Roman Holiday

On a sunny Wednesday morning late last year, Fabrizio Buonamassa found himself behind the wheel of a sleek twin-turbocharged sedan, juking through traffic in downtown Palm Springs, making a beeline for the deadliest road in America.

Buonamassa, the 46-year-old head of watch design at Bulgari, had never been to California. The night before, he’d paced slowly across the rooftop at Chateau Marmont, taking in the Los Angeles skyline, seeming pensive. But when he arrived in Palm Springs, an unsuspecting publicist tossed him the keys to a new Maserati Ghibli. Buonamassa promptly set the navigation to Route 74, that infamous widowmaker of a mountain road running into Coachella Valley, and laid down two fat strips of rubber exiting the hotel parking lot.

“Police?” he said, slowing the Ghibli from felony to misdemeanor speeds, eyeballing a suspect black-and-white sedan in the opposing lane. When it passed, he shrugged, downshifted, and ripped into the throttle again. “Hah!”

Bulgari Octo Maserati GranLusso.

Ostensibly, Buonamassa was in town for the Los Angeles auto show, celebrating the release of the new Octo GranSport and Octo GranLusso, the latest Bulgari x Maserati watches. The collection brings together two titans of Italian design—the former company being Rome’s premier jewelry house, the latter Modena’s oldest luxury automaker. For Bulgari, which is now owned by Paris-based luxe conglomerate LVMH, it’s an assertion of the brand’s domestic sensibilities. For Maserati, which has seen sales increase tenfold over the past decade, it’s an opportunity to bake in an additional layer of exclusivity. (While the GranSport and GranLusso aren’t limited-run pieces, they will be available only to Maserati customers.)

Still, joint ventures between watch companies and automakers can feel contrived. Buonamassa brings a unique credibility to this one. He grew up in Naples and studied in Rome, worshipping at the altars of Bertone and Zagato and Pininfarina, the famed carrozzeria that coach-built bodies for Ferrari and Alfa Romeo. Before joining Bulgari in 2001, he actually served as an auto designer at Fiat Group, Maserati’s corporate parent. It was the realization of a childhood dream.

“If I have to make a choice, my heart is closer to the Italian vintage cars than the Swiss watchmaking heritage,” Buonamassa admits. “My father, he was working for Hertz, you know, the rental car companies. He would travel and bring me home books of cars from around the world. I was sketching them from the age of four or five, and this is what I enjoyed drawing first—the cars. But I have always loved designing product. This idea of making emotion from an object. I just love it.”

Bulgari Octo Maserati GranSport.

These two new watches are a testament to that fascination. Buonamassa’s design cleverly recalls a vintage sports-car tachometer; the standalone, retrograde hand sweeps a linear path to indicate minutes, which are displayed in single digits and underscored by a “MINx10” multiplier. The GranSport even has hash marks near the top “6” marker, aping a redline. Hours are shown through a crystal aperture at the three o’clock position, clicking off like an odometer.

The GranSport is DLC-treated steel, black to match the textured dial. It’s slung on a black perforated leather strap with electric-blue contrast stitching, mirroring a Maserati bucket seat. The GranLusso brings a more formal vibe, with an 18-karat pink gold case and gray sunburst pattern dial, hanging on a padded chestnut band. Both pieces measure 41.5 mm, house the same 33-jewel automatic movement, are assembled in-house, and offer a 42-hour power reserve. More important, both pieces look and feel as unimpeachably Italian as the man who designed them.

Back in Palm Springs, having crossed Route 74 off his bucket list, the lanky Buonamassa strode across the courtyard at The Parker hotel, hands in his pockets. Wearing an impeccably tailored blue jacket, Jacob Cohen denim, and purple Persol sunglasses, he stopped to admire a large bronze statue of a half-peeled banana, installed on a grassy patch next to his room. Astrud Gilberto’s “Portami con Te” played over a lawn speaker. He hummed along with the refrain, smiled, then checked his watch.

“Oh!” he said. “Time for lunch.”

Buonamassa in his Neuchâtel office (Photo: Lukas Wassmann)

***

In the beginning, I started to appreciate beautiful drawings. Design was a consequence, because it gave me the opportunity to make sketches. This is why I’m a designer. I’m lucky because my profession is to make drawings.

I’m a formative designer. In my career, I design a lot of different things. I think that a designer should be able to do this. Honestly, the process is sort of a small mystery, but the approach is the same for airplanes, for cars, for watches, for furniture. You have to solve problems. You have to know the problems and imagine solutions, and you have to do this in a beautiful and unique way.

