Parmigiani Fleurier chose industrial independence very early on in its history. This provides the freedom to practise cutting-edge watchmaking, versatile and technically advanced, enabling creativity to be expressed without limitations. In just a few years, a manufacture was set up with the aim of mastering all the components of a watch. The dials and their meticulous decorations; the cases in their most complex designs; but also the heart of the watch, the regulating organ and its balance-spring, and each of the tiny screws and gears, barely visible to the naked eye, which form the movement. In the centre for industrial craftsmanship, designers rub shoulders with engineers, and artisans work side-by-side with high-end watchmakers. Behind a single watch there are more than 50 professions and the history of a centre of expertise, working together in the Swiss Juras region to revive the art of watchmaking, day after day. Through this watchmaking centre, the values dear to Michel Parmigiani are respected – craftsmanship, technical skill, manual dexterity, and meticulous attention to each and every detail. He learned these values in his career as a restorer, and has been practising them tirelessly ever since in his work as a watchmaker. "If there had to be only one" Each watch embodies the personality of Michel Parmigiani, the Brand's founder, renowned restorer, and visionary watchmaker. Each watch echoes the special relationship between the Manufacture and those who choose it for the pieces conceived, designed and produced within its watchmaking centre.
« There is something magical about the manufacture of time. Producing 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. »
Every watch starts with an idea, and the spark of that idea always comes from Parmigiani Fleurier. The brand, the first of the centre's divisions, is its strategic decision-making centre where watch families are developed and made harmonious and diverse. The brand has the restoration department at its heart, as it is this which provides the source of inspiration and knowledge for current creations. The design office, led by Michel Parmigiani, creates the ideas for watches, initially by means of a pencil sketch on paper, before producing a technical drawing of the finished product with the movement contained within it. The history of each luxury watch starts here, before being sent to the rest of the watchmaking centre team to be brought to life.
It is the face of the watch, the most visible aspect of its personality. The watchmaking centre's dial manufacture, Quadrance et Habillage, produces a prodigious range of dials, providing the creative force behind Parmigiani Fleurier. This potential for diversification exists because the La Chaux-de-Fonds-based company is skilled in many industrial techniques, but also – crucially – in craftsmanship. A mastery of traditional skills and a meticulous approach form the basis of every luxury dial, making it unique. The base of the high-end watch dial is machined using numerically controlled machinery, and is then subjected to various different surface treatments depending on the specific requirements of the project. Guilloché work, sandblasting, satin finishing, snailing, épargnage and graining are just a few of the possible decorative processes; these are followed by the colouring process using lacquer or galvanoplasty. Lastly, the artisan dial-maker transfers the indication decals and positions the appliqués, the final touch which enhances the surface. Quadrance et Habillage is a key player in the aesthetic customisation of a Parmigiani Fleurier watch as it is able to satisfy customers' specific desires. A number of special commissions are therefore custom designed and made by Quadrance et Habillage to create truly unique pieces.
Les Artisans Boîtiers, the watchmaking centre's high-end case manufacture, has cutting-edge knowledge and expertise which enable it to ceaselessly marry the sometimes opposing demands required to complete a luxury watch. Complexity of form cannot compromise water resistance; an ambitious aesthetic must still allow for flawless casing. Every watch case starts with a virtual phase where it is developed on 3D imaging software, to ensure it is technically feasible. Theory then meets reality when the case is physically created using numerically controlled machines. In addition to the technological resources it possesses, Les Artisans Boîtiers is capable of producing cases entirely by hand using traditional tools. A long history of expert craftsmanship works alongside the very latest in 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.
Elwin and Atokalpa, joint subsidiaries of the watchmaking centre, are specialists in precision bar turning and the production of micromechanical components. Together, they provide all of the hardware for a watch movement – pins, gears, wheels – and the more complex components – column wheels, barrel arbor, winding stem, balance staff, to name but a few. These two companies offer a prodigious range of operations, making them the undisputed force in this sector, with incredible precision down to a hundredth of a millimetre. The quality and aesthetic finishing processes are at the heart of every single aspect of production. 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. The latter takes no less than fifteen operations to transform it from a metal wire just 0.1 mm in cross section to a 25-micron balance-spring which is the key to keeping accurate time. Elwin's hallmark is that it manufactures the bar turning machines that it uses in its industrial processes itself. Their mastery of these two fields — both machinery and its custom computer programming, and its subsequent use for high-precision work — provides the entire watchmaking centre with a rare level of mechanical precision.