Parmigiani Fleurier - From a Workshop to a Brand
Like so many other brands, the history of Parmigiani Fleurier began with a crisis. In 1974, a newly graduated Michel Parmigiani was confronted with a crisis without precedent in the Swiss watchmaking industry, caused by a massive influx of quartz movements from Asia. Much more precise and infinitely less expensive, this revolutionary movement caught the traditional Swiss industry unaware, making it seem outdated and obsolete. Within a decade, what would later be referred to as “the Quartz Crisis” saw the loss of 90,000 jobs and left an entire profession adrift. Watchmaking activity even vanished from the Val de Travers. In this depressed environment, Michel Parmigiani found himself almost an outcast when, in 1976, and against the advice of his peers, he opened his own workshop in Couvet, with the focus firmly on traditional watchmaking and restoration.
“When you had worked on the marvels of the past that are part of our civilisation’s heritage, as I had been lucky enough to do”, he explained much later, “you simply couldn’t believe, at that time, that traditional watchmaking was just going to die like that”.
From that point, Michel Parmigiani’s approach was clearly defined, and based on one conviction: breaking away from the traditional watchmaking art was dangerous and could only lead to ruin. As a young businessman, Michel devoted himself fully to his passion and primary area of expertise: restoration. Alongside this, he designed unique pieces for collectors, employing his extensive knowledge of mechanical complications. His company, Mesure et Art du Temps was a small workshop, but a thriving one.
And it was restoration that, in 1980, brought about the most important meeting in Michel Parmigiani’s career, and the one that would make Parmigiani Fleurier the brand it is today: he met the Landolt family.
Heir to the Sandoz pharmaceutical group, now known as Novartis, the Landolt family held one of Switzerland’s most impressive collections of pocket watches and automata: the Maurice-Yves Sandoz Collection.
At that time, Effrène Jobin, Curator of the Watchmaking Museum in Le Locle, was in charge of restoring these amazing artefacts, and looking for a successor in preparation for his retirement. He introduced Michel Parmigiani to the family, convincing them to entrust their collection to him.
Over the years, the family discovered Michel’s incomparable watchmaking talent and his expertise in the decorative arts. It was the beginning of a friendship based on mutual trust. Pierre Landolt, head of the family, persuaded Michel Parmigiani to move out of his somewhat cramped workshop and embark on a more ambitious project: to create his own brand and fully realise his watchmaking dream. Parmigiani Fleurier was born in 1996.
Very soon, the Sandoz Family Foundation decided that, in order to create an authentic brand, they needed not only to design movements but also to manufacture them, that is, to produce all of the components to the standards of quality and workmanship they had envisioned. Verticalisation of production had begun: thanks to a series of acquisitions - exclusively small, high-quality suppliers - Parmigiani Fleurier brought together manufacturers of components, cases and dials. They also became one of the few watch brands to produce their own escapements. In less than 6 years, the units now known as the “Parmigiani Watchmaking Centre”* enabled Parmigiani Fleurier to monitor its entire production process, from the very smallest components right through to their final assembly to create the finished watch.
Thanks to this unique structure, Parmigiani Fleurier became a highly respected brand in just 20 years. Six collections, thirty-three calibres developed in-house, including four world firsts; these were achievements that had taken other brands centuries.
Thanks to its independence, Parmigiani Fleurier has been able to stay true to its roots, and is now a highly creative brand with a manufacture rich in technical and artisanal processes which reflect the talent of its founder. On the eve of its 20th anniversary, the brand continues to draw on all its experience to raise the bar in terms of quality, style and innovation.