It is a rare joy to restore a watchmaking piece. To free it from the ravages of time and of men is to reinstate it within a temporal truth so essential to our memory.
Restoring an object means restoring it to its former glory. There is an important distinction between restoration and repair work; it is not simply an after-sales service for antique pieces. Repair work means fixing an object at all costs, while restoration strives to restore its original character – nothing more, nothing less. The restoration approach developed by Michel Parmigiani is formed of three working steps.
"The worst ravages of time are nothing compared to the damage inflicted by an unskilled hand."Michel Parmigiani
Rushing to start work on an object without first assessing it, is the most detrimental and unfortunately most frequent mistake made in restoration. Every restoration project undertaken by Michel Parmigiani began with an observation stage. Evaluating the functions and the decorations, ascribing the piece to an era, comparing it with other similar works, consulting the literature – all these methods can be used by the restorer to establish a framework for analysis and prevent mistakes. A good restorer understands and situates a piece before even touching it.
"You have to let the object speak, work like an archaeologist to rediscover its essence, and have the humility to reconsider everything you thought you knew."Michel Parmigiani
The second step can be likened to an immersion stage as the restorer immerses himself in a foreign era and thought process: that of the object's creators. In this equally delicate and dangerous exercise, the restorer applies all his watchmaking knowledge to the object while casting his own judgement aside. He must understand what has been broken, modified or removed, without letting his creative mind interfere. He must perform and recreate the artisanal techniques of the past, no matter what modern methods he has at his disposal.
"It is a rare joy to restore a watchmaking piece. To free it from the ravages of time and of men is to reinstate it within a temporal truth so essential to our memory."Michel Parmigiani
The restorer now becomes a watchmaker and craftsman in the purest sense, reproducing the object's mechanics and aesthetics. As far as possible, the original components are kept and are rid of the ravages of time. When a component must be re-manufactured, the restorer draws up a manufacturing procedure and decides which material to use while weighing up the constraints of similarity and solidity. Finally, in keeping with the skills of the past, he reapplies the enamelling, highlights the engravings and restores the piece's original shine.
After completing this long labour of love, the restorer is filled with wonder upon seeing the restored object, which has now recovered its original character, which it had lost for several generations.