Design is a compromise. Even the credit process. And if you do not trust your idea, it’s impossible to sell, even to the boss. So I have to imagine something, to start to make sketches, to tell you I think that this idea is correct. The sketch is just a skill, it’s just a tool because sometimes I need to fix the image that I have in mind. But I have to trust the idea.

My job is to turn technology into emotions. Bulgari is well known for geometry and color innovation. We were the first to use cabochon cut in jewelry. We were the first to use aluminum in couture watches, plastic in watches—we were the first to use porcelain, exotic material, and steel in fine jewelry. This is the case with the Octo Finissimo, the thinnest automatic watch in the world. I have to know the technology, and I have to be able to transform it into something that makes sense to the client. Otherwise, it’s just a movement. Yes, okay, it’s a fantastic movement, but this is the role of the designer. And I have to do this through the iconic signs, the codes of the brand, and the heritage of the brand.

We have a word in our vocabulary, sprezzatura. That means you can make something very complex in a natural way. The most important innovations are made by simple things. And the simplicity, like Leonardo da Vinci says, is the latest complication. [The Octo] is very difficult to produce, but it works very well. It’s strong enough for everyday life, and it looks absolutely simple. This concept of sprezzatura, for the first time you can find it in watchmaking. Because in Swiss watchmaking, you can find a lot of watches that are very hard [to produce], but also very difficult in terms of language. How can I read the time?

If a product is able to talk to you about its function, I’ve done a good job. Good design expresses itself. If I tell you the watch is this, this, and this, and that you have to use it this, this, and this way, maybe it’s not a good design. It’s another thing.

The retro trend, it is copy-and-paste design. For some brands, it’s easier to open the desk and say, ‘I want to make the new edition of this watch.’ This is not our approach. We make a lot of sketches on the wall and we say, ‘This is good. Wow, it’s fantastic.’ After five minutes, we see again the products and we say, ‘It’s not Bulgari enough.’ The octagon has a lot of different meanings in different cultures, different religions—eternity, friend, perfect balance between the heaven and the earth. It’s a shape that Bulgari started to use in the 1950s. When we decided to revamp, for Gérald Genta, sure, you have to make an Octo. But the Octo that you see today, it’s an Octo made by Bulgari. This [new] watch, it’s the same shape, but with different attention to the details of the faces. It still performs, but in a contemporary way. This is the signature of the brand. When you see this watch, you cannot make mistake it. But when you see this watch compared to a vintage one, it’s two different worlds.

We don’t have a creativity issue at Bulgari. We don’t just put the logo on a watch and say it’s a Bulgari x Maserati, because we have a lot of ideas. The idea [for the GranSport and GranLusso] was to tell you the time in a different way—to tell you the time as a rev counter, as in the dashboard of a car, thanks to our retrograde and jumping hour movement. The number on the watch dial, it is the same font on the Maserati dashboard. After that, it’s a matter of color. The GranSport is very dark. It’s a nod to the performer. The GranLusso, it’s more exquisite. It’s more elegant, more luxurious. This is the two faces of the Maserati, the brand that invented the gran turismo, the kind of cars driven not only by performance but also luxury.

Bulgari and Maserati have a lot of elements in common. Both Italian brands made by [families], the Maserati sons and Sotirio Bulgari with his sons, Giorgio and Constantino. Very strong entrepreneurial skills. The same attention for proportion, the same attention for beautiful things. [The Octo] is an impressive watch in terms of technical skills, let’s say ‘performance,’ but it’s not the first thing you notice. Maserati is the same. It’s engine technology, performance chassis. But when you look at a Maserati car, first of all you see that it’s beautiful.

Profiles in Style: Blueprints

New York’s architecture and design community is having something of a moment. Over the past decade, the city has played incubator to a fresh crop of talent, business-savvy collaborators and self-producers with an eye on the future and a healthy appetite for risk. They aren’t siloed by specialization. Buildings, interiors, graphics, lighting, product, branding—anything goes. They use 3-D printers, run pared-back studios and are sought after by premier European manufacturers. Basically, they’re making the job cool again.

Naturally, we wondered about their taste in watches.

In keeping with the spirit of our Design Issue, Watch Journal rounded up a selection of fine timepieces, an eclectic mix of classics and newcomers, all of them with blue dials. (Naturally.) Then we met with five of New York’s best young architects and designers, laid out the watches, and let them choose what went on their wrist during our photo shoot.

