Stating the understated, a Q&A on Parmigiani’s recent success.
Whether you are a long-time watch enthusiast or just getting into the game, the name Parmigiani Fleurier should be one that is familiar. In the past two years, the brand has gained immense traction since the launch of the Tonda PF collection with its new design language back in 2021. Having recently celebrated its 25th anniversary, the brand is by no means new and its founder Michel Parmigiani is practically a living legend in watchmaking circles.
The change, however, came two years prior when Guido Terreni moved from his role as Head of Watchmaking in Bulgari to become the new CEO of Parmigiani Fleurier. Since his appointment, Parmigiani went from selling watches on consignment to now having a waiting list up to a year long. Recently we had the privilege of speaking with Terreni and wasted no time in picking his brain on just how exactly he managed to put the Parmigiani brand back on the map.
Going from a brand under a large group to one that is family-owned, what were your motivating factors to join Parmigiani as their CEO?
What I did at Bulgari for 20 years was a beautiful journey that started while the brand was family-owned. I spent 11 years with the family, with a mentality that was different from a group. In a family-owned company, there is a more intimate level of engagement, where trust can be built towards a long-term relationship. When LVMH took over, they brought with them their own set of values and after 10 years as Bulgari’s head of watchmaking, I decided that I wanted to look for something where I could express myself totally.
I was looking for a prestigious brand because I know how difficult it is to build prestige when you don’t have it. The shifting of a customer’s perception takes a lot of time. With Parmigiani, the brand was not commercially successful but it already had this element of prestige.
The goal was to bring a holistic approach to pushing the business forward. From brand DNA to design, commercial strategy and communication, this project was really one that represents a balance of many elements. We have managed to orchestrate this simultaneously and the results have been extremely satisfying, to the point that we have gone from selling on consignment to having a waiting list of up to 1 year, it is phenomenal what we have achieved in such a short time.
Take us through the thought process when designing the new Tonda PF collection.
The first thing was to perpetuate Michel Parmigiani and his legacy within the brand. What I appreciate by meeting him is his values of competence, devotion to watchmaking plus his understatement. He is discreet, and he is not loud, and that is part of the beauty of the brand. We are not ostentatious, we are not a brand for show-offs, we are a brand for people who are knowledgeable in watchmaking and are part of an inner circle of the horology community. Our clients are the type that carries their watch and are not carried by their watch.
What you see in the Tonda PF collection are the ingredients that were already in the brand. The PF logo was there before, the guilloche was there before and the knurled bezel was there before. But, we just tweaked these ‘ingredients’ to make the watch contemporary and very appealing to the customer of today.
The first thing that strikes you when looking at the Tonda PF is not one particular element but the purity of the design as a whole. What you see is a very pure aesthetic, it is very minimal. And I think that the fact that all the elements are subtle and yet so striking makes the watch so special. When you look at the watch you notice its simplicity but when you go into the making of the watch the complexity to achieve each component is extremely high.
Do you find there is more creative freedom in Parmigiani?
I don’t think that creativity should be a democratic exercise. It is something that must follow the personality of the brand and the one responsible for the strategy has to guide that aesthetic. That doesn’t mean you have to be a designer, but you have to have an understanding of intangible things like creativity and aesthetics.
My role is to match the values of the brand to the perception of the client. Design freedom in Parmigiani comes with its own set of criteria too because I had to understand the brand, understand its aesthetic codes and work creatively within these parameters.
Do you think the Asian region is ready for a brand like Parmigiani?
The readiness of a brand to grow depends on the knowledge of the customer. In Asia, you have a lot of knowledge. Especially in Singapore, but also in Malaysia, Taiwan and Thailand. There is an understanding that is quite immediate in what we did with the new Tonda PF and it is because we are talking to the watch connoisseur instead of the mass market consumers. They are very educated and understand what the brand is about. And because they are educated, they don’t just swallow a brand’s marketing campaigns. Instead, they judge brands for themselves and they understand the purity of what we do in terms of Horology.
Simply put, there is a huge potential for the brand to grow in the region precisely because there are consumers here that are very discerning.
Tell me about some of the commercial changes you have brought to Parmigiani and to the region.
Around the world, we have cut two-thirds of the distribution because I found that they did not suit the potential of the brand and did not have the professionalism in the environment to harness said potential. In the region, we were very selective when choosing to work with retailers like Cortina and Sincere because we believe that there needs to be mutual respect between the retailer and the customer.
The customer that we are serving is a watch lover who likes to browse and compare. The retailer we work with has to have a level of knowledge and trust with its customers because they will also serve as a guide for the brand. This is also why I chose to be present in a multi-brand environment because it is a business model that I believe in.
Discover the Parmigiani Fleurier collection online or visit us at our boutiques for more information.