Michel Parmigiani introduced his eponymous watch brand Parmigiani Fleurier in 1996 after a career working in the watch industry, often specialising in restoring watchmaking artefacts. He speaks to WatchPro about his involvement with his brand and how it’s performing in a testing global market.
WatchPro: How involved are you with the day-to-day running of Parmigiani?
Michel Parmigiani: I am involved in every new watch creation the brand takes on. I give my advice on a technical point of view, and bring my knowledge of watchmaking history and evolution into the debate. I’m surrounded by a very competent team of watchmakers, engineers, designers and product managers who take the lead on every project and wouldn’t need much of my help to create fascinating timepieces. Let’s say that I see myself as a safeguard – in French we say “un garde-fou”: I make sure that every single creation remains faithful to the brand’s core values and to the philosophy of fine craftsmanship.
WP: How do you stay faithful to the DNA of a timepiece that you’re tasked with restoring to its former glory? How do you resist the temptation to impart your own creative ideals on a restoration project?
MP: That’s the ground rule of restoration: hide your own judgement and how you might like to have it done; never stray from the artefact’s true nature or you shall risk losing it forever. I am trained to think and work this way when faced with a restoration project. It takes a lot of discipline and self-control. I manage this ongoing restraint without frustration because, on the other hand, I can create my own timepieces and let my creative juices flow. This answers the second part of your question. I have always needed this balance between restoration – where one is silent – and creation, where one can speak up. Back when I set up my first workshop, restoration was my bread and butter from 8 to 5 pm and then creation would take place in my free time at night.
WP: What makes Parmigiani unique in a crowded watch market?
MP: Parmigiani Fleurier is unique in the sense that there is an authenticity of craftsmanship on a daily basis that is almost impossible to find in other brands. Within our watchmaking hub, we are able to manufacture every single watch component with state-of-the-art technology but also the most refined handcrafts that stay alive in the Val-de-Travers thanks to our activity in part. Parmigiani Fleurier remains true to the essence of watchmaking: highly technical, Swiss-made 100%, refined by hand to make each piece truly unique.
WP: How successful has the Mount Street boutique proven to be? Is its primary goal to build the brand or to generate sales, or both?
MP: Mount Street boutique is our Flagship Atelier. It serves the goals of:
- Representing the brand’s spirit and atmosphere through a specific architecture and presentation
- Being a point of after-sales, a refurbishment service and repair of all our timepieces
- Being an opportunity to meet with our customers and present our new watches. We also listen to their needs and can take some special demands with specific adaptations
- A perfect location to host exclusive events and cocktails
- Point of sale
WP: What changes or innovations can we expect to see from Parmigiani this year?
MP: With over 30 movements in 21 years, we are a thriving brand when it comes to innovations and new movements. The next 12 months won’t fail this expectation and you will have to stay tuned – we will keep you informed!