Consider this an introduction to the design bellwethers of the moment, a snapshot of their personal styles, and an insight into their horological leanings.


Name: Dror Benshetrit
From: Tel Aviv
Studio location: Chelsea
Known for: Architecture on Zaya Nurai Island, named the “World’s Most Luxurious Project” by Newsweek; designing the “Peacock Chair” for Cappellini, featured in Rihanna’s “S&M” music video; his signature line of home goods for Target; designing WeWork interiors
Picks: Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Quantième, Girard-Perregaux Laureato

Jaquet Droz Grande Seconde Quantième
Girard-Perregaux Laureato

Dror says: “My first important watch was a strange choice. It was a Hamilton Ventura, the famous one with the triangle-shaped case. Somebody gifted it to me, and it really got me into the culture of watches. Then I was wearing, for a very long time, the classic Bell & Ross and also a Hublot. I’m really not so used to small watches. So this one [the Jaquet Droz] feels very good. The Girard-Perregaux, I like the shape. I’m drawn to the elegance of it.”


Name: Stephanie Goto
From: New York
Studio location: Union Square
Known for: Designing three Michelin-starred restaurants in New York (Piora, Corton, Aldea); the homes of several notable chefs, including Daniel Boulud; selecting furniture for the Museum of Arts and Design; overhauling the project space at the Calder Foundation; editing the Journal of Architecture’s fifth volume
Pick: Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Extra-Thin

Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Extra-Thin

Stephanie says: “I’m actually in the process of acquiring [a Royal Oak] right now, so this is sort of my test run. I met an Audemars executive at Art Basel a few years ago, and tried on the watch. It felt a little big, at least for me, but when they came out with the Extra-Thin, I was like, ‘Okay, this is perfect.’ . . . It’s just so classic, that Royal Oak shape, and the stainless band is very in line with the work I do. Understated, but detailed. I think there’s a real beauty in the design of the mechanics, too. It’s so beautiful. I love it! When is mine coming?”


Name: Marc Thorpe
From: Nashville, Tennessee
Studio location: DUMBO
Known for: “The Mark Table” and “Blur Sofa” for Moroso, featured at Salone del Mobile and in Vogue Living; creating retail spaces for Acqua Di Parma and Under Armour; the Ducati Project E electric motorcycle concept; Infiniti Pavilion at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance
Picks: Panerai Luminor Due, Patek Philippe Complications Annual Calendar 

Panerai Luminor Due
Patek Philippe Complications Annual Calendar

Marc says: “The Panerai is more my style. I like simple watches. Well, simple faces at least. IWC Portugieser, Rolex Explorer, Omega Speedmaster. I’ve got a little collection, you know, just six pieces, my go-to watches. One of them is a Panerai Radiomir Black Seal, which I really love. But the Patek is just so beautiful. If one of you doesn’t ask me to give it back soon, I’m going to walk out of here wearing it. Actually, wait. . . . [retrieves iPhone] Can I take a photo of it on my wrist?”


Name: Todd Bracher
From: New York
Studio location: Brooklyn Navy Yard
Known for: Serving as creative director at Georg Jensen; “Distil Table” for Herman Miller; “The Architect’s Chandelier” for Swarovski; creating 3M Architecture’s award-winning LED lighting installations; packaging for Issey Miyake fragrances; the SodaStream Fountain
Pick: IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII

IWC Pilot’s Watch Mark XVIII

Todd says: “I don’t like the Apple Watch, but it opened up my mind to the idea of getting a Garmin watch, which is really big, like 50 mm. It’s funny how dainty another watch feels after that. But the IWC, yeah, this is a proper watch. Quiet, introverted in some ways, while being fiercely precise. I like the [dial] color. The blues tend to be quite polarizing, and this one’s not the most obvious shade…. There’s something about the joy of going backwards, too. I’m in the process of dumbing down my phone, turning off push notifications, that kind of thing. The IWC captures a sophisticated simplicity. That speaks to me.”


Name: Joe Doucet
From: Terrell, Texas
Studio location: DUMBO
Known for: “Duet Task Chair” for Bernhardt; “Alba Decanter” for Nude glassware; “Minim” playing cards for Areaware; the bottle design for SŌTŌ sake; packaging for Hugo Boss bodywear; cofounding the 3D-printed premium household products brand OTHR
Picks: NOMOS Glashütte Metro at Work

NOMOS Glashütte Metro at Work

Joe says: “My first real buy was a Panerai. I got it when I made partner [at New York creative agency KBP]. It was my little treat to myself, you know? Now I’ve got a few watches. Got the vintage [Rolex] Submariner. But my daily go-to is an IWC Portofino. Simple, blue dial. I tend to go for things that look and feel quite understated. The NOMOS, I like the overall aesthetic, especially that little pop of color on the subdial hand. Plus it feels really light on the wrist. I know it’s not the most expensive, but it’s the one I’d go for.”

