Parmigiani, Independence And The Golden Ratio

Parmigiani, Independence and the Golden Ratio

parmigiani fleurier atilier

Independence is great. In general of course, but more specifically in the world of watchmaking where it breeds a level of creativity and resourcefulness that being supported by a network of other brands or group-wide infrastructure doesn’t. Except that most brands, no matter how fiercely independent, need to rely on someone else, be that manufacturers, designers, you name it. In fact, it’s near-impossible to be truly self-sufficient in independence – but if anyone’s made a good go of it, it’s Parmigiani.

First, a bit of background. Michel Parmigiani is one of the undisputed masters of horological restoration, be that a wristwatch, carriage clock or a pair of miniature pistols that fire tweeting birds. Seriously, look that last one up. So renowned is Mr. Parmigiani that he is the go-to maestro of the Sandoz Collection, one of the most important collections of antiques on the planet.


Michael Parmigiani

However, being around so many fantastic and fantastical contraptions must have been an inspiration because, over the course of years working with the Sandoz family, the master restorer began to create his own timepieces. On paper, at least.

That’s as good a segue as any into Michel Parmigiani’s design philosophy: the golden ratio. You’ll have heard plenty about it in the past, be that from the mathematical perspective of the Fibonacci sequence or spirals found in nautilus shells amongst other things. It’s one of the things creationists point to as proof of God and something that makes dedicated mathematicians all warm and fuzzy inside. It’s also naturally beautiful.

The golden ratio is a secret weapon in design and architecture. The Greeks knew it, hence the shape of their columns, as did many other civilisations. There’s just something about seeing that ratio in any form that is innately pleasing to the human eye. Hence Michel Parmigiani including it wherever possible in his watches.

I actually have a sketch Michel gave me explaining a lot of this somewhere; if I dig it out I’ll make sure it gets added at a later date. In the meantime, however, there’s no better illustration than the Toric, specifically it’s bezel, a direct riff off those aforementioned Grecian columns.

Parmigiani Toric watch case

Anyway, when the Sandoz family caught wind of his sketches the golden ratio evidently worked; they bankrolled the watchmaker, turning the Parmigiani name from a specialist into a brand. Consider them angel investors, with Michel Parmigiani the product they so believed in. He had the skills, he had the ideas and now he had the brand.

Rather than using that money to just pay a manufacture to start producing his watches though, Michel opted instead for vertical integration to a militant degree. Parmigiani set up in Fleurier as an independent watchmaker that not only assembled the pieces but built them. All of them. Movements to cases to dials, all under one roof. In fact, their various manufactures, micro engineers and component production centres are as often as not producing pieces for other fine watch brands across the world.

Parmigiani watch

More than a means to an end, it’s precisely that independence that has allowed Parmigiani to not only build the classical Tonda and Toric pieces, but to create big, intensely modern pieces like the Kalpagraphe. It’s why the brand uses such a staggering variety of different, exotic dials and it’s why Parmigiani can go from restoring centuries-old artefacts to building hypercar-matching wristwatches and have it actually make some modicum of sense.

If that’s not true independence, then what is?

Parmigiani will be joining us at the Watchmakers Club event on November the 20th.


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