About the Brand – Parmigiani Fleurier

25 years of creation, hundreds of years of expert craftsmanship.

Founded only 25 years ago, Parmigiani Fleurier is a young brand that draws its expertise from the art of restoration. This unique combination is at the heart of their timepieces with a contemporary style for enthusiasts seeking to combine modernity and high technical competency. In order to adhere to their principles and perfect each timepiece produced, the brand chose to create its own watch collections where more than 30 in-house calibers have been developed. With over 250 models, three flagship collections, and several awards, the history of Parmigiani Fleurier has been rich in expert craftsmanship and innovation since 1996. Parmigiani Fleurier’s attention to detail and technical accomplishments have resulted in more than thirty mechanical parts distinguished by two Chronograph Watch Prizes, one Innovation Prize, and one Travel Time Watch Prize.

An Interview with Guido Terreni, CEO of Parmigiani Fleurier

Born in Milan, Italy, Guido Terreni is the CEO of the prestigious haute-horology Swiss Maison, Parmigiani Fleurier, since January 2021. After graduating with a degree in economics from Luigi Bocconi University in Milan, he began his professional career in 1995 at the Danone Group. He then moved to Switzerland in 2000, where he joined the Watchmaking Division at Bulgari. He was appointed President of Bulgari Horlogerie in 2009, a position he held for eleven years. He is credited for transforming Bulgari into a premium watch brand and fully integrated manufacturer. The iconic Serpenti and Octo collections were created under his leadership, which resulted in 57 international watchmaking prizes, 7 world records in ultra-thin movements and included the prestigious Aiguille d’Or award at the GPHG. Guido Terreni embarked on a similar transformation when he joined Parmigiani Fleurier in January 2021. It is a real privilege and honour to have the opportunity to interview him for Katsbling.

Hi Guido, Welcome to Katsbling and a huge thanks for this opportunity to interview you. As a horology enthusiast and watch-collector, I have been aware of Parmigiani Fleurier for several years, more than a decade. And I am also aware of its eponymous founder Michel Parmigiani, who founded his namesake brand in 1996. The impression I have always had of Parmigiani Fleurier is that it is a quiet and understated watch brand that prefers to let its watchmaking do all the talking. Under your leadership, Parmigiani Fleurier has gained a new lease of life and blossomed into a modern haute horology powerhouse. I must admit, there is so much about the new Parmigiani Fleurier I am not aware of. In the ensuing questions, we at Katsbling and our reader-base would really love to learn more about your vision, achievements, and plans for Parmigiani Fleurier.

Kunal Khemka [KK]: Guido, when you joined Parmigiani Fleurier (PF) in January 2021, what was the first thing that you did? What was not working at PF? Please tell us a bit about your vision for PF, and how you set about implementing it.

Guido Terreni [GT]: I feel the same way where you said that the collectors are looking at the brand again. In 1996 it was highly coveted by the collectors, for the work that Michel (Parmigiani) did, the founder now. Because his interest in watch making is extremely pure and goes back to his roots of restoration and tradition as a watchmaking art. But in the last 10 to 15 years the brand lost a little bit of contact with the market, hence the customers. Probably because there were too many things, like too many CEOs who led the brand. The brand lost a little bit of appeal. As you have said rightly, when I was contacted to take over as the CEO of the brand, I felt it was a hidden gem. I felt that the industry was going towards convergence of taste to a few brands and few watches. My experience is usually to counter the trend of people of different watchmaking connoisseurs. And the clients who were really into watches who tend to look for something different. Something more personal. So independent brands became extremely interesting during the pandemic, especially for this kind of customer. I felt that Parmigiani had all the ingredients to succeed but needed a stylist’s direction, clear vision taking it back to its roots, which are values of understated deep knowledge and culture of watchmaking for men and women who do not need attention and are beyond hype. But they go for their personal choices, hence they are very educated customers.

