Considered a relatively new entrant in the watch industry, having been established in 1996, Parmigiani Fleurier has nonetheless won a place as one of the pioneering independent watch brands. This is built on founder Michel Parmigiani’s exceptional watchmaking and restoring talent, including breathing new life into important timepieces from the Patek Philippe Museum and the Château des Monts.
With the support of the Sandoz Family Foundation, the brand transforms its manufacturing aspirations into reality, unveiling a myriad of cutting-edge watch launches and consistently pushing the boundaries of innovation. There seems to have been a pivotal turning point after Guido Terreni assumed the role of CEO in January 2021, leading to increased brand visibility and a notable surge in production. He was previously president of Bulgari Horlogerie for 11 years.
We met Terreni during his recent visit to Kuala Lumpur to unveil the brand’s Watches and Wonders 2023 collection, which is packed with “a-Tonda-goodness”. When the reimagined Tonda PF was first introduced in 2021, the watch world began to take notice. The timepieces eschewed extravagance in favour of refined simplicity, showcasing that true luxury lies in the meticulous details of craftsmanship and a minimalist, timeless design. It is truly a case of less is more.
Having visited KL last year, he notices a rising interest and appreciation for Parmigiani Fleurier as evidenced by a threefold increase in attendance. When attendees bring friends who take to the brand immediately, it reflects an appreciation for the brand’s distinctive style.
“Parmigiani is a brand I like very much because of its discretion. It is not luxury that is ostentatious. On the contrary, true luxury to me is personal, private. And when you are addressing such values, you’re speaking to clientele who are not in the need of showcasing their wealth and are much more sophisticated than that,” he says.
Someone who appreciates a brand like Parmigiani is likely a connoisseur not eager to flaunt his wealth and doesn’t base his choices on the opinions of others. “Although some may claim not to care about what people think, the reality is they do. Interactions among those recognising Parmigiani on the wrist reveal an immediate connection, an acknowledgment of shared knowledge and appreciation for subtle elegance and high horology,” Terreni adds.
It looks like Parmigiani has hit the nail on the head by identifying the brand’s aesthetic goals for today’s world. “The refreshed Tonda PF is perfectly aligned with the preferences of clients in their 30s and early 40s who appreciate horology. This was our first ambition and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
“To continue catering to this demographic and sustain their interest, we emphasise the importance of being intriguing. Our focus lies in innovation, introducing movements and functions that defy the notion that everything in watchmaking has already been done. We believe in the capacity to invent or reinvent essential functions.”
Just like how they achieved a significant milestone with the GMT Rattrapante’s world premiere in 2022. This complication features two superimposed hour hands — one in rhodium gold for local time and the other in pink gold for home time. Pressing the 8 o’clock pusher advances the local time hand by one hour, exposing the home time hand. When the wearer returns home, pressing the pink gold pusher in the crown resets the hands, aligning the rhodium-plated hand above the pink gold hand, akin to a split-seconds chronograph. This intuitive feature aligns seamlessly with the brand’s spirit.
“This innovation made the brand exceptionally captivating for a community of watch enthusiasts. The simplicity and purity of the idea resonated with them, creating a function that didn’t previously exist but proved incredibly user-friendly. The philosophy behind our approach emphasises subtlety, playing with elements that are present yet almost elusive. The details reveal themselves through wear, making the timepiece a private luxury, a captivating object for the owner’s discerning eye.”
The Tonda PF has not only revitalised the brand’s existing clientele but also attracted new ones while staying true to the values appreciated by the earlier customer base. Some existing clients, familiar with earlier collections, were drawn to the PF and became owners themselves. The majority of its current clients are newcomers to the brand, and their response has been remarkable.
“To thrive in a competitive field like watchmaking, it’s crucial to have a clear purpose for introducing a new timepiece to the market. With countless watches released each year, [when] launching something [it] must be not only relevant but also different from existing offerings. Our unique signature lies in offering refined and discreet luxury for a non-ostentatious audience,” Terreni says.
“This commitment aligns with the values of our founder, Michel, who personifies watchmaking expertise, restoration skills and humility. The brand’s essence is rooted in extreme competence, knowledge, refinement and understatement, qualities we aim to uphold forever.”
Terreni’s journey with the brand has been intense but rewarding. He didn’t imagine he would be able to revive Parmigiani Fleurier within a short period of time. “To quickly shift the brand’s mindset, I focused on transforming the existing team rather than introducing new personnel. This approach preserves the heritage and knowledge internally, resulting in double positive effects. You have the knowledge that is evolving and the immediate understanding of the new direction allows for swift implementation, avoiding the complexities associated with external hires.”
As CEO, he derives immense satisfaction in interpreting a brand’s values and evoking emotional responses from customers. “What truly motivates me is the prospect of leaving the company in a better state than when I first took charge. I recognise that life inevitably involves moving on, and my legacy lies in the positive impact I’ve made — the ability to leave behind a transformed and improved organisation. Seeing the company thrive and change positively under my leadership is what inspires me.”
This article first appeared on Nov 20, 2023 in The Edge Malaysia.