Restoration - A Brand Philosophy
"It is a rare joy to restore a watchmaking piece. To free it from the ravages of time and of men is to reinstate it within a temporal truth so essential to our memory." (Michel Parmigiani)
The Parmigiani Fleurier restoration workshop might seem surprisingly small. A modestly-sized workshop, a few wooden workbenches around which the few watchmakers qualified for this type of artistry work in silence. Restoration is a small - actually very small - part of the brand's business, but its impact is disproportionate. In fact, it's fair to say enormous.
Restoration is Michel Parmigiani's field of expertise, and this art form represents the soul of the brand. There are two reasons why this is the case.
Firstly, restoration in its own right was a key factor in the creation of Parmigiani Fleurier. Thanks to his watchmaking skill and exceptional methodology, Michel Parmigiani was given responsibility in the 1980s for maintaining the phenomenally rich 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 the incredible watchmaking adventure that continues to unfold to this day. In 1996, Michel Parmigiani acquired the production means and resources to create a brand that would bear his own name.
From that point, Parmigiani Fleurier set its sights on the present to become a creator of watches. However, the impact of restoration goes well beyond the little workshop devoted to it. Michel Parmigiani believes that restoration is the brand's soul, as it is the best source of knowledge and apprenticeship available to watchmakers. Understanding the watchmaking marvels of our forefathers ensures a wide-ranging technical mastery, awakens a need for unconditional excellence and inspires the imagination to create the watches of tomorrow.
All Parmigiani Fleurier watches draw their force and inspiration from the prestigious works of yesteryear for which we are responsible.
THE PARMIGIANI ETHIC: THE NEED TO FACE HISTORY.
"A restored object must not allow the past to deceive" (Michel Parmigiani)
To explain the restoration ethic established by Michel Parmigiani, we must first make an important distinction. Restoring does not mean repairing. This art form is not about making old pieces operational again – a kind of after-sales service for antique dealers. Restoration is an exercise in rebuilding; it is the act of perfectly recapturing a piece's original nature, freeing it from the ravages of time and, very often, rescuing it from the cumulative effects of unskilled repairs or renovation work.
It is the art of restoring the piece's past glory.
Conducting the investigation:
Restoration work on mechanical objects born from the genius of past masters must be undertaken with respect for their methods. Before the restorer even touches the object, long hours of research must be carried out in order to fully understand and appreciate the masterpiece. Often lacking a signature and the only one of its kind, a piece may require the restorer to search through literature and museums to unearth similar works that can shed light on how the mechanism functions, or to conduct Sherlock Holmes-style detective work to identify any marks or imprints left by the friction of a lost wheel. Before dismantling the piece, the restorer spends a long time envisaging the disassembly process.
Immersion in the past:
The master craftsman must immerse himself in the expertise and dexterity employed in the past in order to understand and accurately reproduce them. To do this, he must have flawless knowledge of the relevant fields, including precious metalwork, enamelling, engraving/chasing, gilding and glasswork.
The often spectacular levels of oxidation found on the components can prevent the movement from functioning properly. This requires meticulous rust removal and polishing work.
Sometimes, the restorer decides it is preferable to do everything possible to conserve one of the mechanism's essential components, rather than rebuild it from scratch.
"The worst ravages of time are nothing compared to the damage inflicted by unskilled hands". (Michel Parmigiani)
During reconstruction, it is vital for restorers to be able to ensure that their actions are reversible to prevent modifications to the original. A complete dossier containing both text and photographs details each step in the process, indicating all the parts rebuilt from others.