Horology & Jewellery
Horology & Jewellery
Like so many other brands, the history of Parmigiani Fleurier began with a crisis.
In 1974, a newly graduated Michel Parmigiani was confronted with a crisis without precedent in the Swiss watchmaking industry, caused by a massive influx of quartz movements from Asia. Much more precise and infinitely less expensive, this revolutionary movement caught the traditional Swiss industry unaware, making it seem outdated and obsolete. Within a decade, what would later be referred to as “the Quartz Crisis” saw the loss of 90,000 jobs and left an entire profession adrift. Watchmaking activity even vanished from the Val de Travers.
In this depressed environment, Michel Parmigiani found himself almost an outcast when, in 1976, and against the advice of his peers, he opened his own workshop in Couvet, with the focus firmly on traditional watchmaking and restoration.
“When you had worked on the marvels of the past that are part of our civilisation’s heritage, as I had been lucky enough to do”, he explained much later, “you simply couldn’t believe, at that time, that traditional watchmaking was just going to die like that”.
From that point, Michel Parmigiani’s approach was clearly defined, and based on one conviction: breaking away from the traditional watchmaking art was dangerous and could only lead to ruin.
As a young businessman, Michel devoted himself fully to his passion and primary area of expertise: restoration. Alongside this, he designed unique pieces for collectors, employing his extensive knowledge of mechanical complications. His company, Mesure et Art du Temps was a small workshop, but a thriving one.
And it was restoration that, in 1980, brought about the most important meeting in Michel Parmigiani’s career, and the one that would make Parmigiani Fleurier the brand it is today: he met the Landolt family.
Heir to the Sandoz pharmaceutical group, now known as Novartis, the Landolt family held one of Switzerland’s most impressive collections of pocket watches and automata: the Maurice-Yves Sandoz Collection.
At that time, Effrène Jobin, Curator of the Watchmaking Museum in Le Locle, was in charge of restoring these amazing artefacts, and looking for a successor in preparation for his retirement. He introduced Michel Parmigiani to the family, convincing them to entrust their collection to him.
Over the years, the family discovered Michel’s incomparable watchmaking talent and his expertise in the decorative arts. It was the beginning of a friendship based on mutual trust. Pierre Landolt, head of the family, persuaded Michel Parmigiani to move out of his somewhat cramped workshop and embark on a more ambitious project: to create his own brand and fully realise his watchmaking dream. Parmigiani Fleurier was born in 1996.
Very soon, the Sandoz Family Foundation decided that, in order to create an authentic brand, they needed not only to design movements but also to manufacture them, that is, to produce all of the components to the standards of quality and workmanship they had envisioned. Verticalisation of production had begun: thanks to a series of acquisitions – exclusively small, high-quality suppliers – Parmigiani Fleurier brought together manufacturers of components, cases and dials. They also became one of the few watch brands to produce their own escapements. In less than 6 years, the units now known as the “Parmigiani Watchmaking Centre”* enabled Parmigiani Fleurier to monitor its entire production process, from the very smallest components right through to their final assembly to create the finished watch.
Thanks to this unique structure, Parmigiani Fleurier became a highly respected brand in just 20 years. Six collections, thirty-three calibres developed in-house, including four world firsts; these were achievements that had taken other brands centuries.
Thanks to its independence, Parmigiani Fleurier has been able to stay true to its roots, and is now a highly creative brand with a manufacture rich in technical and artisanal processes which reflect the talent of its founder. On the eve of its 20th anniversary, the brand continues to draw on all its experience to raise the bar in terms of quality, style and innovation.
The launch of an oval-shaped collection is an inspired departure for Parmigiani Fleurier and, like so many others, has its origins in a restoration piece.
The prestigious oval watch with telescopic hands – created by the English jewellers, Vardon and Stedman – is a true marvel of watchmaking, which came into the restoration workshops of the Fleurier-based brand in 1997. This piece really caught the imagination, because of both its enchanting elliptical form and the magic of its complication. Its two telescopic hands follow the contours of the case, extending and shortening with the ellipse, skimming the numerals as if to showcase the time. Thanks to this understated complication, known as the pantograph, the piece seems to have a life of its own which explains to us the mysteries of time.
The new oval line and the mastery of the prestigious pantograph complication represent two of Parmigiani Fleurier’s trademark characteristics.
The first is the brand’s complete independence, which is ensured by its verticalised production facility. This makes it possible to recreate the components of a genuinely unique grand complication and produce the most original shapes.
The second characteristic is the unbreakable link between Parmigiani Fleurier and restoration. The extraordinary watches produced by our forefathers are a treasure trove of knowledge and expertise, teaching us the importance of fine craftsmanship and representing an inexhaustible source of inspiration for the watches of the present. Just like the oval watch and its modern interpretation, any restoration carried out by Parmigiani Fleurier is an ongoing dialogue between the excellence of the past and the quest for its future watchmaking incarnations.
The star of the new Oval Collection is without doubt the Pantograph complication, whose hands perform a subtle dance to the passage of time. The hands are based on the pantograph – the instrument from which they take their name – and use the same principle of multiplying a length by a given factor to obtain movement on a larger or smaller scale.
In concrete mechanical terms, a cam at the centre of the movement determines a certain length which is then replicated X number of times across the entire hand. In other words, the measurement of this central cam provides the information required to move the hand and adjust it as it pursues its course around the dial.