The Creative Godhead Behind Hollywood’s Must-Have Apple Watch Accessory

Close to the edge of a rooftop in Tribeca, Harry Bernstein struck a pose, the late afternoon sun filtering through his luxuriant curls.

Beneath him, in stacked glass conference rooms, sat dozens of employees, unaware that their boss was ably modeling a patchwork afghan, selvedge jeans, and a pair of fresh kicks, planted mere inches from the cold, upscale nothingness of undeveloped downtown airspace.

Indigo Patchwork Wrap, Rare Weaves; Indigo Shirt Jacket, Kapital; White T-Shirt, David Michael; Jeans, Double RL; Sneakers, Yeezy; Native American Bolo, vintage; Eyeglasses, Warby Parker

Here’s what they did know: This man on the roof is an advertising godhead, the reason Boost Mobile demanded to know “Where You At?”; the reason Shaquille O’Neal played an improbable jockey for Vitamin Water; the reason kids line up for Supreme drops; and, arguably, the reason influencer marketing exists at all.

Harry “Bee” Bernstein, founder of the groundbreaking digital ad firm Annex 88 (neé, The 88) and current chief creative officer at Havas Worldwide’s flagship New York agency, radiates the excitement of someone coming off two decades of really, really good ideas.

“Let’s have a roof party and just pay the fine! We have good insurance!”

For most corporate heads with “chief” and “officer” in their titles, alfresco photoshoots come as rare as Peter Luger prime rib. But the prolific Bernstein—who does not eat meat—looks nothing like your average exec. He has called his style “streetwear clown,” but that misses the glorious high-taste-hippie of it all, as if Jerry Garcia had lived to see Adidas x Pharrell.

Despite the globally sourced wardrobe of an Afropop Worldwide listener, Bernstein counts a local upbringing—Queens, New York—as the source of his remarkable sensibility.

Apples & Bolos from Bernstein’s personal collection.

“In pre-internet life, what was cool was subculture, the underground and true rarity. Now, the market is about having what everybody else has. You used to want to remain in the subculture. Now everyone wants to be famous … [consumers] buy things because other people have it. Hypebeasts, literally, they buy things on hype.”

So when it came to his own closet, Bernstein, the master of starting and disseminating trends via social channels, wanted something different.

“I want to find a reason to find and to buy things. I had a Rolex that my dad gave me from the 1980s. It’s supreme, but it doesn’t feel like my luxury trope. Whereas what I’m wearing today, there’s a meaning, and a point, and a singularity. I’m searching for singularity, and a unique perspective on the world. That’s my job as Chief Creative Officer. So if I do what everyone else does, I’ll produce what everyone else does.”

One expression of this ethos, worn exclusively by Bernstein and a few high-echelon celebrities, are the turquoise-inlaid, metal-worked bracelet ends that he retrofits to accept an Apple Watch. These two components, from wildly different ends of the American crafts timeline, represent Bernstein’s major preoccupations: the interplay of digital and analog, the singular and the mass produced, the inert and the dazzlingly dynamic. Some of the bracelets use stylized snakes fashioned out of nails, others classic Zuni geometric patterns. Among the stones, the beveled face of a sleeping Apple Watch looks like an enormous black obsidian.

The combination is bizarre, striking, covetable. The backstory is just downright funny. It goes like this: Bernstein, on vacation in Taos, New Mexico, with his fiancée, becomes transfixed by an enormous piece of turquoise, which he promptly purchases for $5,000. It sparks an obsession. Eventually, he gets hooked up with Fish, a turquoise collector from Austin, Texas.

Native American Bolo, vintage; Indigo Patchwork Jacket and Indigo Scarf, Rare Weaves; White T-Shirt, David Michael; Eyeglasses, Warby Parker

“I went to Fish’s house and I didn’t know if I was buying speed or jewelry. There was a parrot and a guy in a La-Z-Boy. One room had flat files full of necklaces, rings. I tell him I was looking for bolos, and he takes me into the bathroom. He puts the seat down, I sit on the toilet, and there are drawers of different pieces.”

