On December 2, 1950 at 7:08 am, Michel Parmigiani was born. Seventy years later, this man, founder of a watch manufacture named Parmigiani Fleurier (among other companies) is still regarded as one of the most influential contemporary watchmakers. When the watch industry was suffering from the quartz crisis, in 1976, Parmigiani decided to establish his first workshop, specialised in the restoration of antique pocket watches. A risk for some, it ended up becoming the foundation for his eponymous brand 20 years later. As this man celebrates his 70th birthday today, the brand has decided to launch a special watch, actually a recreation of Michel’s first wristwatch. Meet the Parmigiani Fleurier Toric Heritage.
Michel Parmigiani, a lifetime dedicated to beautiful horology
Born in 1950 in the Swiss canton of Neuchâtel, Michel Parmigiani grew up with an avid devotion to both watchmaking and architecture. Two disciplines that combine technicality and artist, they would form the base of his future creations. In 1966, Michel Parmigiani began his studies at the Fleurier school of watchmaking and then at the Val-de- Travers watchmaking school at La Chaux-de-Fonds Technicum in Switzerland. Michel began a career in timepiece restoration, a field reserved only for the most highly skilled horological craftsmens. In 1976, Parmigiani established his first workshop in Couvet.
His knowledge was soon recognised by a long list of Haute Horlogerie clients, who entrusted him as their go-to restorer for the most difficult jobs, such as salvaging priceless mechanical marvels from the Patek Philippe Museum and bringing legendary pieces – like Breguet’s Sympathique Clock – back to life. “I remember feeling a bit like a pariah, starting this adventure against all advice,” Michel recalls of those early days, when the whole industry was looking at the invasion of battery-powered timepieces from Asia.
The most important turning point in his career had to do with one of the most influential families of Switzerland, the Sandoz Family, which owned a significant collection of historical automata and clocks. Michel became the official restorer of the Sandoz Foundation’s collection in 1980. While working on these important pieces, Michel also worked on several movements and innovations of his own creation, such as the development of an extra-flat perpetual calendar for a pocket watch (1985), the development of a constant-force instantaneous perpetual calendar clock with 8 days power reserve (1988), the Calibre 90, an automatic pocket watch for Breguet (1990), the invention of and patent registration for the thirty-year continuous calendar clock concept (1993) or the development of a pivoted detent escapement for chronometry (1995).
In 1996, aware of Michel’s talent, the Sandoz Family Foundation encouraged him to create his own watch brand with their full support. This was the beginning of Parmigiani Fleurier, which launched in 1996. The Parmigiani Fleurier Watchmaking Hub now encompasses five specialized Swiss firms that ensure that each step of every Parmigiani Fleurier timepiece’s creation is executed in-house. Each of the five factories also produces parts for other Haute Horlogerie clients, including La Montre Hermès, the watchmaking division of the celebrated French leather goods house, which is a co-owner of the Vaucher movement manufacturer.
The Toric Heritage
Parmigiani Fleurier’s choice for the Toric as a celebration of its founder is no coincidence… The Toric is probably the most important watch in the brand’s history, and one of special significance for Michel himself, being the very first wristwatch case he designed. With his love for horology and architecture, the design of this watch, which could appear relatively simple at first, is the result of a complex process. The harmonious curves of the Toric Heritage case, like all other Parmigiani Fleurier timepieces, are inspired by the Golden Ratio and its links to the famous Fibonacci sequence – a ratio often seen in art, such as Botticelli’s Birth of Venus and Mondrian’s Composition in Red, Yellow, and Blue, and in iconic architecture such as Egypt’s Great Pyramids.
With this in mind, the Parmigiani Fleurier Toric was the perfect base for a watch commemorating Michel Parmigiani’s work and his 70th anniversary. The new Toric Heritage model retains most elements of the original Toric wristwatch, including its case inspired by ancient Greek columns and from a shell Michel found on a beach in Malaysia, with hand-done knurling and alternating gadroons adorning its curved contours. For this 2020 model, the case and design have been modernised; the case measures 42.8mm and is made from stainless steel (we would certainly have prefered a sub-40 case, but…)
With a strong influence from master watchmakers such as Abraham-Louis Breguet and other pioneers of horology, the dial had to be crafted in the traditional way. It displays an elegant and classic hand-guilloché technique with a radial barleycorn or “grain d’orge” pattern. Once again, this organic pattern, derived from barley grains is inspired by one of the many examples of the presence of the Fibonacci sequence in the natural world.
For the occasion, the dial is executed in a modern dark blue colour with the contrasting rhodium-plated 18k white indexes and the thin Toric hands. A classic feature of the Toric, as well as many other PF creations, the date is displayed in an arched window where three digits are exposed.
The back of the watch reveals an in-house automatic movement, the calibre PF441. This deceptively simple engine is built around a twin-barrel architecture (55h power reserve), offering a more stable and linear distribution of energy. Also, it features a variable inertia balance (4Hz frequency), which ensures long term stability, greater shock-resistance, and much less sensitivity to the watch wearing position for optimal isochronism. This combination means that this movement meets the most stringent standards for accuracy and reliability, and the watch is chronometer-certified by COSC. The movement is decorated with Geneva stripes, polished angles, circular-graining and all seven bridges are hand-bevelled. The solid 22k rose gold rotor is decorated with a hand-guilloché barleycorn pattern, just like the dial.
The Parmigiani Fleurier Toric Heritage is worn on an Abyss Blue alligator strap, sourced from Hermès, and secured by a stainless steel folding clasp.
Availability & price
The Parmigiani Fleurier Toric Heritage “Michel Parmigiani 70th Anniversary” is a limited edition of 70 pieces. It can be pre-ordered at this page (US market) and will retail for USD 17,700. The watch will be priced at EUR 17,700 in Europe. More details at www.parmigiani.com.