Chances are, even if you don’t have a Parmigiani Fleurier watch, one piece in your collection has parts that its parent company, the Sandoz Family Foundation, manufactured. Its factories are a veritable treasure trove of components made for Parmigiani Fleurier and for the world’s most prestigious brands.
While most of its clients require anonymity, some of its more high-profile clients are proud of their partnership: Hermès owns a 25% stake in Vaucher, the movement manufacture; Elwin, which makes screws, has been a preferred supplier of Patek Philippe for years; and the other manufactures make movements, components, cases and dials for brands as diverse as MB&F and Richard Mille.
The five specialized manufactures are dotted across the Swiss countryside in tiny villages where watchmaking remains as important today as it was in the 18th century.
The caliber of its clients speaks to the extremely high quality of Parmigiani Fleurier’s craftsmanship, as well as its rare manufacturing capabilities: It produces everything except for sapphire crystals and rubies — and straps, which come from Hermès.
A balance wheel and hairspring
Producing a case at Les Artisans Boîtiers
Looking at the collections, it’s easy to see that the company holds its own watches to an even higher standard than some of its clients. This dedication to the best finishing, innovative complications and beautiful design comes from its founder, Michel Parmigiani, who started both the brand and the manufactures with the Sandoz Family Foundation.
He tells me he created the manufactures because he didn’t want to be limited by the components and movements available on the market, and he wanted to ensure that the movements were as beautiful as the dials above them.
Michel is one of the most talented watchmakers and restorers alive. He first burst onto the scene in 1990, when he restored the ‘irreparable’ Breguet Pendule Sympathique clock. Later, he launched his company, where he makes everything from elegant men’s dress watches to poetic moon phases, flyback chronographs, ultra-precise 30-second tourbillons, perpetual calendars and minute repeaters.
Placing the tourbillon in a movement
Adding the diamond indices to a watch dial at Quadrance et Habillage
The world’s thinnest flying tourbillon, the Tonda 1950 Tourbillon
It’s not just its mechanical mastery that keeps Parmigiani Fleurier top of mind for discerning collectors: Michel has an elegant sense of design, which he attributes to the golden ratio and his deep respect for horology’s history.
The golden ratio can be found throughout the collection, most notably in the case shape of the Toric collection, which features an iconic bezel with alternating gadroons and knurling. His artistic sensibility pervades all aspects of each Parmigiani Fleurier timepiece, from the beautiful dials to the exceptionally finished movements, which take the words ‘in house’ to a new level.