Over time, as a niche model of high-end brands, independent watchmaking Parmigiani has only taken a short time to enter the sight of watch lovers. And has been recognized by a considerable number of watch lovers, it is no doubt that this is a very powerful brand. What is it that supports Parmigiani’s continuous improvement and progress? What makes it a popular watch through obstacles? After looking at its watch factory, maybe you will understand.
First come a few pictures of the Parmigiani Vaucher movement factory, watchmakers work in such an environment.
The distinctive recognition, excellent performance and classic appearance design are the three key elements that today’s timepieces are recognized by watch enthusiasts and become popular in the watch circle. The basis for determining this is the mysterious and desirable watchmaking factory. People are often curious about where luxury watches come from, and what value do they have? So from the tour of the watch factory, we can generally get the answer. However, there are only a few people who really have the opportunity to visit the watch factory, and its mystery makes more people yearn for it. In late July this year, after the celebration of the Montreux Jazz Festival, I was fortunate to be invited to visit the watch factory of Parmigiani to unveil its mystery and present the watch factory. ‘The true face of Lushan’.
Brand history that has to be mentioned
In 1975, when the ‘Quartz Crisis’ torrent erupted in the watch industry, Michel Parmigiani, who was born into a bone, decided to establish his own watch company at this time. From the beginning, it was examined by the general environment. Fortunately, instead of being swallowed by the tide of the times, Parmigiani, who adheres to watchmaking skills and innovative thinking, has risen against the tide, highlighting the encirclement with superb and excellent watchmaking skills. Backed by the Sandoz family, it has become one of the few brands now capable of producing watches.
In addition, Parmigiani, who is a master of restoration, insists on innovation while also devoting most of his energy to repairing antique clocks and watches. In Parmigiani’s eyes, innovation and maintenance of classics never conflict.
Five watchmaking factories
From the manufacture of the models to the assembly and inspection, Parmigiani has a total of five watchmaking factories, namely: the case dial factory (LAB & Quadrance-La Chaux-de-Fonds), escapement balance wheel and balance spring Factory (Atokalpa), Vaucher Movement Factory, Screw and Gear Factory (Elwin). This time we visited three of them, the LAB & Quadrance-La Chaux-de-Fonds case and dial factory, the Vaucher movement factory in the Fleurier region, and the QF Fleurier quality certification body.
LAB & Quadrance-La Chaux-de-Fonds Case and Dial Factory
As the ‘face value’ of a watch, how the dial is created and designed is a topic that we are more concerned about and interested in. Our first stop this time was the LAB & Quadrance-La Chaux-de-Fonds case and dial factory by Parmigiani.
Although there are hundreds of dial production factories in Switzerland, there are only a handful of watch factories that can customize high-end dials. And the LAB & Quadrance-La Chaux-de-Fonds case dial factory is one of them. Not only that, the employees of this factory can also be competent for each processing step. Due to its superb craftsmanship and excellent quality, we can see many familiar brand dials here, but we cannot disclose more because of the confidentiality agreement.
How to make a dial?
Step 1: Cut the shape. In addition to traditional steel, materials such as gold, silver, copper and mother-of-pearl can be made into a dial. This step is mainly completed by a dedicated automatic control machine.
Step 2: Electroplating and coloring, different colors are realized through different chemical materials, but most of them are toxic substances, so the used waste materials need to be treated accordingly before being discharged. Obviously this step has high technical requirements, and not everyone is suitable for this operation.
Step three: spray paint treatment. This treatment is more interesting. One is to prevent electroplating oxidation, and the other is to add more color to the dial. If the color of the disk is more complicated, then two colors need to be superimposed to meet the established requirements.
The dial with the London Underground route pattern is ready
After going through these three steps, a complete dial is completed through post-reprinting. It is worth mentioning that the dial customization business is open to the outside world, and everyone can come here to customize their own exclusive dials, but the price is definitely more expensive.
Case production workshop
Staff programming on request
The programmed program is transmitted to the machine tool via WiFi
24 hours on call
Five-axis CNC machine tool with Japanese parts assembled in Switzerland for 700,000 Swiss francs, enabling full-angle cutting at different angles
There is a clear difference from the automatic creation of the dial. The timepiece process of a watch case appears to be ‘more natural’. The construction of the shape is first a conceptual idea, and then the idea is given to the designer to determine the feasibility. After that, it is programmed by the staff and written into a language that can be recognized by the production device. The WiFi transmission method is not the type we commonly use). It is transmitted to the machine tool for processing, cutting and inspection comparison.
