specialized software. Interestingly, this small company of just 20 leaves each employee responsible for his or her own production process, just like a watchmaker handling his entire process. The company produces screws, gears, spindle and wheels.

Vaucher Manufacture Fleurier (VMF)

Michel Parmigiani told Revolution in 2013 that in order for Parmigiani Fleurier to use up the Vaucher’s full capacity, it would have to make between 20,000 and 25,000 movements and this is unlikely. To maximize the producer’s potential, it makes it available to other parties, even though it was built to supply Parmigiani Fleurier. The most famous of these outside firms is of course Hermes, with the luxury company owning 25% of the shares of Vaucher and Richard Mille.

The bridge and plate are made here, and the movements are assembled. Finishing, including hand finishing, is also carried out in its workshops. There’s a high-tech side here, with a research and development department handling all watch manufacturing innovations. Technical drawings of all movements appearing from this unit, concretizing all operations to be performed. If Michel is the soul of Parmigiani Fleurier then VMF is its central nervous system.

Quadrance & Dressing

An expert in dial making, this company is well versed in guillochage, sandblasting, satin finishing, screwdriving, layering and beading, among other things. Since 2017, Parmigiani Fleurier has introduced the white grain finish on its dial, and this is a technique that Quadrance & Habillage has mastered. Basically, the white grain effect is created by rubbing silver powder on a brass dish with a horse’s hair brush. Needless to say, it is laborious, hand-made and requires the absolute concentration of a highly skilled artisan. Audemars Piguet and A. Lange & Sohne are notable brands using Quadrance & Habillage dials.

Box craftsman (LAB)

As its name suggests, this is Parmigiani Fleurier’s layered outfit. Water resistance and structural integrity of the watch are ensured here. While CAD and CNC machining is a familiar job for LAB, the company can also manufacture cases entirely by hand, using traditional tools. Interestingly, all of the Parmigiani Fleurier case pads get the attention of hand polishing, which is hard to understand. According to FHH, famous names that have used LAB’s expertise include IWC, Girard-Perregaux, Patek Philippe, MB&F, Corum and Zenith.

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