[KK]: Who are PF’s customers? Why should someone purchase a PF?

[GT]: Clients are extremely educated, and we talk to those who do not follow the trends. So here the public make their own choices and they are educated as they are the connoisseur. They do not believe in the ostentatiousness of luxury. These customers buy for their own self and do not care what people are saying about what they are carrying on their wrists. They usually have a lot of experience with taste and beauty and knowledge of the brand. And usually, it is not their first watch. When you buy a Parmigiani, you already have an experience with high-end brands because the prestige of the brand is very high. So keeping in mind to serve those customers with style that is pure, and it should be long lasting from the perspective of taste. They don’t have to be showy. Discretion and finishing should be at the highest level in the watchmaking culture including high watchmaking contents in the movements of the dials and cases. But it should not be on the face, it shouldn’t be apparent. There is a saying by Oscar Wilde that elegance is a beauty which is not meant to be shown. And I think this sentence is apt to describe the culture of the brand.

[KK]: How many watches does PF produce each year?

[GT]: We do not disclose this. It is confidential. It is a few thousands a year. It is not a mass production but also not a niche production because we are not talking in hundreds.

[KK]: In an industry dominated by ‘Hype,’ ‘Artificial Scarcity’ (whether real or manufactured), ‘games’ played by Brands and AD’s, how does PF fit in? What sets PF apart from other haute-horology brands?

[GT]: I don’t believe in building desirability by withholding the product to the customers. I believe luxury is meant to be enjoyed. Desirability should be built with the ideas, style, and craft that you have and should be expressed so that the customers can enjoy. The waiting list that we have is due to the non-anticipation of the success of the collection that we launched in 2021. The response was overwhelming, much higher than what we had forecasted. This is the reason why we have a waiting list. You have to plan the production a year in advance, and if you do not have the product that means you have underestimated your dimension. Being a brand, which is gaining a lot of appreciation in the recent couple of years, it is something very difficult to understand upfront, so we are chasing the demand. I don’t want to get into a competition with the dealers. The authorised dealers are your partners, and you should respect your partner. When you say that there are games which are being played, it is true. Because when you have watches only meant for boutiques and you have a multi-brand client who deals in the brand, you will be confused if you are a client and wouldn’t know why he cannot access a certain product if he is dealing with an authorised dealer which is not a boutique. This kind of activity is not interesting to us. We place the customer at the centre of what we want to do to solve this in terms of product.

[KK]: Which are your major and most successful markets? Are you looking at entering any newer markets?

[GT]: We have a very balanced distribution, and we have between 75 and 80 authorised dealers. And they are present in 26 countries. Though we are in the main markets, we are missing certain markets. We are looking for a location in Dubai. We are not in South Korea, Taiwan, and Australia. But the brand is very well distributed overall. The first market is Japan as they were the first to understand this understated style. Minimal but rich in finishing and execution. We are very balanced in Japan, USA and Europe, China and South Pacific and Middle East.

[KK]: Social media, such as Instagram, has had an enormous impact on the industry. It is easier for brands to communicate with customers. But it is also easier for customers to compliment or criticize a brand – more than ever before. How does all this affect PF? Do you feel social media has helped PF reach out more effectively to your customer base?

[GT]: Not only Instagram but every digital tool has the beauty of being directional. This is very interesting to me because clients can express their emotions, rather they are returning their emotions to us. I am very fond of reading the comments after watching a video on Instagram or in any way and form. Of course, it has to be respectful and constructive because you can express your opinions in many ways. But if you look at the comments, we have a sort of understanding of the temperature of the brand, is extremely positive as we have got a really great responses and it is very encouraging. It has set the bar very high because of the surprise that we have done with our new collection at the end of 2021 and has to be maintained and fulfilled with new ways of interpreting the style of the brand. This encouragement is something that pushes us to be even more creative.