Sanding and polishing
There is a straw under the sanding table to suck away excess metal powder
After molding, the watch case also needs to be manually sanded and matte polished for deeper retouching.
After sanding, the case parts should be spray-painted, and then the reference color will continue to be matte. After processing, you can see the contrast of the colors, and then wash off the colors for the final assembly.
A master in hand polishing
At present, some high-end (special) models of Parmigiani still maintain the pure hand-polished technology. The master in the picture above has been working for 18 years. His daily work is to carefully polish various cases.
Every time he finishes grinding, he will use the projection technology to enlarge the product five times for comparison, check whether it is qualified, and then repeatedly repair and continue to polish.
The Les Artisans Boîtiers case factory is only responsible for assembling the case, and does not process gems and other reprocessing. After assembling the mirror and the bottom of the watch, perform a water resistance test. After passing the test, you can leave the factory.
Vaucher Manufacture Fleurier
As the soul of the watch, the movement factory that can best represent the brand’s watchmaking strength is the most worthwhile place to go. What’s more, the name ‘Vaucher Manufacture Fleurier’ is already notorious, now it has 130 employees, and it has an annual production capacity of 8,000 movements. In addition, the movements used by other well-known brands are also produced here. In addition to the well-known Sandos family, shareholders also include the Hermès family.
scenery along the way
Movement production workshop (considering the characteristics of the material, a separate machine specially designed to polish 18K pure gold movement parts)
Movement bearing gem inlay
Impact machine for the production of parts
50 ton machined parts
Movement assembly workshop, each person is responsible for the assembly of the entire watch, the top can suck away dust
Larger parts such as balance wheels and movement plywood are produced here, and others are produced in other factories. It is worth mentioning that it takes 3-5 years to develop a new movement. The technical design department first simulates the parts with a computer, and then makes a rough model for demonstration. R & D and model testing in the early stage, industrial production testing in the later stage.
Two interesting and challenging places
Parmigiani Antique Restoration Center
Center interior studio
The world’s only timepiece ‘tool’
In addition, a professional antique restoration studio is located opposite the Parmigiani headquarters. The requirements for working here are relatively high. General watchmakers need to make complex watches after 5 years of employment, and then study the basics for another two years before they can participate in the restoration of antique watches.
Fleurier Quality Certification (QF Certification) Center
The second place is the Fleurier Quality Certification (QF Certification) Center, which was established by four brands in 2004 to complete the inspection of the case, movement and strap. The test standards are very strict, with a total of five items.
First, it must be ‘100% Swiss Made’, accurate to the point that each part must have a Swiss Made certificate.
Second, the watch must be certified by the observatory before it can be sent here for another test.
Third, the technical and aesthetic certification, if it is a newly developed watch model, the movement needs to be disassembled for testing. If it does not meet the requirements, it will propose amendments and return it for adjustment.
It is worth mentioning that the fourth crash test is one of the most challenging tests. It is the most difficult of the five standards. In the test, the staff will take out 10% of the products to imitate the watch waterproof and anti-collision. For example, from 101 to 200 tables, 10 blocks are required to be tested, and more than 200 blocks need to be submitted for 20 blocks. The test lasts 21 days, and a watch has to undergo a total of 18,000 tests. In addition, there is a test to imitate the drop of the watch, the height is one meter. If the watch can still run smoothly after passing the above tests, then this level is passed. Watches that have undergone testing will not go on the market, protecting the interests of consumers.
The fifth item is Florier certification. In the next 24 hours, the different actions of the person when wearing the watch are more realistic than the simulated actions of the observatory. And it is stipulated that the travel time error of the watch after the test is between 0 and +5 seconds to pass.
Basically, there are only 100 watches that pass the certification each year, which shows the strict quality of QF certification and the excellent quality it represents.
In summary: After visiting the Parmigiani watch factory, it is not difficult to conclude that the ‘indisputable consideration’ in quality and innovation is the pillar that this young independent watch brand can stand in the torrent of the times. This momentum has also become a steady stream of motivation, pushing it towards us and gradually becoming an influential watch and clock. Many times we just chase the trend and the identity of the explosion, and ignore the ‘new’ beauty. Probably it grows too fast, which makes us overwhelmed. Fortunately, this beauty has gradually been recognized by more and more people. Just like the 100-meter sprint, some people have reached the end and some people are still on the way.