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.

Depth Perception

The conceptual artwork of artist Charles Lutz takes on luxury, consumption, and ego.


By Rachel Felder

The artist Charles Lutz at his Brooklyn studio. (Photo: Christopher Garcia Valle)

Inside an imposing industrial building in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, near a noisy stretch of highway, there’s something you might not expect to find: images of vintage Rolex watches, silk-screened on canvas and transformed into artwork that’s provocative, assertive, and unconventionally beautiful.

In one piece, a detail of a vintage advertisement for a stainless-steel Rolex Explorer has been blown up onto a canvas that’s shaped like a curvaceous number seven from a slot machine. Another painting features a magnified image of a gold Submariner appropriated from an old Rolex brochure; the canvas’s surface has been deliberately retextured to resemble the guilloché detailing on a watch dial. A third painting simultaneously recalls the bezel of a Submariner and a roulette table; the six-foot canvas even features a cut-out circle where the spinning wheel would be.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BYwTsmkHM2Q/?taken-by=charleslutz

The pieces are by conceptual artist Charles Lutz, the 35-year-old provocateur who burst onto the New York art scene in 2007 with a series of paintings that duplicated Warhol silk screens. Now, with these new pieces, which Lutz has dubbed his Transaction paintings, the artist continues to explore issues of value, appropriation, and originality, as well as the nature of luxury and consumerism. For Lutz, a Rolex serves as a symbol of affluence. “Even though it’s a Swiss watch, I feel like it’s kind of the American idealism of what luxury watches represent,” Lutz says.

Lutz sporting his recent Rolex acquisition. (Photo: Christopher Garcia Valle)

Dressed in a low-key outfit of jeans and a leather jacket, the boyish-looking artist could almost pass as a current student at his alma mater, Pratt Institute, an easy stroll away. And he talks about his paintings, which also include appropriated images from Crown Royal Canadian Whiskey and tulips from Dutch still life paintings with a youthful enthusiasm. “The Submariner is printed the same exact way as the Dutch still life,” Lutz says. “They’re both derived from digital files. You have this skim of content that is talking about the same thing, and the process is what ties them together, in a way. The idea of value is within each of the images, but the process is the way of conveying the correlation between the different subject matters.”

Perhaps it’s not surprising that Lutz, who was born and raised in Pittsburgh, points to the work of hometown hero Andy Warhol as his earliest inspiration. He was about 8 years old when he was first introduced to the pop master’s work at the Carnegie Museum of Art; when the Andy Warhol Museum opened in 1994, Lutz, then in high school, spent hours in the galleries. “Being able to get that exposure was really transformative,” he says.

 

Ten Minutes With Alexandre Peraldi

An interview with Baume & Mercier’s brilliant Design Director.


Peraldi, who joined Baume & Mercier in 2001. (Photo by Magali Girardin)

Do you remember your first watch?

Yes, very well. It was square plastic Casio with a calculator and a lot of small push buttons.

Are you sentimental about any personal watches?

Yes, about nearly all of them. Each has a special story and sentimental value. For example, one of my first luxury watches came from my uncle. He had decided to leave it to me because of my love for watches and but also the engraving on the caseback: 1967—the year he purchased the watch and also my birth year. Another important watch for me is a Classima chronograph gifted to me by my previous boss. I received it one year after the launch of this model and commemorated the strong success of the design.

What makes a beautiful watch?

First, the pleasure you have to wear it! Second, the perfect quality of its finishes and the importance and time spent on all of its details.

What is your favorite complication or watch feature?

I like the moon phase. It is very simple and a bit poetic. I also like the minute repeater. It is so complex inside and really amazing to hear.

How did you become part of the watch world?

After finishing art school, I took the chance to join the Cartier design team for accessories. After two years, I began working on designing watches for Yves Saint Laurent (at the time, Cartier had the license for their jewelry, accessories, and watches). After some success with these collections, I started to design watches for Cartier…. The rest is history.

How does the watch industry attract the next generation?

That is difficult to answer today, as many young people do not wear watches. Yet, there are constantly new watch brands and designs created for this young clientele. They are very creative, very cheap, and certainly a good way for the next generation to discover the watch universe. As for traditional watches, we need to communicate differently to the younger consumer and even change our mindset in terms of design. We are working on it!

What is your favorite time of day?

Early morning. When the day is just beginning, and everything seems possible, yet nothing has been done. When you are alone at the office, and you have time for you. It is time for reflection and time for creation. I need this part of the day.

Baume & Mercier Capeland Cobra

What is your favorite Instagram account?

There are a lot…. A few of my favorites are @hirozzz (Hiroaki Fukuda), a great Japanese photographer. @sebmontazstudio (Sebastien Montaz), another cool photographer from our mountains. And @indianmotorcycle, with our new partnership.

What is your favorite place to visit?

Japan. Definitely! I love the kindness of Japanese people, the beauty of their arts, the vast tradition of craftsmanship, the spirit of nonstop learning, and the beauty of all the different landscapes.

Who is your favorite artist? Museum?

What a difficult question. There are a lot! If I had to choose, for example, to take a single book of artwork with me to an isolated island, Leonardo da Vinci would be the one. In a totally different field, Alexander McQueen is another genius. And for the museum, I love the Louvre in Paris and the British Museum in London.

