There is something magical about the manufacture of time. Producing the inanimate components and assembling them to create perpetual movement is like breathing life into inert material; it is the creation of a pulse that will never stop beating.
Parmigiani Fleurier chose industrial independence very early on, so that it could practise a diverse and comprehensive form of watchmaking, therefore unlocking creativity and innovative potential. In just a few years, a complete watchmaking centre was created around Parmigiani Fleurier. This was the result of acquiring renowned suppliers, as well as sometimes creating a manufacture from scratch. Formed of six divisions, the Parmigiani Fleurier watchmaking centre creates every single component of a watch. Each division also supplies prestigious watchmaking clients and, through its work, helps to resurrect the art of watchmaking in the Swiss Jura.
Every timepiece starts with an idea, and that idea always comes into being at Parmigiani Fleurier. The brand, the first of the centre's divisions, is its strategic decision-making centre where product families are developed and made harmonious and diverse. The restoration department remains central to the division. The design office, led by Michel Parmigiani, gives rise to plans and ideas, initially by means of a pencil sketch on paper, before producing a technical drawing of the finished product with the movement contained within it, as well as the chosen dial and case. The consolidated plans are then sent to Vaucher Manufacture Fleurier.
The dial is the watch's face and gives it its personality. Thanks to its mastery of very diverse artisanal techniques, Quadrance et Habillage manufactures a wide range of dials which constitutes the creative force of Parmigiani Fleurier.
The base of the high-end dial is machined using a numerically controlled machine, and is then subjected to various different surface treatments depending on the specific requirements of the project. Guilloché work, sandblasting, satin finishing, snailing and épargnage are just a few of the possible decorative processes; these are followed by the colouring process using lacquer or galvanoplasty. Finally, the artisan dial maker transfers the indication decals and positions the appliqués, the final touch which enhances the surface.
Les Artisans Boîtiers (LAB) tirelessly reconcile the complex forms required for Parmigiani Fleurier case middles with the need for water-resistant and perfectly adjusted casing on a specific VMF movement.
Each case begins its journey with a virtual stage, where it is developed using three-dimensional software (CAD) which guarantees its technical feasibility. It is then machined using numerically controlled (CNC) machines. In addition to the technological resources it possesses, LAB is capable of producing cases entirely by hand using traditional tools. Long-standing artisanal expertise coexists with avant-garde technology; indeed, it is the artisan who is responsible for giving the case middle its prestige during the final stage by polishing each surface by hand.
Vaucher Manufacture Fleurier (VMF), is the watch movement division of the Parmigiani Fleurier watchmaking centre. It develops high-end mechanical movements, both self-winding and hand-wound. Its industrial plant is a successor of the watchmaking tradition, as illustrated by its CNC machining, cutting and stamping activities, its large mechanical workshop and several workshops for watch assembly. Artisanal procedures preside over the entire industrial movement, such as the decoration of the main plates and bridges, or the hand bevelling of all the components. These artisanal operations are what makes the calibre so precious.
VMF also has a Research and Development department, which is responsible for Parmigiani’s power of innovation and forms its increasingly technical product range. This department is responsible for centralising and following up prospective Parmigiani Fleurier watchmaking projects. It produces the technical drawings of the movement, specifying all the operations to be carried out. On this basis, VMF allocates a share of the work to each remaining division of the Parmigiani watchmaking centre.
Atokalpa is one of the very few watchmakers capable of completely producing the regulating organ – in other words, the escapement wheel, pallet fork, balance and balance spring. It offers a wide variety of these parts, upon specific request from VMF.
Atokalpa carries out a phenomenal range of operations, the reason for its undisputed authority in the field. Processes such as stamping, cutting, bar sturning, and forming of teeth are performed on numerically controlled machines with an accuracy of up to 0.001 mm. These are then followed by quality-focused finishing operations such as heat treatment and burnishing of components to give them optimum hardness; operations specific to the balance spring: drawing, rolling and shaping so that it is stabilised and completely responsive. Finally, aesthetic finishing completes the entire production process, with techniques such as circular graining, snailing, polishing and bevelling performed on each piece to ensure the quality of its finishes.
Elwin supplies all the fastenings for Parmigiani Fleurier mechanical movements and launches the production of these in accordance with VMF's specific requests. Elwin specialises in high-precision bar turning and the production of micro-mechanical components such as screws, pinions, spindles and wheels. The company itself builds the numerically controlled bar turning machines that it uses in its industrial process and also develops the corresponding computer programs. These two aspects – both the bespoke creation of machines and their subsequent use for bar turning – give Elwin an exceptional level of accuracy and expertise, as well as great potential for innovation. At this small company of just 20 people, each employee is in charge of their own production process, from A to Z, ensuring comprehensive monitoring of the product and its quality.