[KK]: Please tell us a bit about PF’s ownership by the Sandoz Foundation? I think that including PF, there are seven other watchmaking entities. How does this ecosystem work? Do all of you work together? And individually, how vertically integrated in PF?

[GT]: The brand was originated by the Sandoz family foundation. Michel Parmigiani is a living legend of restoration. During his monumental restoration work, he had the chance to restore the private collection of the Sandoz family, which is a beautiful collection of hundreds of pieces, which is really fascinating. And during his work to restore, he got to know the family very well. The family asked him if he was in agreement in launching a brand under his name and they would back him up financially. This was in 1996. Michel had a very specific idea of what kind of brand he would like to do. He would like to have a brand of exceptionalism in Horology, rooted in all the history of watchmaking, which he had restored 25 years before, which is now almost 50 years of restoration. A restorer does everything from repairs to anything, be it a screw or a barrel. He approached making of the brand holistically to master all its components. The family supported it, but when you are building an industrial capacity, you have to fulfil them with the production. So, the brand was pushed to do more volumes than the idea of the brand that Michel had in mind was necessary. From the financial standpoint it got complicated. So, it was decided in 2003-2004 to open up production to other brands, because other brands were looking for movements. You might remember there was a crisis at the end of the 90s. There wasn’t much capacity to build high horology. Many brands were interested in the Parmigiani movement. I came to know about this from my previous company (Bulgari) because Bulgari was purchasing Parmigiani movements. Then it was decided to spin off. It wasn’t a Parmigiani movement anymore. It became a Vaucher movement (Vaucher Manufacture Fleurier) which is a facility known for its beautiful movements, and it does very important brands in the industry. To do movements you need also the escapement, which is a strategic component, with the spiral, the regulating organ. It was decided to develop a manufacture of regulating organs which is Atokalpa, is together with Elwin, which does screws, pivots, all the decolletage for very important brands too. And then Les Artisans Boiters was the case maker, and Quadrance & Habillage was the dial maker. So, all these companies are under the property of the Sandoz foundation together with certain strategic partners, and they serve Parmigiani but also other companies of the high-end world of watchmaking.

[KK]: Please tell us a bit about your different model families? What sort of watch and movements / complications are a priority to PF? And do you have plans to introduce newer model families and newer complications in the future?

[GT]: Well, in the relatively recent history, because Parmigiani was born in 1996, we are talking about under 30 years – for a watchmaking brand is not a long period. The brand was built on the first aesthetic line that was the Toric. The Toric is for sure something that is present in the brand and that we will for sure work in the future, because it is part of our origin. But when I joined, I didn’t choose the Toric as the first line to work on. I chose the Tonda. The Tonda was enjoying an interesting momentum with the Tonda GT, which was the predecessor of the Tonda PF. And the Tonda PF was my interpretation of what should have been those values of understatement and of educated luxury what we wanted to give to the client of today. Today the collection is built on the Tonda PF that has different executions because it depends on the movements that you have. So, the core family of movements are the Micro-rotor, which is the ultra-thin two-hander movement on which we have added a couple of complications, with world premieres, one which is the GMT Rattrapante which uses this Micro-rotor movement as an engine. And the second one this year, the Minute Rattrapante, which is the second world premiere which we did.
Then we have a very beautiful movement which is also a two hander which is that you see on the Automatic 36 mm. This is a double barrel automatic winding movement, and this is also a very important engine because it powers the Calendars that you know with the Xiali, the Chinese, and then the Hirji Calendar with the Islamic Calendar, and then the Gregorian Calendar. We also have the Chronograph, which is a very beautiful chronograph and in my opinion one of the best in the industry. It’s an integrated chronograph with column wheel. It’s 5 Hz, so 36000 V.P.H., so it measures 1/10th of a second. It is a beauty from a finishing point of view and from a construction point of view. This powers the chronograph, and it has a manual version in gold which has also a rattrapante function in the chronograph. I consider this a piece of art because it is a totally skeletonised chronograph with two column wheels, one for the chronograph and one for the rattrapante functions and decorated in an exquisite way. It has also the signature of Michel on it because when you do such a beauty you have to sign it. And that powers the high-end part of the collection. Then we have a Tourbillon also which is a Micro-rotor ultra-thin tourbillon which is very beautiful movement with the tourbillon at 7’o clock which is a typical position for us that refers to the hour in which Michel was born, which was 07.08 in the morning.

