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From a Workshop to a Brand – Story of an encounter

Watchmaker at work

Our story, like so many others, starts with a predicament.

 

The year is 1974, Michel Parmigiani is freshly graduated and he is faced with the unprecedented tumble of the Swiss watchmaking trade, due to the flood of quartz movements ignited in Japan. Much more precise and infinitely less expensive, this revolution of a watch catches the traditional Swiss industry unaware, and makes it look outdated, obsolete.  In a short decade, what is later referred to as the “quartz crisis” cuts down 90,000 jobs and the whole trade is set adrift.

Amid this apocalyptic picture, Michel Parmigiani opens his own workshop in Couvet in 1976 and starts resolutely down the path of traditional watchmaking, like an outcast, against the advice of many.

 

“When you’ve worked on marvels of the past and patrimony of our civilisation as I have had the chance to”, he will say much later, “you just couldn’t have believed back then, that traditional watchmaking would end like this.”

From that point onwards, Michel Parmigiani’s approach is set and it bases itself on the single belief that to part with the traditional art of watchmaking could only be harmful and would only breed destruction.

 

Becoming a young entrepreneur, Michel dedicates himself resolutely to his greatest passion, Restoration. On a side line, he also manufactures unique pieces for collectors, giving a free rein to his mastery of mechanical complications. His company, Mesure et Art du Temps is a small workshop, but a thriving one too.

 

The year 1980 will change it all. Michel Parmigiani makes the single business encounter that transformsthe face of his career, the encounter which generated all that Parmigiani Fleurier is today: Michel met the Sandoz family.

 

Sometimes, your stars align.In 1980, the Sandoz family washeir to the Sandoz pharmaceutical group known today as Novartis, and holder of one of the most impressive collections of pocket watches and automatons in Switzerland – the Collection Edouard Marcel Sandoz.

 

At that time, Effrène Jobin, Curator of the Watchmaking Museum in Le Locle, is in charge of restoring these amazing artefacts, but Effrène is growing old and he can’t undertake this task on his own anymore. So he introduces Michel Parmigiani to the family and convinces them to trust him with their collection.

 

Over the years, they discover Michel’s unrivalled talent as a watchmaker; they appreciate the man and his knowledge of our past heritage. Pierre Landolt, a family head, pushes him to step out from the secluded space of his little workshop and start something bigger in watchmaking: to create his own brand and realize his aspirations as a watchmaker to the fullest. In 1996, the Parmigiani Fleurier brand is born.

 

Very soon, Pierre and Michel decide that in order to create an authentic brand, they need not only to conceive movements but also manufacture them, manufacture all the small parts in the quality and workmanship they had envisioned. The verticalization of the production has begun: through a series of acquisitions – exclusively small quality suppliers – they gather component, case and dial manufacturers. And they start the adventure of realizing their own escapements. Rapidly, Parmigiani Fleurier gains full control over the realization of each component, in other words: complete and utter independence.Parmigiani Fleurier is a brand that can fulfil its wildest projects with no other consideration than mechanical feasibility. It’sa dream come true.

 

The production units which are gathered today under the “Manufactures Horlogères de la Fondation, i.e. the Watchmaking Manufactures of the Sandoz Foundation, were put together in less than 4 years. Sometimes, the figures and chronology say more than words about the trust that prevailed between a family with a will and a vision and a watchmaker with talent.

 

Thanks to this unique industrial structure, Michel Parmigiani and his brand have come to hold a high level of credibility in just a few years. Six collections, seventeencalibres developed in-house, including four world firsts – this is as much as some brands could achieve in centuries.

 

Whatever the projects and achievements, Parmigiani Fleuriernever loses track of how it came to life. We stay true to our founding values, namely the restoration of artefacts of the past and the ability to draw knowledge from this heritage to create the mechanical constructions of the present.

 

This is who we are – unconditionally linked to the legacy of our ancestors, never the owners but the revealing agents of the treasures of the past –however firmly anchored in this present.

 

Working on a Tonda 1950
Watchmakers at work
Angling a bridge
Working on a gold case
Working on an escapement block

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