The restoration and preservation of watchmaking heritage represent the very foundation and origins of Parmigiani Fleurier.
Its expertise dates back to 1976, when master watchmaker Michel Parmigiani opened a restoration workshop. In 1996, the Parmigiani Fleurier brand was created around this centre of excellence. Restoration requires the highest level of watchmaking expertise. Much of what is learnt is actually linked to forgotten activities of the past; activities which are imprinted in the brand’s watches.
The Parmigiani Fleurier restoration workshop is a department that deals with all types of horological objects.
Restoration involves returning an object to its original condition. In order to do this, Michel Parmigiani has set himself apart by creating his own methodology, a constant balance between ensuring the mechanical functionality of the creation and preserving the expertise of the past.
For him and his team, this means conducting investigations and immersing themselves in the past, so as to ensure the preservation and operation of the item during its restoration. By studying masterpieces from the past, he is able to find his own solutions to the mechanical and technical challenges faced by master watchmakers throughout the ages, and to use them in the Parmigiani Fleurier watches of today.
Like an archaeologist, who knows that any undertaking on a component may prove irreversible; the initial task of the restorer is to observe an often unique item – within which lie many mysteries – over a period of a few days. The restorer looks for parallels, scouring scientific works, museums and collections before opening the piece, whilst making sure to document it all.
He or she must understand the subtleties of the mechanism just as much as the techniques used. The restorer should also have knowledge of numerous arts such as precious metalwork, enamelling, engraving/chasing, gilding and glasswork. Preservation involves a long and patient cleaning operation, which can sometimes uncover new secrets, for example a previously hidden inscription. Restoration, during the reassembly phase, involves adopting reversible solutions, whilst ensuring the original remains the same.
Oval Watch with Articulated Hands
All the watches in the Edouard and Maurice Sandoz Collection have specific features that Parmigiani Fleurier has had the pleasure of studying during their time in its restoration workshop. Among them is an oval watch with telescopic hands that inspired one of the Fleurier-based brand’s modern timepieces.
The oval watch with articulated hands dates back to around 1800. It is a pocket watch of English origin. The hands are designed to trace the elliptical form of the dial. A holistic approach was adopted for this timepiece, with the case, dial and time indicators all following the contours of the shaped movement.
The bezel and case-back of this gold timepiece are edged with pearls. The back of this jewelled timepiece is adorned with a medallion of royal blue enamel over a guilloché pattern, with precious stones set in a floral arrangement.
Applying the knowledge gained while restoring this magnificent piece, Parmigiani Fleurier developed a modern solution for a similar display. It can be found in all its glory on its Ovale Pantographe model, named after an instrument that operates using the same principle.
A variety of approaches were explored during the design of this complication, in order to create a legible time display.
Featured below are three animal automata from the early 19th century, which were restored by Michel Parmigiani. Part of the Maurice Sandoz collection, they meticulously reproduce the appearance and movement of a mouse, a silkworm and a frog, created using a variety of precious materials. The first runs, the second crawls and third can jump and even croak.
Measuring 120 mm in length, the mouse is made from engraved gold and decorated with pearls. Rubies were used for the eyes, whilst its tail, made from braided gold, actuates the movement.
The animal moves several centimetres, stops, the front of its body lifts up and its head moves up and down.
This 75-mm silkworm features a series of red-coloured enamelled gold rings. Green and blue colours, accompanied by pink diamonds, rubies and emeralds complete the refined decoration.
Actuated using a trigger piece on its belly, the silkworm crawls along, with its head and the rear of its body moving up and down alternately.
The frog measures 60 mm. Made from enamelled gold, it is a striking example of the trompe l’œileffect.
The animal sparkles with pearls and rubies. After several leaps, the frog stops to croak and then performs a further series of jumps.
Snuff Box with Singing Bird
Nature is a source of inspiration for all. Humans have always sought to imitate it, and automata were among the first objects to recreate natural movement. Parmigiani Fleurier has drawn on its expertise to restore many pieces, including a snuff box with singing bird produced by Frères Rochat around 1820 and belonging to the Edouard and Maurice Sandoz Collection.
At first sight, the piece appears to be a 75 mm x 51 mm x 25 mm box designed to hold snuff. The materials used are all eminently precious, with the box made from finely engraved coloured gold to represent foliage, cornucopias and dolphins, and it has a compartment intended to hold snuff. Yet the piece harbours a secret.
When the side button is pressed, the polished oval element edged with pearls at the top centre of the box is lifted, revealing a small feathered bird. It moves its wings, tail, head and beak as it sings a melody. To the surprised observer – who could never have guessed at the existence of this mechanism – the tiny creature seems genuinely alive.
The Yusupov Egg
The Yusupov Egg is a watchmaking masterpiece produced by Carl Fabergé in 1907 and belonging to the Edouard and Maurice Sandoz Foundation.
Restored by Parmigiani Fleurier, it was originally given by Prince Felix Yusupov to his wife, Zinaida Nikolayevna Yusupova, as a gift on their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary.
The piece comprises a watch movement inside an egg. The egg sits on a tripod, which rests on an onyx base.
Made entirely from gold enamelled over a guilloché background, the piece is adorned with garlands, friezes and medallions in coloured gold decorated with brilliants, emeralds and rubies. It is topped by an urn decorated with flames.