Bernstein received a crash course in the foyer. There’s little centralized information on turquoise jewelry, and widespread forgery makes expertise a necessary tool in finding the best pieces. Now, he’s deep into eBay auctions, message boards, ancient websites, hunting for quality stones and bits of history. Which is how, somewhere outside Austin city limits, 1,800 miles from Queens, our man finally found his subculture.

Back inside the Havas offices, after an impromptu piece of performance art—what does it mean to use a glass-walled office as a changing room?—Bernstein leapt barefoot onto his desk. Adorned in bangles, he struck another pose, half-yoga, half-Amy Cuddy, before settling for a Talmudic shrug.

Surveying the small group of employees below through discontinued Warby Parker frames—turquoise, of course—Bernstein murmured, “I’ve done this one before, but it works.” 

Yoga Top and Native American Bolo, vintage; Printed Camouflage Silk Pants, Advisory Board Crystals; Eyeglasses, Warby Parker.

Photos by Christopher Garcia Valle. Styling by Dylan Hogelin.

Three Questions: Marc Berthier

The famed architect (and watch designer) sounds off about Hermès timepieces, the evolution of inclusive luxury, and why he’s “never belonged” in the world of design…

You designed the Hermès Carré H eight years ago, then redesigned the dial for a special re-release this year. When you conceptualize a new timepiece, do you have an idea of what you want, or do you start from scratch?

The initial brief [in 2010] was very open. It was by Jean-Louis Dumas, the former CEO of Hermès, who since passed away. He was just like, “What would an Hermès mens watch be for you?” The idea of the square wasn’t even there. It was supposed to be a chronograph.

I’d never done a watch before, only architecture. I told Jean-Louis Dumas, “I think that when it comes to a men’s watch, it’s always an incarnation of your hero, like an actor or sports star.”

To me, the hero for Hermès would be someone who inspired you to do new things, this kind of character, like an explorer. We started trying to define this person. It felt like a mission. We used to joke about Saving Private Ryan. Like we have to save Hermès by finding the identity of this watch.

So who’s idea was it to revisit the Carré H?

I started to have discussions with [Hermès artistic director] Pierre-Alexis Dumas, the son of Jean-Louis. We had a conversation about bringing back this watch, making it more consensual. The first one was maybe, at least in the shape, a little bit edgy. This one is more easy to approach, more seductive, and in 2015 we began work on it.

When you renew a model, the first solution is to follow the trends. I was really interested in looking at it [in terms of] evolution, an evolution of the world and society in the wider sense, which brings us back to the explorer. The world is getting more and more diverse; people are traveling, exchanging. I experienced this through my architectural office and my own creation, but also through my family. I come from a long line of “perfectly French” people … I now have a grandson who is mixed race.

The new Carré H watch; like the original, it was designed by Berthier. (Photo: Carl Kleiner)

The first [Carré] was for a small group of initiated people. The second incarnation … it’s a wider expression for people connecting to it. It’s [still] this man who travels, who is curious, who will cross cultures, but [now] he doesn’t have to be from such a small group.

As an architect, do you ever have the desire to go back and change a building?

This has happened to me, yes. I was in charge of the architecture for Galeries Lafayette [department stores], the French equivalent of Saks Fifth Avenue. To go back and move an escalator, just to move these mechanical stairs, was more complicated than being at war. I’m a very technical architect and very passionate about [protecting history], but at the same time [open to change], due to my career path, because I went from architecture into design. Especially in France, we’re like, “You’re a doctor, and you’re going to be a doctor. You did this kind of study, and you’re going to follow it.”

The fact that I switched, I never belonged completely. So when I’m with technical people, they consider me a poet, because I have this designer side. And when I’m on the side of the designer, I’m also not enough, because I’m an architect. It’s like I passed from one world to the other my entire life.

What Drives Michel Parmigiani?

The backstory is the stuff of horological legend. In the mid 1970s, as the Swiss watch industry teetered on the brink of collapse, Michel Parmigiani decided that somebody should be protecting the country’s old-world relics. The finicky pocket watches and fragile objéts d’art seemed particularly precious and vulnerable. So he opened a workshop in Fleurier, Switzerland, and he started fixing them.

The move proved cathartic—“Restoring antique timepieces saved me from nihilism,” Parmigiani says—and it allowed him to amass a singular wealth of knowledge. Partial backing from the Sandoz Family Foundation, an artistic-leaning venture capitalist outfit, turned Parmigiani’s once-modest operation into a full-blown manufacture, dubbed Parmigiani Fleurier, in 1996. The brand’s first in-house movement was rolled out two years later.

