"Harmony and perfection." This is the motto of the Swiss watch manufacturer Parmigiani, created by Michel Parmigiani and named after him. Michelle Parmigiani, a Swiss of Italian origin, who grew up in the village of Val de Traver, was known for a long time only among antique dealers and collectors of antique watches, and almost nothing was known about him in the world of modern watch industry.
Knowing perfectly the unique talent and abilities of Michel, employees of famous European museums often turned to him. Thanks to Michel Parmigiani, the mechanism of the famous Montre Sympathique watch, created by Abraham-Louis Breguet, was resurrected. The most difficult technical task, for which no one else undertook, within one day made the name of Michel Parmigiani known to the entire watch community.
Soon after, Parmigiani began to develop and produce his own calibers, remaining within the framework of his well-studied wrist and pocket watches. In 1975, Parmigiani Mesure et Art du Temps was founded. Some distance from Parmigiani to the famous Swiss Watch Valley (located in Val de Traver, near Fleurier) to this day allows Michel Parmigiani and his staff to work, avoiding the attention of competitors.
I managed to talk with Michel Parmigiani about the clock, art and sources of inspiration on one of May days in Dubai, where Michel arrived on a working visit.
Mr. Parmigiani, please tell me what new products were presented by your company this year at SIHH-2010?
This year, Parmigiani presented at the international watchmaking fair SIHH-2010 in Geneva not only, or rather, not so much new items. It should be noted that this exhibition is organized by the Richmont Group, of which Parmigiani is also a part. This year, the Richmont Group turned to Parmigiani to present our private collection in Geneva - one of the most exclusive watch collections in the world. I collected all the watches for this collection myself, and it was a great honor for me to present it at SIHH-2010. The collection includes, for example, three Faberge Easter eggs with moving figures inside: one of them with a peacock, the other, which is also a watch, once belonged to Count Yusupov, the third is simply a unique work of watchmaking, jewelry and engineering.
Michel, why do you think that right now there is so high interest in historical, rare and antique watches and mechanisms?
I believe, from the point of view of manufacturers of watches and mechanisms, interest in old and rare watches is caused by a desire to know the vision of masters of the past. From the point of view of buyers and collectors, this is an attempt to find true values. We now live in a world where many things have their doubles or are very similar to something from the already created. Our contemporaries want to find something unusual and unique. Of course, I was one of the pioneers who tried to find and study ancient knowledge. I grew up in the so-called Watch Valley, where the most famous watchmakers of the time worked.
This is probably why the watch became my main passion. Although, I still had no other choice. However, I began my work with the restoration of old watch movements, trying to understand for myself the basic values that were driven by the then watchmakers. It seems to me that it was then that the first sketches of the future Parmigiani watches appeared, since the past centuries were famous for an incredible amount of inventions, from which a lot could be gleaned. And not only in wrist watches, but also in wall, desktop, mantel clock tools. Having carefully studied the working style of the old masters, today I am trying to translate their knowledge and experience into a modern language.
Are there any models among Parmigiani collections that collectors “hunt” for? Which of the Parmigiani watches make you particularly proud?
Yes there is. Old watches from Haute Horology collections are in high demand by collectors and wealthy people around the world. All models. Since it is either unique, or complex, or custom-made watches. If we talk about something that goes beyond the scope of this collection, then, of course, it is necessary to mention the Bugatti watch. This is a real work of art, and I am sure that it will remain for centuries. This will be facilitated not only by the quality of the watch itself, but also by the fact that in November last year we announced the discontinuation of this model range, despite its popularity. We have produced more than 200 hours of Bugatti since 2004. And this summer, the last watch from the Bugatti line will come out of the walls of our factory. Thus, they will be given a new sound and new value.
Tell me, please, Michel, is it possible for collectors to simply purchase the model of Parmigiani watches that you created specifically for the Bugatti Galibier?
