15 Minutes with Michel Parmigiani

Q&A | May 2017 | BY Jessica Idarraga

For the last 20 years, Parmigiani Fleurier has been lauded for its attention to luxury and craft. So what better partner than Bugatti—the Italian carmaker whose vehicles are sought after by connoisseurs all over the world. In 2004, the Swiss watchmaker created the Bugatti Type 370, a unique timepiece inspired by the turbocharged engineering of the Bugatti Veyron. This spring, Parmigiani released its latest watch collection, the Toric Chonomètre. Here, we speak to Founder Michel Parmigiani about the design of the new collection, the meaning of time and assembling a creative vision.

Can you tell us how you began your collaboration with Bugatti?  Bugatti discovered us. The late founder was looking to partner with an independent brand and they found Parmigiani. In 2004 we introduced the Bugatti Type 370 and have been the official watchmakers for Bugatti ever since. We did not just put the logo on an existing watch, we developed something that has been thought exclusively for Bugatti. It shows how creative and innovative we can be.

How did you come across the esoteric discipline of watchmaking?  First of all, it was curiosity. I was born in Couvet, Switzerland where people were famous for watchmaking in the 18th century. In the region where I am from they were pioneers that became very famous for their skill.

Do you look more towards history or the current day for inspiration?  It is a mixture of everything. It is the observation of art, nature, history and of my dreams. For example, the inspiration for the hands of the Toric Chronomètre were taken from a medieval javelin. When I travel I observe a lot, I like to look into details.

How does nature impact your work?  I use a lot of the proportions, harmony and ancestral principles that I find in nature and bring them into the design of the watches. For example, the inspiration for the Toric case came from a shell from Malaysia, which appeared flat even though it was quite thick. This was the first design that I used in 1996 because inside the watch you have a complication that is quite thick but when you look at it from the side, it appears thin.

I use the curves from nature in the design of all of the watches. The curve of the watch uses the same curve and the proportions of the Fibonacci sequence, the golden ratio. You can find this in every flower and for me it was really important to use this principle.

How have technological advances affected the art of watchmaking?  I’m convinced that mechanical art will always exist because it is timeless. You can keep a mechanical movement for years and it does not require any battery. Digital watches, or anything new, has a lifetime and is obsolete after a few years. Of course I use new technology, but it is important to keep in mind the mechanical aspect of the watch.

What is your concept of time?  If I want to see it from a material perspective; time is the only thing that you cannot buy. Time is very much perception like when you get bored, or when you are busy, your perception of time can be different. Going back to nature, when you look at the sun it also gives you an indication of time. The first watches were actually based on the sundial. Time exists, and it doesn’t exist, it is not material.

How do you encourage creative thinking within the company?  It is personal motivation. I have a team who are animated by this vision and they identify with the brand. As long as they are motivated, they want to move forward.

 

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