Watch and learn: Parmigiani Fleurier's Guido Terreni talks business
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Watch and learn: Parmigiani Fleurier’s Guido Terreni talks business

Watch and learn: Parmigiani Fleurier’s Guido Terreni talks business

CEO Guido Terreni has positioned Parmigiani Fleurier for sustained growth by focusing on innovation, exceptional craftsmanship and a distinct brand identity

Neesha Salian
Parmigiani Fleurier CEO Guido Terreni

When you think of the legacy of excellence that Swiss luxury watchmaking is known for, one brand that comes to mind is Parmigiani Fleurier (PF). The brand – named after its founder Michel Parmigiani – was created in Val de Travers in 1996. While remaining true to its founding values of aesthetic and mechanical innovation under the auspices of the Sandoz Foundation and the leadership of its CEO Guido Terreni, the brand has been rewriting the rules of watchmaking with its iconic timepieces and focused strategy.

Here, Terreni shares the strategic direction he adopted to reinvent the brand while marrying strategy with horological craftsmanship.

Terreni also discussed the brand’s iconic Tonda PF collection, its variations and how the maison continues to exemplify refined elegance and authenticity. Here are excerpts from the discussion.

You have been credited with infusing the brand with new vigour since you took over as CEO in January 2021. Tell us about the strategy driving this change and the highlights so far.

It’s been an incredible journey of transformation. Over the past three years, we’ve recentered PF, placing the brand’s core values and discerning clientele at the forefront of our endeavours. Reflecting on Michel Parmigiani’s original vision, we aimed to recapture the essence of what made the brand a symbol of prestige in 1996.

At the heart of this renaissance was a fundamental question: Who is the modern-day patron of fine watchmaking? We sought to cater to individuals who eschew convention, individuals driven not by social status but by deeply personal ethics and values. This introspection led to the birth of the Tonda PF collection, a manifestation of understated elegance and exemplary craftsmanship.

The Tonda PF embodies a minimalist aesthetic, underscored by meticulous attention to detail. With its signature micro-rotor and refined finishing, each timepiece exudes quiet sophistication. Straying from overt branding, we crafted a timepiece that speaks volumes through its subtlety, appealing to connoisseurs who seek bespoke luxury.

In 2022, the success of Tonda PF reverberated across the industry, bringing the maison back into the spotlight. Bolstered by innovations such as the GMT Rattrapante and the Minute Rattrapante, we’ve pushed the boundaries of horological innovation. Moreover, our reverence for diverse cultural perspectives found expression in the Tonda PF collection.

By incorporating various cultural calendars into our timepieces, we pay homage to the rich tapestry of global timekeeping traditions. Within this space, we offer the Tonda PF in three exceptional timepieces: the Islamic Hijri (lunar) calendar, the Chinese Xiali (lunisolar) calendar and the annual Gregorian (solar) calendar. These timepieces represent a blend of technical mastery and cultural appreciation.

This renewed focus on product excellence, coupled with strategic distribution and communication efforts, bore fruit. From weathering the challenges of
2020 to achieve unprecedented growth in 2023, PF experienced a remarkable resurgence, with a fivefold increase in size and tripled volume. As we chart a course forward, profitability signals not just success, but the dawn of a new chapter for the maison. Our commitment to innovation, craftsmanship, and client-centricity remains unwavering.

How would you describe luxury particularly when it comes to watches?

Luxury, to me, is far more than a mere label; it’s an ongoing pursuit of perfection. In the realm of watchmaking, this pursuit has sometimes been overshadowed by a tendency to dwell on past glories. While there’s value in honouring tradition, true luxury lies in the dynamic interplay between heritage and innovation.

Over the past few decades, the industry has witnessed a resurgence of interest in vintage timepieces. While this trend reflects a reverence for the past, it also speaks to a broader cultural shift — a recognition that the future is not inherently brighter than what has come before. As such, luxury is no longer solely about chasing the next big thing; it’s about cherishing craftsmanship and creativity that stands the test of time.

For me, luxury is also about crafting timepieces that push the boundaries of what’s possible. It’s about infusing each creation with a sense of artistry and ingenuity that captivates the imagination. In essence, luxury should inspire, delight and endure, resonating with discerning collectors
across generations.

What is the watch that we would most likely find you wearing from PF’s collections?

If you were to glance at my wrist today, you’d find a timepiece that holds a special place in my heart: the Tonda PF micro-rotor in steel. It’s not just a watch; it’s a symbol of our journey of reinvention and innovation. This watch was the first we designed under my leadership, and it serves as a cornerstone of our entire collection. What makes it truly remarkable is not just its elegant design or impeccable craftsmanship, but the story behind its creation. I’m deeply attached to this watch because it was created in a remarkably short time frame – just seven months. This achievement was made possible by the internal capabilities of our team, the Sandoz Foundation, and the unique circumstances of the pandemic. With surplus production and development capacity available, we were able to streamline the watch’s development process significantly.

