This Swiss watch brand’s makeover has tripled the sales – thanks to its new CEO and a fresh watch line
Swiss-Italian Guido Terreni has hit refresh on the Swiss watch brand Parmigiani Fleurier – refocusing the brand on the now red-hot Tonda PF
When Guido Terreni took over as chief executive officer of Parmigiani Fleurier in early 2021, the Swiss watch brand was a well respected if somewhat obscure maker of high horology, complicated timepieces coveted by a small group of collectors and enthusiasts.
Under Terreni’s leadership, Parmigiani Fleurier has leaped into the spotlight to join the likes of Girard-Perregaux, Audemars Piguet, and Patek Philippe in producing luxury Swiss sports watches with demand far outstripping supply. Sales tripled and production doubled after the Milan-born executive refocused the brand on just one watch line — the now red-hot Tonda PF.
The former president of horology at LVMH-owned Bulgari, Terreni redesigned and relaunched the Tonda within half a year of taking over as CEO. Prices for the integrated-bracelet sports watch start at about 22,000 francs (€22,589) for a simple time-only steel model. They go as high as about 163,000 francs (€167, 355) for a flying tourbillon with a platinum case. Waiting lists now stretch more than a year.
Terreni credits the brand’s independence with giving him the ability to move quickly to change its focus. Parmigiani Fleurier is owned by the foundation of the Sandoz family, which set up the company that has evolved into drugmaker Novartis SA.
“It’s given us the freedom to have a very short decision process because I have the freedom to do what I want,” Terreni said in an interview at the recent Watches and Wonders fair in Geneva. “This is very important because that’s how you keep pure the idea of what you want to do.”
The redesigned Tonda collection now accounts for about 98 per cent of the brand’s sales, according to Terreni. He wouldn’t provide specific sales numbers and said the brand now produces “a few thousand” watches a year, without being more specific.
Jean-Philippe Bertschy, an analyst at Vontobel, estimates Parmigiani makes about 3,000 watches annually, with sales of about 100 million francs (€102,689)
“Sales are broad based in terms of regions and Terreni, the CEO, has an excellent track record, great relationships and great ambitions for the brand,” Bertschy said.
Parmigiani has “all the ingredients for a successful story, especially with its legitimacy in watchmaking,” the analyst added.
The brand was founded about a quarter century ago by Michel Parmigiani, a Swiss watchmaker who rose to prominence as a master restorer of valuable antique timepieces.
With financial backing from the foundation, Parmigiani launched his brand in 1996. It produced watches and also spawned a hub of supply and component makers, including Vaucher Manufacture, which produces movements for other brands as well as Parmigiani Fleurier.
From the beginning, the brand has had more substance than many competitors, according to Roger Ruegger, editor-in-chief of WatchTime.
“With the arrival of Terreni, Parmigiani Fleurier has finally become more consistent and perhaps also disciplined in highlighting its aesthetic and functional codes, which makes this brand much more recognizable and ultimately more desirable,” Ruegger said.
It was at the 2022 edition of Watches and Wonders that Terreni’s retooled brand won the attention of the greater watch world. The 27,000-franc (€27, 725) Tonda PF GMT Rattrapante, an original take on the complication to track a second time zone, won praise from enthusiasts and the watch press alike.
At this year’s fair, the brand unveiled the Tonda PF Minute Rattrapante, a watch that uses a complication in the movement and a hand on the dial as a minute timer. This contrasts with the traditional method of using a graduated timer on a rotating watch bezel to time activities, such as boiling pasta.
Terreni has chopped the number of retailers selling the brand by 65 per cent since taking over. That’s helping the revived marque distinguish itself amid a booming Swiss luxury watch market from bigger competitors whom, he says, are all making different versions of similarly styled timepieces.
“It’s a question of style and a question of prestige and a question of singularity of the proposal,” said Terreni. “We reconnected with an audience which is extremely knowledgeable and they are looking for things that are not mainstream.”
Sign up for Irish Tatler’s Watch Club, where you will have access to exclusive content, private events and previews, click here.