[KK]: What do you see as your most significant achievement at PF? Any watchmaking awards under your leadership?

[GT]: Well, I think the first achievement is really to have generated this desirability around the brand in such a small amount of time. And this was a sort of alignment of the stars because it wouldn’t be possible to do such a work today, two years later, because we were in the middle of the pandemic in 2021 when I joined the company. And the capacity of the industrial manufacturing sites were free, because nobody was purchasing components and there was lot of time that could be dedicated to development and manufacturing. Coming out with a collection in only seven months from its designs, I started immediately when I entered the company, and presenting it end of August – beginning of September, and shipping into the market at the end of October, is something unprecedented. Really I would say that without the skills and manufacturing capacity of the Horlogères of the Foundation, it would never been possible to do such a beautiful development in such a small time. And this I think is the greatest achievement. Now to continue to surprise and excite all the horophiles that are interested into the brand you need to continue to have ideas and creativity. The Skeleton that we launched last year, the GMT Rattrapante. These are all ways to endure all the pleasure of the brand and have different forms of experiencing it, where collectors can enjoy themselves in more than one purchase.

[KK]: How much of a role does Michel Parmigiani (founder of PF) have in PF? And if so, what does it include? Do PF’s watchmakers have the opportunity to gain experience from him?

[GT]: Michel is very important in the sense that he embodies the brand, through his values, he is like a father. He gave his values to the brand 27 years ago. It is really important to me to breathe his value to understand his way of thinking. But he is an Honorary President, he is not operationally speaking active. But he follows what we do. I see him, he lives next door. I see him very often. And where he was active was in very high-end projects, like the La Rose Carree, which was the pocket watch which we did for the 25th anniversary of the brand at the end of 2021, where he led, together with his daughter, she is also in the company, a small pool of artisans at the highest level to this massive piece which starts from Grand Sonnerie from the late 19th century and has been restored. We did this piece which is extremely a tribute to his life and to the brand.

[KK]: What is your favorite PF timepiece and PF complication? Which ones do you wear?

[GT]: I wear the Micro-rotor in steel, which is my favorite, because it is at the origin of everything, and it is the founder of the style. But I am also very very attached to GMT Rattrapante which was the first world premier that we did last year- it also is very original and sets the tone of the future complications.

[KK]: What do you like to do in your free time? Especially when you want to unwind from the PF watchmaking workshops where the next complication is being invented. Favorite Cuisine? Favorite wine?

[GT]: My passion is, when I have some spare time, I try to motorbike. That’s how I think about riding and nothing else, so it’s a sort of meditation. In Switzerland, the Alps, you have such beautiful roads to drive, and it’s beautiful. That’s one of my biggest passions. In food, I am Italian, so I love Italian food. It has to be good, first. But when I travel, I love to eat local. I love to travel; I love to discover the food while I am traveling and experience things that I am not acquainted with. And in terms of wine, I love the red wines of Piedmont, the Barbarescos, the Barolos, wines that are very high in the taste. But also, some Sicilian Chardonnays are not so bad.

[KK]: Katsbling – as a major online luxury platform in the Middle East – comprises a large and sophisticated market for luxury timepieces. These include customers ranging from beginners to the savviest connoisseurs. And your responses and insights have been the most valuable to us. And we would like to thank you very much for your valuable time. I learnt a lot talking to you. I wish you all the very best for entering the Dubai market.

[GT]: Thank you, thank you, Kunal. It’s been a pleasure.

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