The new Kalpa resurrects the brand’s first in-house movement. 

Known as PF110, the inaugural calibre was a manual-winding marvel, brimming with artisan details and boasting an epic eight-day power reserve. Watch nerds swooned. Collectors did the same when the movement debuted inside Parmigiani Fleurier’s flagship wristwatch, the Kalpa, in 2001.

This year, that iconic piece will enjoy a renaissance of sorts, as the company introduces three new creations under the Kapla banner. Each offers a clever reimagining of the original watch’s signature styling, incorporating the classic tonneau-shaped case and teardrop-shaped lugs. The Kalpa Hebdomadaire even uses an updated version of that original PF110 movement, making it a surefire hit with brand devotees.

On the eve of its premiere, we sat down with Michel Parmigiani to discuss the virtues of independence, finding inspiration in Southeast Asia, and the future of his namesake manufacture.

“Restoring antique timepieces saved me from nihilism,” says Michael Parmigiani, world-renown horologist and founder of Parmigiani Fleurier.

You’ve spent your life making and restoring luxury watches. What keeps you going?

Curiosity. Curiosity, and the desire to discover this noble work.

Why is it noble?

It’s a vocation that requires mastery of your own hands, mastery of your actions. And before you can do that, you must first master your mind. It is a life discipline, similar to that of a surgeon. One must learn how to use tools, while maintaining complete control over them.

I’ve read that you initially wanted to be an architect. Is this true?

Architecture has always captivated me—building houses and bridges, the ability to measure and produce a certain form. It is a source of inexhaustible inspiration, and horology is very similar. At first, I really hesitated between these two professions. But there was a watchmaking school fifteen minutes from my place in Fleurier. So I enrolled there.

You launched your brand in 1996. The watch world was a very different place then—we barely had the internet. What’s different now?

The simple parts of watchmaking have become industrialized, and computers certainly help us achieve more, and more rapidly. But in the end, a fine luxury watch must still be made by hand. Take our 1950 Tourbillon, for example. Its creation requires a very high-end process that we’ve been developing for twenty years. You need both machines and experienced watchmakers to deliver it. There is no other way to compose this work of art but by patience and experience.

Why did you choose the Toric Memory Time as your debut watch?

Before we launched, I was walking on a beach in Malaysia and picked up a shell with a striking shape. It was thick in front, but if you turned it just forty-five degrees, it gave the impression of being very thin. I said to myself, When I launch my first watch, I’m going to capture this optical illusion. Toric Memory Time also displays a second time zone for travelers. For the launch, it was important to demonstrate my know-how, my savoir faire. This watch is particularly complex, and I’ve been developing different models of it ever since.

Back in 2011, you created a movement based on the Hijri Calendar, which tracks the lunar cycles of the Islamic year. Why did that interest you?

The moon has great importance in our lives, and we don’t pay much attention to it. So I wanted to create a perpetual lunar calendar, which meant I had to be able to measure it. The lunar year is faster than the solar year, with difference of about eleven days. It’s not religious symbolism. It’s a scientific instrument that depicts the lunar cycle in mechanical form. When you look at it, you can see the days, months, and years of the moon.

This took years to develop. Did your colleagues call you crazy?

I’ve always been considered crazy for doing this job in the first place! When I started in watchmaking, the industry was in a quartz crisis. But, for me, it is very important to develop new projects and new ways of thinking—which allows the industry to evolve.

You also spent a great deal of time restoring a 200-year-old gold-and-pearl pistol that fires a chirping mechanical bird. Why?

It wasn’t working. Before launching my brand, I was known for restoring old timepieces, including pocket watches. When you see what has been created in the past, it’s very humbling. As for the pistol, and it took a year and a half to restore. I ended up restoring three of them for our collection.  

The world’s top watchmakers enlist your company—which employs roughly 400 watchmakers, in five separate manufacturing houses—to make parts for their products. How do you explain what sets you apart?

We’re masters of the tools we use. We’re nimble, efficient, and a hundred percent Swiss-made. Not many houses can say that.

How do you see Parmigiani Fleurier evolving?  

We don’t plan to buy anything, or expand. We just want to make beautiful mechanical watches and remain independent. Over the past twenty years, we’ve invested in a strong staff that has truly mastered the tourbillon and chronograph. Of course, we won’t stop there. For me, it’s simple: I want to break the rules and making something you cannot find anywhere else.