More recently conceived, Parmigiani Fleurier is a Swiss brand of watchmaker founded in 1996 by Michel Parmigiani in Val-de-Travers. The brand’s breakthrough timepiece was the Bugatti 370, which is a remarkably unconventional driving watch based on the Bugatti Veyron car, literally turned upright to resemble a transversal engine. Stacking the mechanisms in a transparent cylinder, as opposed to laying everything flat, Parmigiani masterminded nothing less than a revolution in the organisation and aesthetics of a modern masterpiece.
Although established in 1996, Parmigiani Fleurier was a working concept some 20 years previously, during which time Parmigiani was operating as an independent watchmaker, restoring watchmaking artefacts using his knowledge of mechanical clocks and watches. “From the very beginning, Parmigiani and the Sandoz Family Foundation (founded by painter and sculptor Edouard-Marcel Sandoz) decided to join efforts to create the brand,” says Flavien Gigandet, Parmigiani Fleurier’s international training manager. “From the very beginning, they wanted to be totally independent.”
Parmigiani’s dedication has since led to a watchmaking company based on handmade timepieces that can take up to four hundred hours to assemble, fabricated using precious metals and precious and semi-precious stones. Sheer craftsmanship, and the company’s creative innovations, make Parmigiani as significant internationally as any of the other more established watch companies.
There is something charming about how the company has gone about challenging the blueprint of the construction and configuration of a modern watch. Carrying a men’s line and watches specifically for women, key timepieces from the collection include the Toric series, an exquisite set of watches with very distinct faces, the Kalpa, which has a wonderful robust shape that cradles the face and its inner workings, and the company’s trademark timepiece, the Bugatti 370.
“The idea, the philosophy is what we call Gentleman’s driver,” says Gigandet. “The idea is to have a timepiece on your wrist. As you are driving very fast you have no time to turn your wrist so you can read the time from the side.”
The brand produces only 150 Bugatti 370 watches per year, with 50 of each dial colour made available. It’s a practice in keeping with their focus on producing high quality timepieces in very limited numbers.