Parmigiani watches are the epitome of watch-making and the company produces the best of tourbillons, minute repeaters and other complications. By Mitrajit Bhattacharya
Jonathan Stalder, Parmigiani’s pointsman in India, is aware of my passion for watches and beyond and was very keen that I visit the Parmigiani manufactory at Fleurier, a sleepy town in Switzerland’s Neuchatel canton, famous for being home to Parmigiani, Chopard and Bovet, to meet the somewhat-media shy master watchmaker Michel Parmigiani himself. So on a wintry January morning we journeyed from Geneva past the town of Neuchatel to ascend the mountains to reach the Parmigiani factory.
What unfolded was a true exhibition of fine watch-making at the Parmigiani and Vaucher factories (both owned by Sandoz holdings) and the Fluerier Quality Foundation. While we were at the Parmigiani factory, most of the company’s bigwigs were busy flying hot air balloons over the Chateau d’Oex near Gstaad, so we took a detour to meet Jean Marc Jacot and Michel Parmigiani in Gstaad. These gentlemen at the helm of the company are like chalk and cheese – Jacot, a suave marketing ace, runs the company with clockwork precision so that the master watchmaker Parmigiani can continue to be the face of the organisation creating landmarks on the watch-making firmament.
My meeting with them gave me a sense of satisfaction of achieving my own journalistic goal of knowing the watch industry a lot better. Parmigiani watches are the epitome of watch-making and the company produces the best of tourbillons, minute repeaters and other complications. However, the confidence of the man was evident when he answered my query about whether tourbillons being accurate in wrist watches in the negative, turning the billion-dollar high-end luxury watch market upside down.
“No doubt tourbillons are the ultimate in watch-making skill set, but they were designed for vertically static pocket watches and therefore not very suitable for wrist watches, “says Parmigiani. He went on to point out that it’s the marine chronometer that’s more accurate but takes a lot of space. Parmigiani also revealed how he had always known as a young boy that he would get into watch-making and how his mastery of restoration got him close to the Sandoz Family Foundation who later partnered with him to launch Parmigiani timepieces by picking up majority stake in his company in 1996.
As a restorer Parmigiani has few equals and has restored many masterpieces of the last two centuries, including classics like the Breguet Sympathique. With several other Manufactures of Fleurier Parmigiani has established the Fleurier Quality Foundation certification for watches before they are offered to the customers (see Box). Parmigiani wishes that all his customers should visit him at Fleurier so that he can have more time to do what does the best – making masterpieces. But till then he has no option than to spend time at fairs like the SIHH to meet customers from all over the world.