What a hugely interesting project.
Michel Parmigiani was most known within the watch enthusiast community for the wonderful restoration of amazing timepieces. His workshop in Fleurier became the go-to place for many of the most important collectors in the world, including those whose names were on many of timepieces themselves. And in the history books. His mastery of the craft led to the creation of the Maison that bears his name, Parmigiani Fleurier, in 1996.
As a Grand Finale to the 25th anniversary of this rather unique independent Maison, they have brought forth a rather unique timepiece. Or perhaps brought back. Because the very special watch movement inside La Rose Carrée was created by the legendary watchmaker Louis-Elisée Piguet, sometime between 1898 and 1904. Does the name sound familiar? You can see some of his pieces in the Audemars Piguet Museum. The movement inside La Rose Carrée is a Grand Sonnerie and Minute Repeater acquired by Michel Parmigiani in the late 1990s as a future restoration project. Perhaps the creation and growth of his new Maison kept him busy, as the movement has only come back out to the world now.
The movement itself is Calibre Louis-Elisée Piguet number 5802. At every quarter, it chimes the number of quarters. As a minute repeater it will on demand chime the number of hours, quarters and minutes. “This is indeed an outstanding movement,” said Christie Girel, a member of Parmigiani Fleurier’s restoration workshop. “Louis-Elisée Piguet made very fine movements, for the best brands. Finishings, horizontal trainings, the balance wheel, the manipulate are perfect, even under a microscope, from the smallest to the largest part.”
This work of art was encased in another. The case is a beautifully executed 64mm white gold double hunter, meaning both sides of the case will open up. The covers are engraved by Eddy Jaquet in a rather unusual “square rose” motif called La Rose Carrée. The design is inspired by the linear form that rose petals take when they start to wither. The artwork flow follows the Golden Spiral or Golden ratio. The geometric roses seem to float in cripple of blue sea, created by artistic enameler Vanessa Lecci using three to four layers of blue Grand Feu enamel. This was particularly challenging, as the surface of the case covers is not only textured in a rather complex manner, it is also large at 60mm when wristwatch dials are usually 30mm.
When you open the first cover, you will see a wide clean mirror-like surface of black onyx and a pair of open-worked white gold hands and a small seconds subdial outlined in white gold.
Open the other cover and you will be greeted by the work that spans over a century. The restored movement was embellished and fully restored while still retaining its historic authenticity. It is the work of artists and craftsmen that has stretched out over a hundred years. The main plate and bridge now display the Rose Carrée pattern, for example, and engraving the original parts rather than replacing them preserved the authenticity of the movement while also enhancing it aesthetically.
The watch crown is set with a blue sapphire and sheltered by an engraved square bow with blue Grand Feu enameling as well. The chain, a unique square-link chain also in the Rose Carrée motif, was created by Switzerland’s last traditional chain maker, Laurent Jolliet.
What is truly interesting about this unique piece is that it very nicely showcases what is at the very heart of watchmaking. The technical mastery needed to produce such a mechanical marvel over a hundred years ago by hand is staggering. The ability to restore such a piece in the modern world is testament to the passion for keeping the skills alive. All these craftsmen, artisans and artists are what would have been called “les mains d’or” because they were at the very top of their fields. They were the “golden hands.” Only fitting then that Parmigiani Fleurier has regularly been awarded the “Golden Hand” Award of the Grand Prix D’Horlogerie De Geneve Innovation Prize for pieces like their Hijri Perpetual Calendar. Innovation over a century ago. Innovation today. And the desire to keep the skills alive and well all throughout. Nothing could better exemplify the importance of people like Michel Parmigiani and Parmigiani Fleurier itself.
La Rose Carrée’s “Golden Hands”
• Guido Terreni, CEO
• Michel Parmigiani, Founder
• Anne-Laure Parmigiani, Project Leader (trained watchmaker and engraver)
• Anne-Marie Moser, Designer
• Francis Rossignol, Restorer
• Christie Girel, Restorer
• Bernard Muller, Beveller
• Laurent Jolliet, Chain Maker
• Eddy Jaquet, Engraver
• Vanessa Lecci, Enameller
• Les Artisans Boîtier, Case Maker
• LM Cadrans, Dial Maker
And Louis-Elisée Piguet