Having travelled to Switzerland primarily to meet with HYT, the Hydromechanical Horologists, to view their facilities and finalise the design on my watch for the Gumball 3000 rally, I wanted to maximise my time in the land of haute horology. Pietro Tomajer, co-founder of The Limited Edition, an online watch retailer specialising in independent brands, suggested that given his company sells Parmigiani Fleurier, he might also be able to organise for me to spend a day with them and view their facilities. Pietro is an exceptionally busy man but is also one true to his word and so, on one extremely snowy morning in Neuchâtel I found myself driving an hour from my hotel up through the mountains and towards the Val de Travers, which is where Parmigiani watches are manufactured.
Frankly, Parmigiani is not one of those brands that, prior to this trip, I had a huge amount of knowledge about so this was as much about educating me on their history as it was their manufacturing techniques. As I came to appreciate, this is one of the very few relatively new watch manufacturers that has successfully amalgamated old fashioned techniques with true haute horology status.
The founder of Parmigiani Fleurier, Mr Michel Parmigiani, was originally an exceptional timepiece restorer, having opened his first restoration workshop in 1975 at the age of 25. In 1990 he set up ‘Parmigiani Mesure et Art du Temps (PMAT)’, which incorporated both Parmigiani Fleurier and Vaucher Manufacture Fleurier (“VMF”) before, in 1995, the Sandoz Family Foundation (“SFF”) became a shareholder in PMAT. It was a year later the first collection from Parmigiani was released and within two years the maison had its own calibre with an eight day power reserve.
Continuing to innovate and stay true to PMAT’s beliefs that as much as possible should be made inhouse, SFF acquired the following companies: Les Artisans Boîters, Atokalpa and Elwin, providing VMF, which manufactures the components for Parmigiani watches, control over the supply of components for their creations. By 2002 they had launched their first inhouse automatic movement.
A year later, PMAT was split into two entities: VMF and Parmigiani Fleurier before, in 2006, Hermès became a shareholder in VMF and, accordingly, it provides the leather for all Parmigiani straps, other than the entry level pieces.
From then on, Parmigiani went from strength to strength, launching its main calibre families between 2010 – 2012 before embarking on several innovations including variable inertia balance wheels, a flying tourbillon, extra think skeleton movements, calibres with big date and a mechanically wound extra-thin flying tourbillon with big date.
As you can appreciate therefore, within a very short space of time, Parmigiani Fleurier has achieved a significant amount. . .