ne of the most respected strategists in the Swiss watch industry, Guido Terreni was appointed CEO of Parmigiani Fleurier in January 2021. The Sandoz Family Foundation, which owns Parmigiani Fleurier, is counting on him to reposition a manufacture that is well respected for the quality of its creations but lacks the clout of other names in the Haute Horlogerie space.
By defining Parmigiani Fleurier as a brand for purists and launching several understated sport-chic timepieces over the course of the year, the 52-year-old CEO will try to replicate the success he’s had at positioning Bulgari’s watchmaking division as one of the most innovative and influential brands of recent years on the global watch stage. Before joining Parmigiani Fleurier, Terreni spent 20 years at Bulgari – he was appointed President of its watch division in 2009, a position he held for ten years.
Will his strong sense of aesthetics allow the Swiss brand to embrace a more contemporary identity, given that the post-Covid era seems to be favourable to smaller manufactures more targeted to connoisseurs? He agreed to an interview, to give us a better understanding of his vision.
“In this loud world, where many are expressing purely materialistic values, we are one of the alternative voices speaking up for a refined style.”
Europa Star: Parmigiani Fleurier celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2021. Since 1996, it has had a rich but also challenging history. What is your mission, as the brand’s CEO?
Guido Terreni: To make the brand blossom, because it has everything it needs to succeed. And the beauty of it is that its history started with huge respect for Michel Parmigiani’s work: the perception of brand quality is very high. What it needs is a strong direction, a strong identity. And that’s what we’re doing today: introducing a more contemporary style and brand identity, with the ambition of pleasing horological purists. Today’s luxury is becoming more mainstream – which also opens up a quest for personal satisfaction and for brands like Parmigiani Fleurier.
“Today’s luxury is becoming more mainstream – which also opens up a quest for personal satisfaction and for brands like Parmigiani Fleurier.”
- Guido Terreni arrived at the helm of Parmigiani Fleurier in January 2021.
On paper, it sounds good, but how do you intend to achieve this turnaround?
By promoting a cultural approach to watchmaking and not pure materialistic social status. Our brand embodies a certain sense of refinement. When I met Michel Parmigiani, I was blown away by his knowledge of horology. He comes from the world of restoration, from true craftsmanship. Because to restore a fine timepiece, you have to master every single component. He has a “black belt” in watchmaking and he brings this cultural heritage to the brand.
At the same time, he is the most humble person I know. Although he has nothing to be humble about. What’s needed is to pair this exceptional technicity and craftsmanship, which translates into extraordinary in-house creations, with a clear brand identity, that’s refined and understated, for contemporary purists.
- The 40mm Tonda PF Micro-Rotor owes its pure aesthetic to the uncluttered warm grey matte guilloché dial. It inaugurates a new version of Parmigiani Fleurier’s foundational movement, the PF703.
Does “purists” mean more “pure” creations? That’s the feeling we get from the first collections produced under your supervision: more sober lines, fewer visible complications.
Yes, we’re working on the purity of the materials, translating this into the purity of the dials. We’re creating a style that exploits the tension between the idea of a style that is extremely pure and simple, but with extremely complex execution. Minimal but rich at the same time. For the designers, the key concepts are purity of the idea, clarity in time display, as well as a story of craftsmanship. You don’t need to show it off to the community, it’s first and foremost a product for yourself. But the community will recognise the quality of the craftsmanship in the product.
“We’re creating a style that exploits the tension between the idea of a style that is extremely pure and simple, but with extremely complex execution.”
- The 42 mm Tonda PF Chronograph is equipped with the 5 Hz calibre PF070, an integrated high-frequency column wheel movement with small seconds and two chronograph registers.
It starts with the dial, where the name of the brand is much less visible than before – only the logo remains.
You can showcase a brand without writing its name. There are plenty of ways to convey a brand identity in a discreet manner. The brand is actually very understated in its culture, very Swiss in a way; what I want to bring with my background is an element of refinement and a contemporary flair – maybe an Italian touch!
- Limited to just 25 units, the Tonda PF Split Seconds features a case and bracelet crafted in platinum. The calibre PF361 is a new version of the manufacture’s most high-end calibre, GPHG laureate ChronOr.
What is your relationship with the Sandoz Family Foundation, the owners of the brand? They have withdrawn from other investments in Switzerland, such as printing.
The board gives me the freedom to operate. They trust me, as I have always made the interests of the brand my only priority. That is a key prerequisite for success.
Historically, Switzerland has been your number one market. Now, since Covid, every watch brand is trying to recapture domestic clients. Which markets and segments are receiving the bulk of your efforts?
There are several promising markets like Germany, the US, Japan, and Italy. But the potential is very high overall. Today all the Tonda PF production is overbooked and we will need to accelerate our pace to satisfy the market. The beauty of the brand is that you don’t need a lot of clients in order to grow. You prioritise quality over quantity. And that is what we want to do with our distribution as well. You really need to touch and feel the timepieces: that is true for all watches but maybe even more for Parmigiani Fleurier’s creations. You may see a blue timepiece on a picture, but when you have it in your hands you notice the fine blue-grey dial. We really work on creating a refined sense of detail. This is perhaps where the brand’s roots in restoration most clearly come through.
“The beauty of the brand is that you don’t need a lot of clients in order to grow. You prioritise quality over quantity. And that is what we want to do with our distribution as well.”
- The 42 mm Tonda PF Annual Calendar introduces a new aesthetic for this complication at Parmigiani Fleurier. The calibre PF339 presents a retrograde date, day, month and 122-year moonphase, as seen in both hemispheres.
What we’ve also noticed since your arrival is a focus on sporty timepieces, in line with a wider sport-chic trend in watchmaking.
You must understand the market and interpret it with your own style. Our timepieces are very versatile – you can wear them with a tuxedo or in a sporty environment. This is certainly the “sexiest” sector today. We wanted to bring something fresh, and the new communication campaign says it all – we dropped the black background for the colourful hot air balloons that are part of the brand’s heritage. In this loud world, where purely materialistic values are perhaps shouting loudest of all, we are one of the alternative voices for a refined style.