This trajectory and its elongation have been meticulously calculated so that the hands trace a perfect, harmonious ellipse. A computerised simulation also ensures that the minute hand is never retracted as far as the hour hand, which means, for example, that 12:15 cannot be confused with 3 o’clock.
Confounding expectations, the main challenge posed by this extraordinary piece was not the horological complication itself, but rather the cutting and, in particular, assembly of the telescopic hands. Composed of fine segments of aluminium which slide over each other, these hands must operate perfectly irrespective of the level at which they are deployed. The crucial adjustment steps are dependent on the watchmaker’s dexterity, which no machine can replicate. The riveting of the different aluminium segments is done by sound and sight. As the rivet is struck, the skill is in identifying the moment at which the rivet is deformed, as indicated by a characteristic “tink” which occurs when the material is altered, precisely signalling the end of the operation. Following this, the aluminium segments must slide completely freely over each other without the slightest play. The watchmakers must therefore achieve an extremely precise balance at each intersection in the structure to ensure that the piece functions correctly as a whole.
The basic movement used in the Ovale Pantographe is the oldest created by Parmigiani Fleurier: the calibre PF110 was designed for the Hebdomadaire line. With the addition of the retractable hand module, the new movement, known as the PF111, combines a pantograph on a manual movement with a power reserve of 8 days.
The Ovale Pantographe is available with a case in white gold or rose gold. A beautiful harmony is created between the white lacquered dial and its blue constituent parts: the pantograph hands are made from blue anodised aluminium; the numerals and indices are blue transfers. This combination of colours evokes purity, directing the eye towards the captivating pantograph complication.
The new oval collection from Parmigiani Fleurier features numerous different models, but all share the same unique elliptical middle part.
Michel Parmigiani and his team conducted extensive research in order to achieve the perfect oval shape in terms of proportional harmony and ergonomics. The main challenge in this quest consisted of bringing a masculine resonance to this curved and rounded piece – traits which are traditionally feminine. The oval collection is also perfectly gender-balanced, thanks to a number of key aesthetic decisions.
Firstly, the choice of the oval. The decision was made to eschew a pure ellipse for a basket-handle arch shape, i.e. an oval which is pulled outwards diagonally for a more masculine look.
The ideal proportions then had to be ascertained between the middle part and the bezel in order to refine the watch’s relatively thick profile. To do this, a separating line was sought between the two elements, at a sufficiently defined height to create an impression of elegance and introduce a break in the rounded form.
Finally, the product developed a sharp-edged look through the systematic bevelling of its surfaces. This process is used to produce angles and straighten rounded lines. The resulting play of light creates a keen-edged appearance, lending a masculine air in spite of the curves.
The piece was subject to the same design logic that informed the aesthetic research behind the Bugatti Super Sport. This essentially round piece also had straight lines and angles added to produce a play of light which refines the product and creates a sense of masculine energy.
The design of the oval collection is therefore a delicate balancing act of curves and straight lines – just like the hands of the pantograph – to obtain this magnificent harmony of styles and this self-assured elegance.
In both its pure, elegant aesthetic and its exceptionally refined profile, the new Tonda 1950 meets the highest standards in terms of comfort and readability: a return to the basics which define a true classic.
The Tonda 1950 reinterprets the very essence of the Parmigiani Fleurier style: its profile. Slender, finer, it is the perfect showcase for the brand’s iconic signature – the four lugs, round and ergonomic. In rose gold or white gold, the Tonda 1950 is the new, extra-flat classic model featuring the key markers of time – hours, minutes and small seconds.
The 12 Parmigiani Fleurier house calibers will be completed by a component essential for the rigorous and manifold exploration of the facets of time: the extra-flat self-winding movement. With a diameter of 30 mm (13 ¼ lignes) and a thickness of just 2.6 mm, the new PF 701 movement allows numerous interpretations of the aesthetic. In time, a date function will be added to the calibre, with its integration already planned so as to not disturb the delicate profile of the Tonda case, just 7.80 mm thick and 39 mm in diameter. With an autonomy of 42 hours, the movement has an off-centered micro-oscillating weight in platinum 950.
Indicating the hours, minutes and small seconds, the graphite or white grained dial displays its twelve time zone indexes with understated grace. The principle behind its sophistication? fundamental beauty without interfering with the time.
Despite the delicacy of its profile, the movement still offers the finest haute horlogerie finishes you would expect from Parmigiani Fleurier, and ones which very few brands would apply to such a mechanism. The nickel silver main plate is sand-blasted, circular-grained and then rhodium-plated. The bridges are sand-blasted, rubbed-down or “Côte de Genève” decorated, then beveled by hand and, finally, rhodium-plated. Also note the attractive finish of each wheel, beveled, sunk, circular-grained on both faces, then gilded before cutting.
The high standard of finish on each component is the result of a unique dovetailing of the different centers of competence that make up the Parmigiani Fleurier Manufacture (The Foundation Watchmaking Manufactures), ensuring that each caliber produced is of the very highest quality. The movement and the entire exterior of the new Tonda 1950 are created entirely in-house, right up to the indexes on the dial.
The watchmaking skill inherent in the Tonda 1950, a slim, understated model, is also expressed in the delicacy of its details.