All the watches in the Edouard and Maurice Sandoz Collection have specific features that Parmigiani Fleurier has had the pleasure of studying during their time in its restoration workshop. Among them is an oval watch with telescopic hands that inspired one of the Fleurier-based brand’s modern timepieces. The oval watch with articulated hands dates back to around 1800. It is a pocket watch of English origin. The hands are designed to trace the elliptical form of the dial. A holistic approach was adopted for this timepiece, with the case, dial and time indicators all following the contours of the shaped movement. The bezel and case-back of this gold timepiece are edged with pearls. The back of this jeweled timepiece is adorned with a medallion of royal blue enamel over a guilloché pattern, with precious stones set in a floral arrangement.
Applying the knowledge gained while restoring this magnificent piece, Parmigiani Fleurier developed a modern solution for a similar display. It can be found in all its glory on its Ovale Pantographe model, named after an instrument that operates using the same principle. A variety of approaches were explored during the design of this complication, in order to create a legible time display.
The restoration and preservation of watchmaking heritage represent the very foundation and origins of Parmigiani Fleurier. Its expertise dates back to 1976, when master watchmaker Michel Parmigiani opened a restoration workshop. In 1996, the Parmigiani Fleurier brand was created around this center of excellence. Restoration requires the highest level of watchmaking expertise.
Much of what is learnt is actually linked to forgotten activities of the past; activities which are imprinted in the brand’s watches. The Parmigiani Fleurier restoration workshop is a department that deals with all types of horological objects. Three small automata from the Maurice Sandoz collection serve as fine examples of masterpieces restored by Michel Parmigiani. They are sources of inspiration both on a mechanical and a material level.
Restoration involves returning an object to its original condition. In order to do this, Michel Parmigiani has set himself apart by creating his own methodology, a constant balance between ensuring the mechanical functionality of the creation and preserving the expertise of the past. For him and his team, this means conducting investigations and immersing themselves in the past, so as to ensure the preservation and operation of the item during its restoration. By studying masterpieces from the past, he is able to find his own solutions to the mechanical and technical challenges faced by master watchmakers throughout the ages, and to use them in the Parmigiani Fleurier watches of today.
Like an archaeologist, who knows that any undertaking on a component may prove irreversible; the initial task of the restorer is to observe an often unique item – within which lie many mysteries – over a period of a few days. The restorer looks for parallels, scouring scientific works, museums and collections before opening the piece, whilst making sure to document it all.
He or she must understand the subtleties of the mechanism just as much as the techniques used. The restorer should also have knowledge of numerous arts such as precious metalwork, enameling, engraving/chasing, gilding and glasswork. Preservation involves a long and patient cleaning operation, which can sometimes uncover new secrets, for example a previously hidden inscription. Restoration, during the reassembly phase, involves adopting reversible solutions, whilst ensuring the original remains the same.
Taking its name from its founder, watchmaker and restorer Michel Parmigiani, the fine watchmaking brand was founded in 1996 in Fleurier, in the Swiss valley of Val-de-Travers. With its own watchmaking center ensuring its independence, the brand has both full control over the production process and unique creative freedom.
For twenty years, the Parmigiani Fleurier signature has resided within timepieces that command the utmost respect, in harmony with watchmaking traditions. They are the labour of a lifetime – that of Michel Parmigiani, the talented individuals who assist him, and the special relationship between the Manufacture and the masterpieces of the past, enabling it to invent a bold future.