Parmigiani Fleurier is a Swiss watchmaker whose reputation precedes it. Known throughout the horological world as a purveyor of the most meticulously designed and crafted handmade watches, Parmigiani, as the brand is often referred to, use exclusively premium materials in the construction of their timepieces.
A master watchmaker himself, Michael Parmigiani began restoring antique timepieces in 1976, a time when the quartz crisis was threatening to wipe out the Swiss watch industry altogether. Against all advice, Parmigiani continued along his chosen path in the horological world, finding great meaning and solace in the restoration of beautiful watches and clocks. Indeed, Parmigiani states that carrying the torch of traditional Swiss watchmaking has been the guiding light throughout his illustrious career and continues to form the backbone of the Parimigiani Fleurier ethos.
Born in 1950 in the Swiss canton of Neuchatel, Parmigiani studied at the prestigious Val-de-Travers school of watchmaking. Excelling in his studies and revelling in the unique blend of creativity and technicality that watchmaking presented, the young man chose to pursue a path into timepiece restoration, something reserved for only the most gifted and hardworking elites of watchmaking. During the day Parmigiani worked on restoring old marvels of horology, then by night, he would dedicate himself almost exclusively to the creation of his own personal models. After accruing much success and respect throughout the tight knit yet discerning Swiss watchmaking community, Parmigiani finally acquired the means to create a brand that would bear his own name in 1996.
Three years later Parmigani Fleurier would reveal its first wristwatch, the Toric QP Retrograde. With a rectangular form and a bezel featuring alternations dragoons as well as knurling, the watch bore many of the features that would go on to become Parimigiani Fleurier trademarks. Indeed, the designs of the brand’s first watches were informed by the golden number, a harmonious ratio of proportions that would at as a touchstone for all future creations.
Some four years later, in 2003, Parmigiani Fleurier would agree a deal that propelled the company from promising upstart watchmaker to world-renowned masters of Swiss horology. The signing of a partnership with high-end Italian carmaker Bugatti produced a watch of such convention-defying ingenuity that it is considered to this day one of the finest and most original timepieces ever created.
The Bugatti Type 370 was designed with the intention to shock and dazzle all who came across it. Assembled along a horizontal axis, the watch was built in a tubular formation that puzzled and inspired awe throughout the watchmaking world. Uncannily reminiscent of the engine of a Bugatti, the watch sparked a discussion of quality and invention in the watchmaking world, with Parmigiani setting up the Fleurier Quality Foundation in light of the timepiece’s massive impact. According to Michael Parmigiani himself: “Parmigiani's Bugatti collection is a bit like the court jester. It dares to do it all, defies limits and explores the field of possibilities without fearing conventions, or the guillotine.”
After this key milestone in the history of Parmigiani Fleurier and watchmaking in general, the brand would go on to release a series of spectacular watches that remain classics of modern Swiss horology. One such release was the 2008 unveiling of the brand’s Tonda 42 Tourbillon, a stupendously accurate timepiece equipped with a 30 second tourbillon. Around this time, the brand began to make the rectangular form it’s own.
In 2010 the second of Parmigiani’s Bugatti collaborations was released to huge acclaim. The Bugatti Super Sport followed on from the initial design of the 370 with a vertical formation, yet it possessed even more logic-defying features including a cascade design with interconnected mechanical stages. Once again, the company has pushed the very boundaries of what could be considered a high end wristwatch.
The following year Parmigiani Fleurier released the Tonda 1950 to celebrate the 60th birthday of the brand’s illustrious founder, Michael Parmigiani. Signifying a near complete reversal in style to the Bugatti Super Sport, this release would feature a circular face with an ultra-slim design conceived of by none other than Parmigiani himself.
In 2017, Parmigiani Fleurier unveiled the third collaboration between the brand and Italian car manufacturer Bugatti. Like the first two releases, this one certainly did not disappoint. Named the Bugatti Type 390, this stunning timepiece came with a wealth of never before seen features and once again confirmed the genius of Parmigiani and his willingness to consistently redefine what we see as a wristwatch.
All in all, Parmigiani Fleurier is quite simply one of the globe’s leading horological outfits that produces stunning and, quite often, convention-defyingly beautiful watches. To this day lead by the brilliance of Michael Parmigiani, this is a company whose every move is watched with curiosity by everybody in the watchmaking world.