Interview with Michel Parmigiani of Parmigiani Fleurier
January 28, 2013
Jason Pitsch: When did you start in watchmaking?
Michel Parmigiani: I started in 1975. At a time of crisis for watchmaking, a very dark time. Everyone was trying to discourage me from taking that path at the time. Watchmaking was completely devastated in Switzerland. There had been a tremendous crisis. My beginnings were very difficult but I really believed in what I was doing and went against the tide. And it wasn’t a bed of roses. I started my activity at the time in the region where I was born…and the economy was completely devastated at the time. The only watchmaker that had remained active at the time was Piaget, at the time, all the others had had to close down. And they managed to weather the storm and not disappear. And even that was an inspiration to me because Piaget being a high-end luxury brand, I thought that if they had succeeded there was still some hope and that I was on the right track.
JP: What impact does your experience in high level watch restoration have on the culture at Parmigiani?
MP: It has an impact on our individual culture, on my culture, on the culture of our watchmakers. When you see what the master watchmakers of the past of achieved it makes you feel very humble. Its quite an incredible legacy. I’ve had in my hands five hundred years of history in watchmaking. I discovered the quest for excellence of these master watchmakers of the past and that has inspired me in my work.
JP: How important is vertical integration of watch components to Parmigiani?**
MP: This is how it started, because before I created the brand I was already creating movements for pocket watches. These were movements that were bigger than wristwatches, but I built my own movements because I wanted to achieve the level of quality to which I aspired. The level of finishing. So for the manufacture, for the brand itself, I wanted to put in place a structure that would allow me to achieve the same level of quality, that is manufacturing components.
JP: Are there any future products on the horizon you would like to highlight, teasers?
MP: We’re going to continue to work on the extra-thin movement we have developed. To introduce it into the markets. In its own case. In fact that’s going to be our war horse so to speak. And it’s going to be a very beautiful, classical, elegant watch that doesn’t take up too much space. And its ergonomic, meaning that it is functional and practical to use. So it’s a watch for all seasons.
JP: Are you referring to the Tonda 1950, like the one you are wearing right now?
JP: To expand on that, is that the brand’s best seller?
MP: I can’t tell you exactly, it is quite possible. But I can tell you that it is in quite a good position in our sales.
JP: So, is that your favorite piece?
MP: I like it. It is very comfortable to wear, but I also like my other watches. I especially like the one I am wearing it is titanium, it is very light and pleasant on the wrist (A Spéciale Tonda Limited Edition).
JP: Anything else you would like to say?
MP: So for my work as a restorer of historical pieces, when I see the quality of these pieces, and their finishings, it has inspired me to put in my own watchmaking a red thread, that is the quest for excellence. Because that is what I found in 500 years of history of watchmaking. The quest for excellence. When I discovered this red thread of excellence I wanted to extend the thread through my own collections. And I wanted at the same time, I wanted to adopt a classic approach, I wanted my models to be refined, elegant and classic with no aggression at all. And we did create several families that were categories of watches, but throughout all these categories and families the red thread has been extended. And it translates into very recognizable and very specific shapes and codes that identify the brand. And in the end good workmanship and making beautiful watches is having fun and taking great pleasure in life. And further pleasure is to share that pleasure with others, the owners of these watches. Amen.