To restore an object is to bring it back to its former glory. Fundamental distinction, a Restoration is by no means a Repair; it is not some kind of after-sales for ancient artefacts. The latter consists in making the object function no matter the cost whereas the former is about re-establishing its original nature – no more no less. The restoration process defined by Michel Parmigiani comprises three work stages.
“The worst ravages of time are often insignificant compared to the damage of an inexperienced hand.” - Michel Parmigiani
To rush and take action on an object without getting its measure is the most prejudicial and sadly the most common. Each restoration practiced by Michel Parmigiani has started by a stage of observation. To take stock of the functions and ornaments, to date the piece, to compare it with similar artefacts and refer to existing literature – as many paths that enable building a frame of analysis which guards against mistakes. A good restorator understands and identifies before he acts.
“You must allow the object to speak for itself, work like an archaeologist to rediscover its essence; have the humility to re-examine that which you thought was attained.” - Michel Parmigiani
The second phase of work resembles an “immersion” because it is about diving into a certain period of time and a foreign logic: that of the object’s creators. In this acrobatic exercise, the restorator puts all his watchmaking knowledge to use, just as he erases his own judgement. He must understand what is broken, modified or vanished without letting his creative mind interfere. He must practice the artisan techniques of the past, no matter which modern technologies he would have at his disposal.
"It is a rare joy to restore a watchmaking piece. To free it from the ravages of time and of men is to reinstate it within a temporal truth so essential to our memory." - Michel Parmigiani
Only then, the restorator becomes a sheer watchmaker and artisan, re-establishing the mechanics and the aesthetics of the object. Whenever possible, the original components are kept and simply freed from the traces of time. When a component needs to be rebuilt, the restorator creates a manufacturing protocol and chooses the material by considering the constraints of resemblance and solidity. Finally, he reapplies the enamel, refines the engraving and rekindles the original brilliance of the piece.
Once he has arrived at the end of this long and fascinating journey, the restorator takes a step back and marvels to see before his eyes, an object that kings, knights and princesses have admired centuries before him.