Haute Time speaks with Jean-Marc Jacot, CEO of Parmigiani Fleurier about the brand’s avant-garde aesthetics and its expansion within the Middle East.
What is your definition of fine watchmaking?
Fine watchmaking to me is the meeting point between technical and subjective necessities. Basically speaking of course, a good watch is one that is technically performant, a well-functioning and accurate timekeeper. And then on the subjective side, there are criteria such as the watch’s aesthetics, ergonomics, the influence it will have on the customer’s perception of the brand, etc. If the technical and the subjective aspects are fulfilled, without forgetting the price range which must be perceived as acceptable by the customer, then we are speaking of a fine watch.
Established in 1996, Parmigiani is a young watch brand in comparison to other labels that have been in the business for centuries. What sets Parmigiani apart from its competitors and also as a young and cool brand?
Although the phrase flatters me, we are not trying to be young and cool but rather “contemporary” and open to every generation. Today, the conflicts between generations are over, or practically so. The life style is key, and not the generation any more. Parmigiani Fleurier really aims to be a “trans-generational” brand, accessible in terms of image and appealing to any age category through its image and products.
How does Parmigiani combine the Swiss heritage in watchmaking with its renowned avant-garde aesthetics?
Parmigiani Fleurier honors the heritage of its ancestors through the activity of restoration, which continues to lie at the soul of the brand and to which it owes a lot of inspiration and knowledge. On the other hand, our creations of the present are watches of the 21st century which we wish to be contemporary, modern and sometimes daring in terms of aesthetics. Both aspects – the tradition and an almost futuristic design – are not incompatible. They can even go hand in hand since a strong respect of the past tradition is often an impulse to venture out with confidence.
Which are some of your favorite Parmigiani models and why?
I’m often asked about this and I’d like to reply that our watches to me are a bit like my children. Each are different but I love all of them equally. However, what I can say is that I’m alternating between a Tonda Métro (pictured below) and a Tonda Hémisphères at the moment. I like the former because it’s very elegant, simple and suited to any attire. And the latter with its dual time zone is my best partner in the business trips that I take. I always adjust the second time zone to my home time – Switzerland. Read our full close-up on the Tonda Métrograph.
Ten years ago you came up with a pioneering design for the first Bugatti watch. You’ve recently announced a unique 10 year anniversary piece, called the Parmigiani Bugatti Mythe Unique Piece (pictured below). What is your relationship with Bugatti and what has influenced this special partnership?
When we first met Bugatti, they were looking to build an exclusive partnership with a watch brand, and their criteria were very precise: it needed a watchmaker with a propensity for technical excellence, but also artistic flair, a heightened awareness of design and the elegance of forms. They also aimed for an independent manufacture, giving it the kind of freedom conducive to boundless creative potential. Our partnership was formalized in 2004 and illustrates the potential an independent manufacture can offer to a brand like Bugatti but also for our own development, by constantly showcasing and pushing to the limit the work of our verticalized watchmaking centre.
What is your view on the Middle East’s market for luxury timepieces?
The Middle East is one of our most exciting markets and we have been present here through partners and retailers almost since our foundation year in 1996. Many of our limited edition wristwatches and table clocks have found a new home in countries of the GCC, like Qatar or Oman. Dubai was the first city globally to see the opening of a Parmigiani Fleurier monobrand store, and this is testament to the importance we give to this region of the world. Having said this, the Middle East is full of challenges too, its population is very diverse, with a wide range of interests, habits and tastes, and the creation of tourism hubs like Dubai only reinforce this effect, making it even more important for us as a brand to pick the right products for the right locations, and to support our retailers in creating a unique experience for our customers.
How do you hope to further expand within the Middle East region?
We had already developed a solid network of retailers and partners over the past 15 years but this year is a special one for us in the region as we have decided to set up our own office and operations directly from Dubai, UAE. By opening a subsidiary entirely owned by Parmigiani Fleurier, we hope to be closer to our Middle East customers, expand our brand awareness and grow into one of the major prestige watchmakers for the region.
What sets the Middle Eastern clientele apart from others around the world?
They have a true appreciation for craftsmanship and the work that goes into creating and decorating each of our watches entirely by hand. They also look for limited editions and exclusive timepieces, and having our own independent manufacturing capacity is invaluable in this context, as it allows us to create bespoke watches and fulfill their desire for a piece that is completely individual.
What is your vision for the future of the Parmigiani brand?
My vision for Parmigiani Fleurier is that the brand shall take its righteous place as leader in the Swiss fine watchmaking landscape. Without speaking of objectives, Parmigiani Fleurier is set to remain a brand of fine taste, of quality and authentic values. Finally, my vision is for the brand to have an international status and scope in the long run.
Parmigiani Fleurier is available in the UAE at Damas Jewellery outlets. For more information, visit the official Parmigiani website