If you could turn back time, where would you go?

Far, far, far away in the past. Perhaps before the presence of humans on the earth. Wild and pure!

What is your favorite design object?

The Chaise Longue of Le Corbusier and the Panton Chair of Verner Panton.

What do you collect?

When I was young, a lot of different things. Now, nothing. It is too time-consuming.

Which watch brand do you most admire?

Vacheron Constantin. And also François-Paul Journe.

Who is currently the most influential person in watches?

The younger generation: Millennials.

Is there a dream watch you would like to own someday?

Yes, a minute repeater, but perhaps this dream has to stay a dream.

How do you define style?

A mix of elegance and confidence without extravagance.

 

The Tinkerer

An original watch design fueled by passion.


By Jonathan Schultz

Jonathan Ward

When Jonathan Ward loves something, he tears it apart. The deeper the genuflection, the greater the desire to disembowel. But something happens when Ward is elbows-deep in viscera. Bloodlust gives way to a custodial kind of attachment. As months pass, the object’s infirmities are stamped out and replaced by robust sinew and bone. Lax tissue is regenerated and pulled taut. The object emerges stronger and more magnetic than ever. Old religion gets a new verse, and an icon is born.

That’s not to say Ward’s an iconoclast. His shop in Los Angeles brims with reverence for the vintage Toyota 4x4s parked there, despite their various states of gutting. Rather, it’s what he does with these machines—and has done for more than 20 years—that feels so deliciously heretical.

ICON, the business he runs with his wife, Jamie takes decades-old Toyota Land Cruisers, replaces and reinforces virtually every moving part—engines included—and fits them with bespoke hardware, upholstery, and climate systems. The resulting vehicles are priced around $250,000 and are, for all intents, indestructible. The Wards’ wares once caught the attention of a Toyota executive, which led to a commission for three prototypes that ultimately inspired the Toyota FJ Cruiser of 2007. Jonathan’s cult is global, and he’s revered as an unequivocal car guy’s car guy—but maybe not for long.

The ICON Duesy.

“Anyone who knows me just as the dude who works on old four-by-fours might be surprised by this,” he says.

Surprise would be warranted if you didn’t know Ward—or his Instagram. But even absent his 100-plus collection, Ward’s first wristwatch under the ICON label would be an outlier: an onyx-faced jump-hour called the Duesey.

The name derives not from some beloved hunting dog or mud-flecked Cruiser in Ward’s garage, but from a 1930s Duesenberg SJ—one of the fastest and most elegant cars of its day. The SJ’s array of dashboard dials left an impression on Ward. “That tachometer,” he says, sounding like a man longing for other softly contoured objects. “The first time I saw one, I thought, Man, that would make a great jump-hour.”

Casebook of the ICON Duesy.

Ward is a lifer. His childhood fixation was a Seiko Data 2000. A restless tinkerer, he values a craftsman’s vision above all else. “If someone has the balls to do things by themselves, and not hire a marketing agency,” he says, “I’m in.”

The Duesy reflects Ward’s maniacal attention to detail. “The crown, the clasp, the band, the bezel, the typeface—every single detail. And I CAD-modeled it myself.”

The project emerged after a potential partnership went south. Ward has long admired Bell & Ross, and modeled his reimagined Land Cruisers’ gauges on the BR01. A watch collaboration was discussed, but Ward says that after a while, the line grew quiet.

Crown of the ICON Duesy.

“But I realized that I would have a lot more fun, and be able to control the vision more, if I just went it alone.”

A meeting with Svend Andersen disabused him of the idea of seeking a build partner. “We discussed a one-off, but each would have to be priced at like fifty, sixty grand,” he says. (The Duesey is priced from $11,500.) In his sketches, Ward envisioned “a chamfered and sloping bezel in Vantablack, this kick ass aerospace material,” but that too didn’t prove feasible.

“Ultimately I went with onyx,” he says. “It has lots of gloss and reflective value, but also a ton of depth.”

Being a renowned craftsman has its advantages. Looking for a proven movement, Ward met with a major Swiss company “that supplies complications to lots of brands that would rather you not know it,” where he was quoted a minimum order of 500 units—a galaxy removed from the Duesey’s proposed 50-unit run. “And the meeting was over,” he says. “But then, the CEO of the group came by, I gave him my card, and he was like, ‘Oh, ICON! My friend in Moscow has one of your trucks!’ And that was that. He made an exception.”

The ICON Duesy on the wheel cap of a Duesy.

Serendipity, globalism, craftsmanship, a good yarn—they’re all forces that fuel Ward’s passion. On his wrist this day is a Heuer that once belonged to a World War II pilot. “He crashed in North Africa and literally built a lean-to in the fucking sand, and got rescued,” Ward says. “The seller told me, ‘The family I bought it from may have a photo album of the guy wearing the watch.’ And he sent it to me. And sure enough, there’s the pilot at a bar. There he is in the desert. It’s amazing.”

Having sold half the Dueseys’ run, Ward hopes that more designs will follow, and beget their own misadventures. “I’ve always been fascinated by the Peking to Paris,” he says, referencing a motor race initially run in 1907. “These dudes with no planning loaded shit into a chitty chitty bang bang and went for it. My ideal buyer is hopping in his patinated, unrestored Duesey SJ and just going for it.”

An iconoclast, in other words.