On 29th May 1996, Michel Parmigiani and Pierre Landolt exchanged a highly symbolic handshake at the Beau-Rivage Palace in Lausanne. It marked the moment the Parmigiani Fleurier brand was created, witnessed by a small gathering of journalists and friends.
The two men’s emotions were running high, oscillating between pride and expectation, and the vertigo such a great adventure inspires. This handshake contained all the fervor of the heart over-ruling the head. Twenty years later we see the same men, the same friendship and the same passion for watchmaking unchanged by the passing of time.
A Few Milestones
Michel Parmigiani started his career in 1976 when he opened a restoration workshop, despite the quartz watch crisis, which was in the process of ravaging the traditional watchmaking industry, and against everyone’s advice. “When one has had the chance to work on as many wonders of the past as I have done, he said, many years later, ìit was simply impossible to believe that traditional watchmaking would die out.”
Fleur d’Orient (circa 1996)
Michel Parmigiani developed a method of restoration that became his work ethic. His watchmaking skills were constantly improved by the lessons learnt from every piece he restored. He began to make a name for himself amongst watch museums and collectors who sought out his talents. In the 1980s, he was entrusted with the care of the Maurice Yves Sandoz collection. It was in this capacity that he met Pierre Landolt, president of the Sandoz Family Foundation, whose admiration and confidence in him would sow the seeds for this incredible watchmaking adventure. In 1996, Michel Parmigiani acquired the production means and resources to create a brand that would bear his own name.
Parmigiani Fleurier turned its focus to creation, through a watchmaking center able to manufacture and perfect all the components of a watch, without ever losing the link to its origins. The brand still has an active restoration workshop at its heart, enriching today’s creations with inspiration and expertise taken from the horological wonders created by our fathers.
Over 20 years, Parmigiani Fleurier has developed a range of products that reflects the strength of its manufacture and the talent of its founder. No less than 33 original movements have been unveiled since this day in 1996.
On May 29th 1996, the brand Parmigiani Fleurier is founded. It is born from the trust woven between Michel Parmigiani and the Sandoz Family Foundation who have acknowledged his talent as a watchmaker.
The early stages of Parmigiani Fleurier meet a strictly artisanal approach. Michel Parmigiani makes the watchmaking components himself and subsequently progresses in a network of craftsmen by giving them the simple instruction to replicate his benchmark object. His standards of excellence and finishing are so high that many providers push him back and the work partners surrounding him become very exclusive in their quality. It’s a simple modus operandi, efficient, without any middlemen, which is fitted with an artisanal and limited production.
The brand’s first wristwatch, Ionica (circa 1999)
In 1999, Parmigiani Fleurier’s first wristwatch is created, the Kalpa Hebdomadaire (formerly the “Ionica”), and this piece changes the work approach. With its iconic tonneau shape movement and eight-day power reserve, it represents the brand’s first component miniaturization and creates therewith a strong necessity in industrial partners. On the other hand, it implies a larger production in terms of volume that supersedes the previous reign of the benchmark component. An artisano-industrial logic is initiated.
Very soon, the decision to create a perfectly integrated manufacture becomes obvious for various reasons. Firstly, to master the quality of the components and put into practice Michel Parmigiani’s demanding standards that are so difficult to obtain. Secondly, to ensure full control on planning and not depend on suppliers that have little consideration for small component enquirers. Finally, an integrated manufacture enables to break free from the monopolistic control that large watch corporations apply on small craftsmen, and hence build around oneself an exclusive network of knowhow.
Bringing together five entities that were assembled in less than six years, Parmigiani Fleurier’s watchmaking hub is an extensive center of know-how that enables to conceive, manufacture and perfect every single watch component: from the smallest gear wheel to the entire escapement (which is the doing of very few watch companies); from the minute details of the dial to the case in its every shape.
The Bugatti Super Sport (circa 2010)
Presented in 2010, the Bugatti Super Sport illustrates the state-of-the-art organization of this competence center. In record time, the various entities initiated a dialogue aiming towards the production of this motor-bloc on the wrist, measuring the constraints, suggesting the parries and inventing solutions in concert to result in a creation resembling no other and a world-first.
As the Parmigiani Fleurier collections bloom, the brand pursues its work on singular and exceptional pieces. In 2011, Michel Parmigiani presents the Hegirian Calendar, which relays the lunar cycles of the Muslim calendar and accounts for the astounding complexity of their irregular succession without the slightest manual correction. The knowledge of watchmaking mechanisms and the curiosity to set out in the unknown remain at the fundamentals of the watchmaking approach.
The Tonda 1950 Tourbillon (circa 2014)
In 2011, a brand reinforced by its learnings – by its digressions sometimes as well as by its successes – presents the extra-flat caliber. With a micro-rotor embedded in the depth of the movement (the key to its slenderness), the Tonda 1950 line is a return to the fundamental aesthetic codes of Michel Parmigiani, elegant, classic, sober. Its width of 2.6mm allows the movement to house many complication to come without disturbing, or hardly, the profile’s slenderness. This is the case of the Tonda 1950 Tourbillon presented in 2014, the world’s flattest flying tourbillon.
In 2016, Parmigiani Fleurier presents the Tonda Chronor Anniversaire, the first integrated chronograph, which is the Grail of an accomplished manufacture and a summit of technical prowess. Today the brand totals 33 movements manufactured within its watchmaking center. This is more accomplishment in 20 years than certain brands reach in a century. Parmigiani Fleurier is not done creating, surprising and glorifying watchmaking art.