< In Person >
Master horologist, renowned restorer, talented creator of mechanical time keepers and recipient of the Watch World Awards 2014, Michel Parmigiani of Parmigiani Fleurier answers questions from Hiren Kumar Bose on the Swiss watch industry and future projects
Beginning as a restorer way back when the watch industry was in the throes of Quartz crisis and then going into manufacturing of watches which are distinctive and extremely finely made, Parmigiani has undertaken a huge journey. And now when you look back what do you consider were the highlights of this journey?
I was not only a restorer but also very keen on expressing my creativity through the creation of special pieces. Indeed restoration is a discipline that does not allow much creativity. I started my business at a period where all odds were against me. The historic and economic situation was tough and my close friends and family desperately tried to convince me not to get into this field. Yet, my belief in the beauty of this heritage and my goal to preserve a noble craft drove me to start my own business.
What is a more difficult task? Restoring a masterpiece like Breguet Sympathique or creating a new Bugatti complication from scratch?
These are two very different yet equally difficult tasks. For restoration, an analytic mindset is required as you must ground your work into what has been achieved in the past. The work in restoration can be compared to a detective’s work.
Nearly four decades now in the industry, do you look at mechanical watches differently now compared to before? Do elaborate on your fascination with mechanical watches, both the internal and external aspects? What do you think are the hallmarks of a good watch?
I consider the mechanical watch as a piece of art, a work of true beauty. A high standard watch requires an extensive know-how, and a constant research of beauty and aesthetics. Each mechanical watch is unique; there will always be a slight difference between each other. A mechanical watch does not need any repair if it is conceived according to traditional rules.
In recent years there has been a resurgence of ‘metiers d’art’ in watchmaking. How do you think can the industry promote it without compromising on the quality?
I am delighted to see a resurgence of interest in the ‘metiers d’art’ and that this specific know-how carries on over time, thanks to the accurate transmission of a savoir-faire that would disappear otherwise. Artisans and watchmakers practising a ‘métiers d’art’ depend on their environment because their craftsmanship is closely related to a certain touch, feel or personal sensitivity and understanding. Nowadays, many such attempts are made to imitate this knowhow but results can be deceptive.
What projects Parmigiani Fleurier is presently working on?
We work on different projects and, in the watch industry, each of these projects take approximately 5 years from idea to completion. One of our ongoing project is on improving the precision adjustment and I believe it may one day revolutionise the watch industry.
Lastly, what you believe is the legacy of Michel Parmigiani, as a watchmaker?
My constant research of harmony and balance strongly appears in Parmigiani watches. My dream would be for the Parmigiani style to become truly timeless and perennial, without being betrayed by global trends.
How does it feel receiving the individual award for contribution to the watch industry at the Watch World Awards 2014?
This award is important, not only for me but also for my team members. It impacts them in a positive way, as well as the watchmaking network surrounding us. This award is a great tribute to me, but also to all the craftsmen, whose skills allow to keep our unique watchmaking and horology know-how alive.