A legend resorted: the world of Parmigiani Fleurier
The watch brand’s CEO Guido Terreni talks to Tempus about his plans to redefine luxury
Founded by renowned master restorer Michel Parmigiani 25 years ago, those not in the know would be forgiven for thinking watchmaker Parmigiani Fleurier was dependant upon its remarkable heritage to impress. In fact, under the leadership of CEO Guido Terreni, Parmigiani has proven itself one of the industry’s most forward-facing horology brands.
Guido, who formerly headed Bulgari’s watch division, joined the independent Swiss watchmaker in January 2021. He immediately set about refining the look and feel of the company to better represent its values of understatement, refinement, and craftsmanship – values, he says, that are embodied by Michel himself.
“To me, having our founder still with us as a source of knowledge, understanding and values is very special: it’s unprecedented, really,” he tells us, adding that Guido himself brings balance to the equation. “I bring a market sensitivity, as well as a personal understanding of what a watch should be today – and what high refinement looks like to clients in their 30s-40s.”
The Milanese businessman’s next step was to launch a new flagship collection of six highly technical but elegantly understated watches as a benchmark for Parmigiani style going forward. This was soon followed by 2022’s novelties launched at Watches & Wonders in April – the Tonda PF GMT Rattrapante, Tonda PF Skeleton, Tonda PF Tourbillon Platinum and Tonda PF Micro-Rotor.
Here, Guido tells us about the importance of Parmigiani’s heritage, his design inspirations, and hints at his plans to shake up the world of women’s watches.
Guido, how do you define the Parmigiani Fleurier style?
All the ingredients of our style can be found in our PF Collection. Our logo was originally a hallmark stamp, but Michel’s attention to detail and aesthetic sense shone through in its design, so we placed it at the centre of the dial, at 12 o’clock, to replace the full name of ‘Parmigiani Fleurier’ in favour of a more elegant and discreet sign.
The PF Collection also has a more open dial, with markers reduced in size to create a fresh, modern finish accented by a restrained guilloché pattern on each dial. Our colours are inspired by the theories of Swiss architect Le Corbusier, whose 1931 book Salubra: claviers de couleur describes how colours can influence one’s environment. These are all subtle details that our clients can appreciate, without them being ostentatious.
Tell us about your relationship with founder Michel Parmigiani?
I first heard of Parmigiani in 2000, when I first joined the watch industry. I was already very impressed that the brand was so young but perceived in such a high and prestigious manner. I didn’t meet Michel in person until I joined the company last year, and it was a very emotional encounter because it was not planned. He lives next door [to the office] and we met one day in the corridor; he immediately began talking to me in Italian – his father is from Milan, as I am. We bonded very quickly, and his values of understatement and understanding of others were so natural: it was like talking to a grandfather.
How does Michel’s skill in restoration impact the brand?
Michel is a living legend in the world of restoration; he embodies the highest craft in the mechanical arts. He is a master in the history of watchmaking, not just the skills of today. It’s a cultural and technical knowledge, which is very important to me because it’s a founding pillar of Parmigiani Fleurier.
How did your 25th anniversary novelty, La Rose Carrée, come about?
I joined as we were celebrating the 25th anniversary of the company. I said to Michel, “I want something that celebrates your legacy, your life and your brand”. He took me into the archives and showed me a movement made by Louis-Elisée Piguet between 1898 and 1904. We started thinking about how to build a unique piece around it; using an ancient heart to make a contemporary object. La Rose Carrée was unveiled on Michel’s birthday [2 December] last year, and it is an astonishing piece. Seeing him work with artisans at the top of their craft, like engraver Eddy Jaquet or enameller Vanessa Lecci, made me really understand what restoration is about – it is an artistic endeavour.
How do these values shape your vision for the future of Parmigiani Fleurier?
Our brand is noble in the soul. People who wear Parmigiani know what refinement is about; not as a show of wealth but evolving excellence. Luxury should be about something projected to the future, where the past provides the ingredients that you put into your craft to do something new and inspiring. It is not ostentatious but works behind the scenes. The new collection, especially the Tonda PF, reflects these values. The style is very minimal, pure and essential, but rich in its refinement and craftsmanship. This is the essence of what we do, of what we want to convey in this competitive world of watchmaking.
Tell us about your newest launches?
We arrived in Geneva for Watches & Wonders with real momentum after the launch of the PF Collection last year. It was incredible because it basically reactivated the brand. The first thing I wanted to do was show a world premiere – which was the GMT Rattrapante, a new interpretation of the GMT option – as well as the Skeleton. The idea is to always have these values of discretion and refinement in what we create, so the design is not in-your-face but full of technical innovation.
With the Rattrapante GMT, we put ourselves in the shoes of a client who travels a lot. It’s simple and intuitive to use, with a push button at eight o’clock to split the two hour hands – one for the traveller and one for home. The Rattrapante action means that the two hands reunite in the blink of an eye. It’s really about the purity of the experience, and it really was the star of the fair.
The Skeleton is another expression of purity, but this time relating to an open work movement. It houses very subtle, extremely refined aesthetic details, but it was also important to emphasise the readability of the dial. Too often with such movements, they are interesting from a mechanical point of view but it’s impossible to see the hands. We came at this by ensuring the visible movements are all in tones of grey – even the rubies are black – so that the golden hands are instantly readable. It’s truly a pleasure to look at.
How does your experience influence your take on women’s watches?
Coming from Bulgari, I see how differently women’s watches can be interpreted. I launched the Bulgari Serpenti in 2010, which was an interpretation of a watch as a piece of jewellery. Parmigiani has a very different style, but still has to address the same challenges: what does a watch mean to its wearer? The truth is that every woman’s style is different but, equally, you can’t generalise between men’s and women’s watches as you did years ago. Style has become much more fluid. You see women wearing men’s watches as a bold statement – a trend that has been going since the first Rolex was spotted on Italian ladies’ wrists 20 years ago.
What might a woman’s collection look like from Parmigiani?
I don’t have all the answers yet, but I was delighted with the reaction to the Parmigiami Micro-Rotor, which is a size 40mm dial, but very thin. The wearability is such that there are many women buying the Micro-Rotor and the Skeleton; this style can be masculine or feminine according to one’s taste. I believe that ladies are looking for a purity of design – and our collections have that in the refinement of the bracelet and case, brushed and polished dials and hands, the detail of the bezel.
What are your priorities for the next year?
The acceleration of the brand this year has been beyond our wildest expectations – demand has been four and half times the previous year – so our priority is to produce these orders for our clients as it takes up to 12 months to make a Parmigiani watch. Looking further ahead, we will be focusing on future launches, but we will be making no concessions to the purity of the style – we’ll have fun with adding creativity to our functions and mechanical movements while respecting the brand identity that we have established with the Tonda PF.