This is a completely different concept. When I talked about the Bugatti collection, I was referring to the Bugatti 30070 wristwatch with a transverse movement. Those watches that we created specifically for the new Bugatti Galibier are completely special and unique, they cannot be bought at retail. They can only be purchased with a Bugatti Galibier car, which means that if you ever meet a gentleman with this watch on your wrist, you can be sure that you are the owner of this unique car and a very wealthy person.
By the way, how difficult was it to correlate the values and vision of the Parmigiani watch brand with the philosophy and approach to innovation of the Bugatti brand?
Interest Ask. You are absolutely right, working together, we had to share some common values, but sometimes, with certain approaches to design, it was difficult for us to find a common language. But the advantage of Parmigiani was that we were not “chasing” Bugatti. On the contrary, this automobile concern opted for Parmigiani, since it needed a completely unique watch that would be consistent with the philosophy of Bugatti cars.
Bugatti first came to us in 1998, when their Verone car did not yet exist in nature. At that time, Bugatti needed a watch that matched the vision of Ettori Bugatti, the creator of these magnificent cars. Thus, we received a proposal for joint work, which has been going on for more than 10 years. I must say that another reason for choosing Parmigiani was that our company is a watch manufactory, that is, it implements the entire process of watch production - from sketches and mechanisms to cases and final finishing, in the same walls.
As the head of the company, what requirements do you have for those who want to connect their lives with watchmaking and work at Pamigiani?
Of course, the key criterion for me is competence. But, nevertheless, the fundamental factor in hiring a new person to work at Pamigiani will be his passion for what he does. It should be a tireless desire to seek, invent, find something in the past and integrate it into the future. Go beyond the usual limits and strive for excellence. Each of Parmigiani’s 500 employees is passionate about their profession today.
Mr. Parmigiani, it is well known that you are a fan of oriental and contemporary art, spend a lot of time in museums and galleries. Have you ever wanted to create a watch that inspired Islamic art?
Yes, I did. And now I'm working on a completely unique object, which will be something more than just a watch. While I can not disclose all the details. I can only say that even the presentation of my new work will become, in its own way, a historical event related to the culture and ancient traditions of the East. I believe that even after centuries this watch will be "the legend of the Parmigiani House". Why not?
Since our conversation is addressed to Russian-speaking readers, please tell me, is there something in Russian history that can also attract your attention and inspire you to create original watches?
My first impression of Russia was the products of Faberge workshops - the famous Easter eggs with enamel, gold, precious stones and unique mechanisms inside. Another outstanding, in my opinion, work of Russian and Swiss masters is a table clock, made to order and with the participation of the Demidovs in Breguet workshops. When Breget needed to restore these rare watches, they turned to me for help. Today this unique work, which is an astronomical clock with a repeater, power reserve, calendar and thermometer, is stored in the Paris Museum of Decorative Arts. In other words, Russia and its history are an endless source of inspiration for me, as a watchmaker and restorer. But modern Russia is a very important market for Parmigiani watches and for me, as the head of the company. We even presented in Moscow several models of our watches, made by special orders. On the dial of one watch in the technique of enamel miniature was depicted Saint Nikolai, on the other watch - a portrait of Vladimir Putin. In my opinion, these are magnificent pieces of complex mechanical watches in gold cases.
What else connects me with Russia? You know, I accomplished what I’m unlikely to ever decide to do again, and they won’t, most likely. I managed to fly over St. Petersburg in a balloon.
It was a real delight! Imagine - earlier morning, the Peter and Paul Fortress, Neva, the Gulf of Finland, the city in the rays of the rising sun! It is impossible to convey these feelings in words. It seems to me that someday I’ll come up with a real “Russian watch”. In the meantime, I plan to open "Parmigiani Atelier" in Moscow, where customers can not only get acquainted with the latest innovations, but also see how our craftsmen work. This unique concept of the shop-workshop will help to widely present our collections, share our knowledge and experience with everyone, and also give every visitor the opportunity to talk to watchmakers from Parmigiani, the master of the company, who will work right there.
Thanks Michelle. I wish you new creative successes. And see you soon.