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"Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without." - Confucius

More than 10 years ago, Saatchi & Saatchi’s Kevin Roberts (currently Saatchi & Saatchi Executive Chairman and Head Coach of Publicis Groupe) came out with the term “lovemark”, a marketing concept based on emotions. Lovemark is a brand “who” delivers great performance but is also able to reach beyond numbers and penetrate your mind and heart. These brands create very strong emotional bonds and develop a feeling that you might live without them but it’s just not worth it. To achieve and maintain such relationship with your clients you need to look at everything you do as part of your corporate communication. Interviews, photos, social posts and responses, co-operations or even the lack of these continuously shape the overall image of the company. Therefore, the unconditional love and respect for your own brand is indispensable.

In the past decade marketing and communication has changed a lot, but love brands are still around…Typically from the FMCG or fashion industry, but they exist in other areas too, like in the luxury sector. Lovemarks are born either as a result of an enormous and amazingly professional, consistent and “strict” marketing work and/or it requires emblematic people, such as great CEOs or charismatic founders/owners.

I guess that the latter is greatly responsible for the success at Parmigiani. I read an interview last year with Jean-Marc Jacot, CEO of Parmigiani Fleurier in Arabian Business. “You don’t need watches,” he says. “You have to remember we are producing something that nobody needs. That’s fantastic, I say it every time. We have 600 people in the company producing something that nobody needs.” The idea defines luxury business and gives a clue about Parmigiani too: fine watches are there to add something beautiful, artistic, and lovable and also in many ways inspiring to your life. (Update: Jean-Marc Jacot stepped down as CEO in autumn 2015.)

Based on all the bits and pieces mentioned above and what I have personally seen, heard and experienced about the company I had presuppositions about Parmigiani. Last week I finally visited their 5 manufactures and I have to say that the cumulative voice of the company heard over time has proven to be so consistent, that its imprint in my mind was fully confirmed.

Below I’d like to share my impressions with you.


Michel Parmigiani was educated in La Chaux-de-Fonds and Le Locle and gained great experience in the restoration of old mechanical watches. Later he exercised his skills on the collections of the Sandoz family, and because he delivered the right quality to the right audience, they established Parmigiani Fleurier together in 1996. In “haute horlogerie” terms, the company is young, but this is relative if you think of how many old companies have interrupted stories of watchmaking or all those upcoming brands that have been established recently.


One side of the “La Cueillette des cerises” pocket watch

Pocket watch with light blue enamel
Pocket watch with light blue enamel


Edouard and Maurice Sandoz Foundation (FEMS)

Edouard-Marcel Sandoz was born on March 21, 1881 in Basel, Switzerland. He was the son of Edouard Sandoz, the founder of the chemical and pharmaceutical company Sandoz (today Novartis). He was a sculptor and expressed himself via bronze and ceramic, and through the direct cutting of stone. He was also a painter of flowers and landscapes, with sketches and watercolour. His brother Maurice-Yves Sandoz (1892-1958) was known as a patron and collector, but also as a writer and composer in his own right.

In 1964 Edouard-Marcel established the Sandoz Family Foundation. The Foundation provides long term support in various sectors; chemistry, finance, tourism, technology and communication and it encourages the arts and culture scene.

Michel Parmigiani’s affair with historical pieces gives him a somewhat different approach to the watches of today and serve as an inspiration.

Models are quite diverse, but easily recognizable. They offer classical styled timepieces, such as the Tonda 1950, haute horlogerie pieces like the Toric models or the rather avant-garde Bugatti Révélation and Ovale Tourbillon. From 2009, Parmigiani has cooperated with Pershing (the Italian Yacht Company, producing luxury open motor yachts) which manifests in Pershing Aquatic sport watches.


Musée d’Horlogerie

Why not start with some of the most magnificent historical objects Michel Parmigiani has restored? We kicked off our tour in the Musée d’Horlogerie in Le Locle. Maurice-Yves Sandoz donated an important part of his personal collection of automations to the watch museum in Château des Monts. Along with his friends, Professor Alfred Chapuis and Mr. Fred Cornaz, poet and amateur decorator, he designed the layout of the room that ever since bears his name.

Musée d'Horlogerie in Le Locle in Château des Monts
Salon of the Museum, photo: R. Sterchi, © Musée d'Horlogerie in Le Locle

There’s a debate about restoration – some people opine that the piece should only include original parts, even if the running of the mechanism cannot be guaranteed. The restoration philosophy of Parmigiani is different; he aims to re-establish the working condition by utilizing all the original parts where possible, but recreates those that are defected that prevent operations in the most original manner. According to him many times he found there to be botch fixes in these fragile constructions. Restaurateurs have to have great knowledge about the materials and techniques of the given period, and must spend a considerable amount of time researching information about how the piece originally looked and worked. The often extremely time-consuming process of restoration is well-documented with photos as well as written notes, which may supply information for subsequent recoveries.

Due to the accumulated experience in bringing these objects back live, many prestigious museums consult Parmigiani’s restoration workshop or collaborate in the recovery of masterpieces.


The six manufactures of the Sandoz Family Foundation are able to create watches from A to W. We visited them all, click for more!


Photo credits: Atokalpa, Elwin, Les Artisans Boîtiers, Vaucher Manufacture, Quadrance & Habillage, Parmigiani Fleurier, Loupiosity.com.
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