Michel Parmigiani is a living legend when it comes to watchmaking. Not only has he restored, and with that saved, many historical timepieces, he also created a brand of his own. Now, a little over two decades, he goes back to the very first watch he ever created under his own name and revised it. Haute Time got to sit down with him to talk shop and his new watch!
Michel Parmigiani (MP): What I like is that my first design from 1996 has proven to be so durable and the fact that it is still of value today, so it’s timeless. The inspiration for the piece actually came from looking at a shell (laughs). Nature gives us a lot, as we just have to watch the nature, and observe it to understand some of the codes. Everything is there; we just have to take it from nature. Architects are always watching nature for inspiration to build. The proportions that you can find in nature have been reapplied to nature, and that’s also what I do now. I take those proportions, and when I design the watches, everything is studied. The length of the hands, the dimensions, the proportions, everything has been done according to the golden ratio.
PM: What are the most important changes made to the new model and why did you make them?
MP: So the new model is bigger and slimmer. It was important for me to keep what you see on the bezel, this optical illusion that is part of the DNA of that line. However, it has a larger case but thinner profile versus the original model. Nowadays, this is how people want their watches so that’s why it is designed that way.
PM: Is it designed for the every day or is it designed for more special occasions?
MP: Depends on how you live your life. It can be for every day. There is no reason why it wouldn’t be for every day. At the same time, it’s totally a watch you can use for occasions because it is a refined model. For me, it’s very important to make a line that is very durable and timeless, and today, you see this model in white gold, it comes in red gold, but it could be replicated tomorrow in steel.
That’s what is interesting to me. This watch was designed more than 20 years ago and to see that today you can adapt it to current taste by making only small changes is remarkable.
PM: Do you feel that a lot has changed in the watch world since the introduction of your very first model?
MP: Change — are you interested in changes in the watchmaking industry or the market or the people?
PM: More so the market.
MP: Our production is very limited when you compare us to other brands or bigger groups, so it’s something totally different. The bigger groups produce a lot and sometimes are listed on stock market whereas we are a smaller independent brand. I feel that today there are a lot more watches produced and on the market versus 20 years ago. For us now, we have to find a way to differentiate ourselves and find our customers.
PM: And to keep relevant.
PM: Is that causing the industry to change with it? Having to adapt to newer technology and more innovative design?
MP: From our core values and our strengths, we are creating watchmaking objects, mechanical objects of art. We are very flexible, and that’s how we keep watchmaking alive and durable in the next few years. Of course, we have to adapt to markets and answer today’s desire from customers, but I don’t think we will have to go to another extreme. We use the technologies of today, but always in the sense that we are creating mechanical watches. We stay true to our roots.
Keeping this traditional aspect of the watchmaking is important. Although, we are open to innovation, and we look at new materials, but we also don’t want to forget what has been done. Because the beauty of watchmaking is that you can keep it for years, you can keep your watch for centuries, which when you look at electronic devices they are obsolete after a few years.
PM: how important is it for a watch brand to have a good time only watch in the collection?
MP: I compare the watch collection to a community of families, with different children and families that are made for different types of people. There is obviously a link between the families, but it’s important to have them be different.
When I design a watch, I always start with a profile. So if you look at all the profiles of all the different watches from the different families, you clearly see a link. Although they look different, they all have the same link.
PM: For the final question, we’ve already talked about durability but are there any other words that you think are important to associate with Parmigiani brand?
MP: Mechanical art, harmony, refinement, and that’s our idea. A good start (laughs) and also, the innovation.