VMF was officially established on January 1st 2003, although its manufacturing activities began in the early 1990s when it produced its first calibre as Parmigiani Mesure et Art du Temps (PMAT). This company, set up by Michel Parmigiani in 1975, sparked the revival of watchmaking in Fleurier, with Chopard and Bovet following its lead. When FFS bought into its capital in 1996, PMAT, which had already made movements for third parties, set about developing a private label. Its expansion justified the separation into two entities: Parmigiani Fleurier and VMF. Prestigious clients include Bulgari, Corum, Richard Mille and of course Hermès, which became a shareholder in VMF in 2006. The manufacture currently produces 21 calibres of which 10 are exclusively for Parmigiani Fleurier.
Under a single roof
VMF draws on the extensive skills of Les Manufactures Horlogères de la Fondation (MHF), a production hub which FFS has grown over the course of the current decade. Atokalpa, acquired in December 2000 and based in Alle, produces wheels, pinions, micro-gears and, since 2005, all components for the escapement and the balance and spring. Elwin, over in Moûtier, specialises in precision-turning and the development of machines, including a revolutionary machine to be unveiled in 2010. It joined the hub in January 2001. Movements aside, cases are manufactured in La Chaux-de-Fonds by Les Artisans Boîtiers, acquired in May 2000, while dials are produced by Quadrance et Habillage, established in Fleurier in 2005.
Now separate from Parmigiani, VMF specialises in the production of movements for the “high end” and “prestige” segments for an elite though extended range of customers. Its role is to preserve a hand-crafted element in an industrial environment where quality and reliability are beyond reproach, regardless of quantities. Competencies range from one-off pieces and very limited editions to series of several hundred or several thousand. VMF’s target in the medium term is to increase annual production from 12,000 (21 calibres for more than 90 movement references) to 20,000. The manufacture nonetheless intends keeping production of each calibre within a limit of 5,000 per year.
By grouping together activities that were previously spread over three other sites in Fleurier, the new premises will optimise the flow of production. The building, which took 16 months to complete, stands on 40,000 sq m of land, purchased by FFS in 2007. Offices and workshops are currently spread over 6,700 sq m. A modular structure means the building can be extended stage by stage to ultimately cover 16,000 square metres. The entire construction has been sustainably developed, with features such as a green roof, highly-insulated walls and floors, and heat exchangers. The heating is powered by gas rather than oil, an interim solution until new technologies provide an even more ecological system. This attitude is hardly surprising for a company belonging to FFS whose chairman, Pierre Landolt, is a pioneer in the development of environmental projects in Switzerland and Brazil.