From the initial idea to its realisation, we knew exactly what needed to be done, allowing us to swiftly bring the concept to life. This feat of efficiency will undoubtedly be remembered as a pivotal moment in our brand’s history – a testament to our adaptability and resilience.

It also underscores an important aspect of how we position ourselves vis-a-vis our competitors.

In your opinion, what is the brand’s USP and its focus on innovation?

I believe we’ve redefined PF’s brand identity by honouring its original aesthetic code. For us, it embodies a private luxury – a refinement tailored for the discerning watch connoisseur, without being ostentatious. This essence permeates every creation we undertake, emphasising purity of design and understated elegance.

In integrating craftsmanship, commercial viability, and innovation, there’s no fixed formula. It’s a delicate balance guided by sensitivity and emotion rather than a rulebook. Luxury, after all, is about evoking feelings, not fulfilling needs. We understand that the market doesn’t lack watches; it lacks unique expressions and meaningful narratives.

As an independent brand, we have the privilege of curating our clientele, serving those who resonate with our refined, understated ethos. Our approach revolves around understanding the emotions and aspirations of our ideal customer and translating these insights into aesthetically and technically superior creations.
Take, for instance, our world premieres.

When innovating technically, we ensure consistency with our defined style. The way we unveil functions becomes an integral part of our design philosophy. Functions are concealed yet easily accessible, embodying a philosophy of understated sophistication. So, when you’re not travelling, the GMT Rattrapante is a simple two-handed display of time, showing the hour and minutes. And the same thing goes for the Minute Rattrapante.

Everything about the brand is subtle. Consider our approach to guilloché – a traditional technique reimagined for modernity. By miniaturising the guilloché, we’ve transformed it into a contemporary feature, subtle yet captivating. Similarly, our logo speaks volumes conveying the brand in a refined, elegant manner.

The elliptical logo with the letters ‘PF’ was previously hidden in the movement and on the crown but we gave it a more prominent location on the dial.
Ultimately, it’s about employing creativity judiciously, crafting designs that resonate with our audience while staying true to our heritage and values.

Tell us about PF’s presence in the Middle East.

In terms of our presence in the region, we’re strategically expanding our distribution, prioritising strong partnerships over rapid expansion. Currently, we’re successfully established in Abu Dhabi with Mohammed Rasool Khoory & Sons, in Bahrain with PRJKT8, and in Doha with Al Majed Jewellery. We acknowledge the importance of Dubai and Saudi Arabia and are actively seeking opportunities in these key markets.

The recent introduction of the Tonda PF Hijri calendar has garnered exceptional feedback, particularly from Middle Eastern customers appreciating our deep cultural resonance.

This reinforces our commitment to interpreting regional creativity in a non-commercial manner, aligning with the profound values of our clientele.

What are some of the trends that you see dominating the watch industry?

As for key trends in the watchmaking industry, our focus remains on anticipating rather than following trends. The Tonda PF, introduced three years ago, exemplifies our approach by embodying timeless elegance over transient trends. We believe true luxury transcends mere fashion trends, emphasising personal expression, refinement, and cultural understanding.

Moving forward, we anticipate continued interest in the versatile sport chic trend, exemplified by metal bracelet watches. Additionally, there’s a growing appreciation for dress watches and strap variations, especially among collectors.
Regarding collaborations and partnerships, while not currently on our agenda, we remain open to opportunities that align with our brand ethos.

Looking ahead, PF is committed to diversifying our product lines while remaining true to our core values. As a leader, my leadership style focuses on sharing a vision rooted in our brand’s values, fostering alignment and empowering our team to uphold our brand’s legacy while innovating for the future.

Spotlight on the Toric: Parmigiani Fleurier at Watches and Wonders 2024

The Toric collection by Parmigiani Fleurier is making an exciting comeback in 2024 and was showcased at Watches and Wonders in Geneva in April. Redefining luxury with a modern twist, the Toric collection seamlessly blends technical innovation with refined aesthetics. The timepieces, crafted from noble materials such as gold and platinum, feature manual winding.

The collection’s dial is adorned with bevelled edges and meticulous graining. The alligator strap, finished with a sartorial stitch known as punto a mano, adds to the elegance and comfort of wearing. The movements, crafted in rose gold, showcase the maison’s mastery of horological artistry and focus on purity.

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