Style / World of Watches (WOW)

Parmigiani Fleurier La Rose Carrée: Fine Watchmaking Values

Parmigiani Fleurier founder Michel Parmigiani and CEO Guido Terreni shepherd a unique timepiece from another era into the 21st century.

Dec 06, 2021 | By Ashok Soman
Parmigiani Fleurier La Rose Carrée
Image: Parmigiani Fleurier

The Parmigiani Fleurier La Rose Carrée is a watch more than 100 years in the making. Or maybe that should be 25 years, because that is precisely how old Parmigiani Fleurier is. If you consider the craft that went into making La Rose Carrée, you could also argue that it represents more than 500 years of Swiss watchmaking know-how. Then again, you might fairly say that it was made in less than 12 months.

Take a good look at this sublime pocket watch, and have a think on those numbers, because each one is correct. La Rose Carrée is a piece unique because there is only one, and it can never be repeated, but it is also a one-of-a-kind tribute to the values of fine watchmaking, Parmigiani Fleurier, and Michel Parmigiani himself. 

In Swiss watchmaking, the code of conduct usually prevents us from talking about the master craftspeople behind the watches — it is a pleasure to freely break that rule here. Parmigiani Fleurier has given us more than the specs of La Rose Carrée, and the stage-managed show of how the watch came to be.

Of course, the story of La Rose Carrée is quite something, starting with the movement made by watchmaker Louis-Elisée Piguet sometime between 1898 and 1904. Michel Parmigiani acquired it in the late 1990s, and it has waited patiently (in a drawer apparently) for the restoration master to turn his attention to it this entire time.

The grand sonnerie and minute repeater pocket watch movement must have been a work of art in its prime, and it takes great care to bring something like this back to life without blemishing it with the stain of the contemporary. Well, if anyone could do it, it must be Michel Parmigiani of course, but he had the help of his team at the manufacture, including Francis Rossignol and Christie Girel. 

“We were trusted with a movement that’s exceptional by its complications, by the number of components and by its quality,” said Rossignol. “Our aim is to embellish it, to enhance its aspects, but our job is to always remain in the background.”

“This is indeed an outstanding movement,” said Girel. “Louis-Elisée Piguet made very fine movements, for the best brands. Finishings, horizontal-grainings, the balance wheel, the mainplate are perfect, even under a microscope, from the smallest to the largest part.”

For the 64mm white gold double hunter pocket watch case, engraver Eddy Jaquet created a Rose Carrée motif on both covers. As you can see, the roses are square, which is reportedly a reference to the form rose petals take when they start to wither. Handworked to the nth degree, the covers are also awash in blue.

“The blue of La Rose Carrée expresses the colour of a body of water as one would see it from the sky — with all the nuances and subtle changes in the shades of blue according to the various depths,” said Michel Parmigiani. Deceptively simple looking in pictures, there are actually four layers of blue grand feu enamel, applied by artistic enameller Vanessa Lecci. It is worth bearing in mind that both the engraving and the enamelling appear the same on both covers, which is a very impressive feat.

The first cover opens to reveal a wide and pure dial made entirely of onyx. On this naturally dark and mirror-like surface — challenging to work with for a dial, as all stone dials are — a pair of open-worked, white gold delta-shaped hands, and a small seconds subdial outlined in white gold show the time in such a simple manner belying the complexity of both the covers and the movement below.

Parmigiani Fleurier La Rose Carrée Inside
Image: Parmigiani Fleurier

On that note, the second face of the watch is displayed when the second cover is opened, and it is the fully restored calibre Louis-Elisée Piguet number 5802, now showcasing a new engraving. The Rose Carrée pattern on the mainplate and the bridges offer a complementary and symmetrical pairing with the engraving on the covers. Parmigiani Fleurier says the aim here was to preserve the “authenticity of the movement while elevating its beauty”. 

Also raising the bar here is the crown, which continues the aesthetic theme of the pocket watch. It is set with a blue sapphire that is sheltered by an engraved square bow with blue grand feu enamelling. We need not point out the corresponding touches on the case and movement.

Of special note here is the chain attached to the crown assembly; these chains were once the territory of separate artisans, many of whom moved on to making wristwatch bracelets and jewellery. Here, the Rose Carrée motif is repeated thanks to the square links of the chain, which is hand-made by Switzerland’s last traditional chain maker, Laurent Jolliet.  

Chain Creation by Laurent Jolliet
Chain creation by Laurent Jolliet. Image: Parmigiani Fleurier

Needless to say, La Rose Carrée is not really just a work of art, as a unique timepiece with a restored historically significant movement. It is meant as a demonstration of Parmigiani Fleurier’s watchmaking values, and its particular vision of fine watchmaking.

This includes the participation of an outside specialist such as Laurent Jolliet, which is an acknowledgment that no one manufacture has the expertise to produce everything in-house. Terreni said as much to us, and it is good to see that sentiment reflected in a real stunner of a timepiece.

La Rose Carrée is a reminder of all the human beings whose minds and hands shaped the watch, all in service of the vision of Michel Parmigiani. The master watchmaker is at his best when he lets his creations do all the talking. The syntax and sentence structure are provided by his partners here, and Terreni is almost certainly responsible for the speed with which this time-poem was composed. 

Finally, here is the list of artisans and Parmigiani Fleurier specialists that worked on the watch:

  • 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

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